Sunday, February 14, 2010

First Test by Tamora Pierce

book cover

First Test
by Tamora Pierce

Mass Market Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Random House
First Released: 1999

Source: My personal library.

Back Cover Description:
"Girls are fragile, more emotional, easier to frighten." This is the typical attitude that Keladry of Midelan is up against. Kel is the first girl in ten years to take advantage of the decree that permits girls to train for the knighthood, and she is about to smash everyone's preconceptions about what girls can and cannot do...

Set in Tortall during the reign of King Jonathan III and Queen Thayet, First Test launches the Protector of the Small series, which chronicles the coming of age of a heroine who is far more than she seems.

The Protector of the Small series is a favorite of mine (an adult) and the 12-year-old girl I mentor. I had a concern about a statement in book three (Kel's mother tells her there are no drawbacks to sleeping around if you're not concerned about keeping the noble bloodlines pure...though Kel is prevented by circumstances from following through on this advice during the series), but otherwise the books had a great message.

Kel is a determined young woman who stands up for what's right, works hard to achieve her dreams, and uses her strength to protect rather than bully those who can't stand up for themselves. I love this girl, while my mentee mainly talks about all the animals in the book.

First Test is the first book of the series. The pacing and world-building were very good, and the situations were realistic--Kel dealt with unfair treatment, how to deal with bullies, and her fear of heights. The bad guy characters were a bit stock "boarding school bully," but I enjoyed the variety of engaging good-guy characters and the animals that Kel took under her protection (an ornery horse and some courtyard sparrows in this book).

Although in a medieval-type setting, the good-guy characters had some modern sensibilities about the treatment of the lower classes. (Which is fine; I'm just pointing it out.) The novel had made-up gods and goddesses, magical creatures, and typical fantasy-magic. Kel doesn't have magical abilities, though. There was no bad language and no sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book as fun, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Alanna the Lioness, the King's Champion, could hardly contain her glee. Baron Piers of Mindelan had written to King Jonathan to say that his daughter wished to be a page. Alanna fought to sit still as she watched Wyldon of Cavall, the royal training master, read the baron's letter. Seated across his desk from them, the king watched the training master as sharply as his Champion did. Lord Wyldon was known for his dislike of female warriors.

It had been ten long years since the proclamation that girls might attempt a page's training. Alanna had nearly given up hope that such a girl--or the kind of family that would allow her to do so--existed in Tortall, but at last she had come forward. Keladry of Mindelan would not have to hide her sex for eight years as Alanna had done. Keladry would prove to the world that girls could be knights. And she would not be friendless. Alanna had plans to help Keladry through the first few years. It never occurred to the Champion that anyone might object.


Alexandria said... this entire series for the first time a few years ago. I absolutely loved it. I didn't think it would be as good as her Lioness series, but I was pleasantly surprised. Also surprising is that, at 17 years old, I've still found myself going back and re-reading this series. I think it has a timeless quality to it that some fantasy based novels are missing. The writing is also easy to follow, but still uses imagery effectively.

Genre Reviewer said...

Hi, Alexandria! Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts on this series.