fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsbook review Tamora Pierce Squire Protector of the SmallSquire by Tamora Pierce

Keladry of Mindelin (or “Kel” as she’s better known) has finally completed her page training, passed her exams and conquered the ongoing bullying that’s plagued her since she first signed up to become a Lady Knight. Now that she is a squire, she’s eager to begin her duties under a knight of the realm — and is shocked and awed when Raoul of Goldenlake offers to take her on. Anyone who has read the Song of the Lioness quartet knows how much of a legend he is in Tortall. Soon the two are a close knit-team, as Kel accompanies him to bandit-raided villages and centaur populated lands. Soon she’s learning through experience, with the grim realities of living rough and dispensing justice to criminals becoming an everyday occurrence — and there’s still the same old prejudice against a female squire.

As the book progresses, Kel comes up against many varied obstacles, such as becoming a foster-mother for a baby griffin, accompanying the court on a Grand Progress through the kingdom for the benefit of Prince Roald’s fiancée Shinkokami, dealing with her romantic interest in fellow-squire Cleon, and jousting with the many men that challenge her to the competitions. And for those readers that are familiar with how squires ultimately become knights, there is the Ordeal waiting for Kel at the end of the year; something that has already destroyed two young squires…

This third installment in Protector of the Small is an interesting enough read, but there are some problems with the structure of the overall series. Though you could argue that Tamora Pierce is simply following a real-life scenario (and is therefore to be recommended), it feels that often certain plot threads and intrigues are forgotten, or brought to empty conclusions. For instance, one growing subplot involving Kel’s crush on her best friend Neal is dropped halfway through the novel. Kel’s relationships to her two main nemesis’s (Wyldon and Joren of Stone Mountain) are ignored, leaving us feeling as through she’s never really managed to triumph over them — and Joren in particular comes to a surprising end. A new rivalry with one of Raoul’s servants Lerant begins, but again is dropped midway through the book.

As I said, these could all be taken as natural and realistic conclusions (after all, real life doesn’t work out as neatly as books usually do), but there was a sense of things building up in the previous books that make it seem as if Pierce has lost direction. The lack of the good-versus-evil theme in The Song of the Lioness and The Immortals quartet is because the books are more concerned with Kel’s personal growth and challenges — but because I don’t like Kel half as well as I liked Alanna and Daine, I can’t quite bring myself to care as much.

But on to the better things: any one knowledgeable about the community of Tortall will be pleased to know that there are plenty of appearances from older characters, especially Daine and Raoul: Raoul in particular takes center-stage after Kel herself, and there is a surprising twist concerning him and Buri! Peachblossom, Jump, Lalasa, Neal and Kel’s sparrows all return, though have considerably less to do this time around. And you finally discover the identity of Kel’s anonymous benefactor is (as if it wasn’t obvious from the beginning!)

Squire ends on a note of both hope and foreboding, with a vision granted to Kel that will undoubtedly come into play in the forth and final book Lady Knight

Protector of the Small  — (1999-2002) Young adult. Publisher: In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan (known as Kel) is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. But Kel is not a girl to underestimate…

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  • Rebecca Fisher

    REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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