Thursday, September 06, 2007

Protector of the Small Quartet

Protector of the Small Quartet

Tamora Pierce

  —   Book

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Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult

So Pierce has given us the girl knight with powerful magic. She's given us the powerful mage-child. Now she gives us Keladry, who is completely unmagical but the first girl who wants to try becoming a knight openly. She's big and strong and honorable, but she has some pretty stiff obstacles to overcome. One is the trainer himself, who is very good at his job but utterly convinced that women have no place in the knight cadre. Since he is fundamentally fair, he won't say no outright... but since he's so convinced, he does something that has never been done and has a trial year for Keladry.

And a trial it is, since certain elements of court are opposed to any female knights, and they bar Alanna from showing favor to the young girl. In her frustration at being unable to help, Alanna leaves court... and Keladry is left to fend for herself against hazing and predjucial pranks. One might well be able to guess the nature of such pranks from stories of, oh, the Civil Rights movement. Yes, some of them are that nasty.

And I think that's what makes these books so appealing. Keladry is not fighting obscure magical threats (at least, not in the first few books); she is fighting for the right to be who she wants to be. She's fighting against entrenched attitudes and petty nastiness, as well as direct threats to her person. And mostly, she's fighting to prove that she can be good at something, and that something is at the core of knighthood. Keladry understands honor on a fundamental level that many of her peers do not. She knows that when things have "always been done that way," that doesn't mean that it's okay. She takes a stand against hazing, and against the idea that commoners should only operate on the sufferance of the nobility.

And while she takes objection to the term "Protector of the Small," it is fairly descriptive of her nature. She wants to be a knight because a knight is there to protect the weak, and because she believes that, she is a knight who is a protector instead of just a noble with a lot of steel.

One can like Alanna, and one can like Daine, but one can imagine oneself to be Keladry.

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