Book Review: First Test by Tamora Pierce

Rating: 4/5
Genre: YA Fantasy
Goodreads book description:

In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on probation for one year. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. But Kel Is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out…

My thoughts:

I’ve somehow made it 25 years without reading a single Tamora Pierce novel. This is bonkers. Growing up I loved reading and I loved fantasy. So how I avoided reading any off her stuff is beyond me.

I actually didn’t even know about Tamora Pierce until recently, but as soon as I did I knew I wanted in. I was initially planning on reading her Song of the Lioness series, but I happened upon the Protector of the Small series because the first book, First Test, was on a table at Barnes & Noble that had a sweet 3/$20 deal. I couldn’t pass up a good book bargain!

Protector of the Small is chronologically the fourth series in Pierce’s Tortall universe, but I felt like I wasn’t missing much by not having read her other series first. There are references to Song of the Lioness, but nothing too major, and nothing that made it feel like I was missing information in this book.

It took me a few chapters to get into this book, but once I did, I raced right through it. To be fair, it’s barely over 200 pages so that’s not a super impressive feat, but still.

I am so into the main character, Kel. She’s such a well-fleshed out character, and she is super likable. 

I sometimes get annoyed with the whole ‘girl trying to do things that girls don’t do in society’ trope, but in this book I was so on board. I feel like usually when that happens in books, the author really tries to set them apart from the boys to show how hard it is for her. It often comes across as unrelatable and disingenuous.

In this book I didn’t really feel that. Kel was just doing what she had to do to get what she wants out of life.

Yes, she goes through a lot of crap because of her gender, but I felt like it really fit in with the feel of the book. Especially with this group of people who are just so set in their ways and afraid of changing anything. It’s not just Kel who is bullied around for being a girl, everyone in her class is bullied for being a first-year.

Seriously, the other pages in Kel’s year put up with a lot of crap that they probably shouldn’t have put up with.

Even Kel puts up with it in the beginning because she does not want to be sent home or called out for being a girl.

In terms of characters, I loved Kel, I loved Neal, I loved Salma, and I loved Sir Myles. Everyone else was super infuriating though, though some of the characters I hated I ended up liking towards the end. 

I’m excited to continue on with this series, and after that I will probably start exploring the rest of the Tortall universe.

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