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“This is your first challenge, my lady? Your first, and you won,” an attendant said. —Squire

Squire

Protector of the Small #3

by Tamora Pierce
AR Test, Diverse Characters, Must Read, Strong Female Character


At A Glance
Interest Level

12+
Entertainment
Score
Reading Level
5.6
Number of Pages
288

It was Kel’s proudest moment when she passed her page examinations and was named a squire. But as months pass without any knight taking her onto their service, Kel worries that no knight will want a girl squire. Will she be stuck as a glorified scribe in the palace forever?

That is not her only worry. Now that she is a squire, the Chamber of the Ordeal weighs heavily on her mind. Every squire must enter the Chamber at the end of their squireship. If they survive, they become a knight. But some have been driven mad by the Chamber. Determined to prove herself unafraid, Kel visits the Chamber several times and places her hand on the outside of the door. And each time, the Chamber sends her horrifying nightmares built from her deepest fears.

But Kel cannot dwell on the Chamber too often, because her wildest dreams come true when Raoul asks her to be his squire. As the Knight Commander of the King’s Own, Raoul is a noble warrior that will take Kel on many adventures—not all of them enjoyable. He is a character that readers will fall in love with, as he is good and noble, but also great fun with a solid sense of humor.

Kel is a strong female character who grows and changes throughout the story. Kel has been able to succeed in a male-dominated world because of her hard work and determination. Kel stands up for other women, admires other women rather than becoming jealous, and her behavior highlights the importance of women supporting each other. Kel has a strong moral code that will encourage readers to also stand up for others.

Although Kel is a strong woman, she also has a supportive family and friends. These relationships give the story more depth and show the importance of having positive relationships. As Kel becomes older and begins to think about romantic relationships, Kel discusses sex with her mother, which helps the reader understand Tortall’s sexual morals. Even though Raoul felt uncomfortable talking about sex with Kel, they have a conversation about how it might affect her career, and he gives her advice and information to help Kel make the decision that is right for her. Although Kel never has a sexual relationship, Kel does obtain birth control. Having a sexual relationship is discussed in a nonjudgmental way that allows Kel to make the best decision for herself.

 Squire does not disappoint, with an exciting plot full of monsters, magic, and fun. Raoul and the men of the King’s Own add well-developed new characters to the mix, while Kel’s page friends still make appearances. Readers will feel as though they are squires as they follow Kel on her jousts and into battle. As Kel explores being in a relationship for the first time, readers will relate to her doubts and awkwardness. With a tantalizing ending that sets up the next book, readers should be sure to have Knight handy, because they will not want to wait to read the final book in the Protector of the Small series.

Sexual Content

  • It’s mentioned in passing that Kel’s maid, “put out her clothes, including a fresh breastband and loincloth, and one of the cloth pads Kel wore during her monthly bleeding.”
  • A centaur offers to buy Kel with three slaves, which are horses he owns, and “two more if she breeds successfully within a year.”
  • When Peachblossom gets in a centaur’s way, the centaur “reared to show the geldings his stallion parts, and hissed.”
  • A woman sees bruises on Keladry’s body and thinks she is being abused. She offers Kel protection. “They’ll get the man who did it . . . Even if it’s a noble. After the rapes last winter, they have a new commander.”
  • “Cleon leaned down and pressed his lips gently to [Kel]’s . . . He turned crimson, and strode down the hall.”
  • Cleon kisses Kel a second time. “He lowered his head just a few inches to press his mouth to hers.”
  • Cleon and Kel start secretly dating, and kiss several times. Once, “Cleon pulled her into a corner invisible to passerby and kissed her again. Then he strode out of the tent. Kel pressed her fingers to lips that throbbed from this new and different use.”
  • Raoul warns that if women are in command, they’ll “take Rider men as lovers, and it’s found out, they encounter trouble. Men who dislike their orders offer to work it out in bed. Jealousies spring up.”
  • Twice, when Kel is challenged to a joust, Cleon says a variation of, “Gods protected me, you’re going to die a virgin.”
  • A man confesses to the court. “Two girls of the Lower City were attacked, beaten. A third was—must I say it?—a third was beaten and raped. I did it.”
  • Cleon and Kel almost get carried away twice, but they are interrupted. “That got her another round of very warm kisses. They had each other’s tunics off and were fumbling with shirt lacings when Raoul called outside.”
  • Just in case, Kel “found a midwife-healer traveling with the progress and purchased the charm against pregnancy.” She never uses it, however.

Violence

  • After entering the Chamber of the Ordeal, “a squire went mad there. Five months later he escaped his family and drowned himself.”
  • Kel visits a town shortly after it was attacked. “Bodies were set along the streets, pieces of cloth over their faces. Kel could only glance at those who’d burned; the sight of their swollen black flesh was too much . . . Raoul crouched beside a dead man who clutched a long-handled war-axe. He hadn’t died in a fire: five arrows peppered his corpse.”
  • Keladry knows the bandits she captured are going to be hung. “Kel shuddered: she hated hangings. No matter what the crime was, she saw no malice in those hooded and bound silhouettes dangling against the sky. Worse, to her mind, was the thought that the condemned knew they were to die, that a day and time had been set, that strangers planned each step of their killing.”
  • Centaurs say they have to cull traitorous centaurs and the dumb horses they mated with because, “You don’t want bad blood in the herd, particularly not in the slaves . . . That’s probably what Graystreak’s doing now, culling the slaves that bred with that crowd.” Kel thinks that is “obscene.”
  • Kel fights a centaur. The battle takes place over three pages. “He hurled the axe. Kel dodged left, still between him and escape, and stepped in with a long slash across his middle . . . Kel lunged, sinking the eighteen-inch blade deep below the centaur’s waist and yanking up. His belt dropped, cut in two; his forelegs buckled. Kel pulled her glaive free as her foe went down, clutching his belly. Blood spilled around his hands.”
  • Kel has several nightmares when visiting the Chamber of the Ordeal. “Another centaur clubbed her with a spiked mace. . . They were clubbed down as Kel fought to do something, anything.” Another time, the Chamber gives her a nightmare where, “Men, armed and mounted on horses, galloped down the street . . . she toppled as the man’s sword bit deep into her good shoulder. She lay on her side in the mud, blood pooling under her.”
  • A man “tried to run her through” during a joust. Kel unhorses him, then “flipped up his visor with her sword point and pressed the sharp tip to his nose. ‘Yield,’ she advised, her voice even. ‘Or I carve my initials right there.’”
  • Kel is in a brief fight with bandits. “The man who followed him carried a sword: Kel parried his cut at Peachblossom and ran him through.”
  • Kel fights in a battle. “Kel shot her officer squarely in the throat. He too dropped. . . Her arrow punched into the frothing man’s eye. He dropped like a stone.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Kel’s knight master, “doesn’t drink spirits, and he doesn’t serve them. He says he had a problem as a young man, so he doesn’t care to have liquor about. Captain Flyndan likes a glass or two. He serves it in his tent, but only when my lord isn’t there.”
  • The squires serve refreshments at a party, including “liquid refreshments: wine, punch, brandy, and, for the Yamanis, rice wine and tea.”

Language

  • Phrases such as Goddess bless and By the gods are used frequently as a part of Tortallian culture. Once Raoul says, “Gods . . . [she was] green the whole trip, I swear.”
  • Bitch is used three times. An angry knight tells Kel, “One of us will spear you through your bitch’s heart.” Later Joren tells her, “Once I’m a knight, you’d best keep an eye behind you, bitch.”

Supernatural

  • Kel lives in Tortall, a world filled with monsters and magic. The monsters include griffins, centaurs, and more. Some are good, some are not. Kel even has a basilisk for a teacher.
  • Several people at court have the Gift, which can be used for light, to heal, and more. Once, “The king reached a hand toward Vinson and twisted his fingers. The blue fire of his magic settled over the weeping squire. It blazed fiercely white, then vanished. ‘He tells the truth,’ King Jonathan said grimly.”
  • Squires have to spend a night in the Chamber of the Ordeal before they can become knights. “Generations of squires had entered it to experience something. None told what they saw; they were forbidden to speak of it. Whatever it was, it usually let squires return to the chapel to be knighted.”
  • Kel visits the Chamber several times. When she touches the door, she receives nightmarish visions of death and violence.
  • Daine has animal magic; she can speak to animals and shapeshift. “An eagle hurtled from the sky . . . It immediately began to change shape until a small form of Daine’s head perched on the eagle’s body.”

Spiritual Content

  • Tortall has many gods. They are named differently but are similar to the Greek gods. For example, Mithros is the god of the sun, and there is a god of death. The gods are mentioned often in the Tortallian culture but are not an integral part of the plot. After she passes a test, Kel thinks “Thank you, Mithros, for this gift.”
  • Characters often pray before meals or battles. “We ask the guidance of Mithros in these uncertain times, when change threatens all that is time-honored and true. May the god’s light show us a path back to the virtues of our fathers and an end to uncertain times. We ask this of Mithros, god of the sun.”
  • Raoul points out, “Haven’t you ever noticed that people who win say it’s because the gods know they are in the right, but if they lose, it wasn’t the gods who declared them wrong? Their opponent cheated, or their equipment was bad.”
  • Scanrans, from the country up north, sometimes froth “at the mouth as Scanrans did when they claimed war demons had possessed them.”
Other books by Tamora Pierce
Other books you may enjoy

“This is your first challenge, my lady? Your first, and you won,” an attendant said. —Squire

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