Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pierce, Tamora: Page [Protector of the Small, #2]

August 24, 2004
288 pages, Random House

As the only female page in history to last beyond the first year of formal training to become a knight, 11-year-old Keladry of Mindelan has an uphill battle to fight. In addition to proving herself worthy of being a page, Kel spends her time defending first-year pages from bullies, staying on top of homework, conquering her paralyzing fear of heights, and keeping up with Lord Wyldon's grueling physical training schedule. Kel's detractors do everything in their power to thwart her progress, from tormenting her friends to sabotaging the Midwinter Festivities to kidnapping her maid and dog on the day of final examinations. The tide of resistance begins to turn slightly during the summer between Kel's second and third years, when she leads a team of pages in defensive maneuvers against renegade bandits. 

Kelandry of Mindelan has done it - though, of course, knowing Tamora Pierce, there is no doubt that her female characters will always (sometimes miraculously) surpass all obstacles, prejudicies and/or acts of God in order to end at the finish line.

Of course, for eleven-year-old Kel, the journey is only beginning. She has to fight to maintain the harsh regimen of a page, while dealing with the constant trials a chauvinistic world has to offer. And then, predictably, there is her growing affection for her best friend Neal, even as it seems her other friend Cleon also desires her attention.

Tamora, Tamora, Tamora. You start them off so young.

A planned sabotage and kidnapping, a maid that seems to have "Attack me! I'm sweet and helpless!" written on her forehead, and a mangy dog that doesn't take no for an answer are just some of the new difficulties Kel must battle, along with her fear of heights and a fearsome training master who doesn't seem to be able to look past her Y chromosome.

At least King Jonathan seems to be having a good year.

Warnings: Mentions of attempted assault, male-female inequality, fights over Kel's virtue and mentions of exactly how a girl changes as she grows up - completely unnecessary in my opinion.

And let's tally up the rating points!

0.5 - Relatively strong heroine

-1 - Cardboard supporting cast - there's the little nerd, the big friendly giant, the loyal best friend turned eventual love interest, the kindly king...need I say more?

- 1 - Anticlimatic "climax"

- 1 - Unnecessary "details"

1 - Appropriate detail of a knight's life, even if placed in a fantasy world

Final notes:

It was okay, I guess. A bit of a yawn in the middle, and I'm pretty sure I'm only moving on to the next book just so I can know what happens next. Otherwise, if you really want a strong girl-hero read, I'd suggest browsing elsewhere.

From the writer's point of view, I must admit that all this information about feudalism and the life of a knight is giving me a little flesh for some bare-boned ideas I've been hoarding away. At the very least, I'm keeping notes of what interests me.


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