Protector of the Small
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|Genre||Fantasy, Young-adult fiction|
|Media type||Print (hardback and paperback)
|Preceded by||The Immortals|
|Followed by||Daughter of the Lioness|
The Protector of the Small quartet is a series of books written by Tamora Pierce that tells the story of Keladry of Mindelan, a heroine in the fictional kingdom of Tortall.
In the realm of Tortall, women are finally legally allowed to train for knighthood. Keladry (Kel) is determined to be the first official female knight. As the only girl in the entire training program, Kel faces many challenges. In this book, she is put on a year of probation by her training master, Wyldon of Cavall. She bitterly resents this, but is determined to prove to him that she's as good as any boy.
At the beginning of the year, her only friend is her year-mate and sponsor, Nealan (Neal) of Queenscove and a mysterious benefactor who occasionally sends her useful items. Kel and her family have just come back from the Yamani Islands where they have lived for six years. She also faces a dangerous enemy, fellow page Joren of Stone Mountain. However, as the year goes on, Kel declares an unofficial war against the hazing of the first year pages. She and Joren's gang often get into fights over hazing, since they have very different opinions as to what is allowed and what is not. As Kel 'rescues' more and more victims, others join her and Neal in fighting and friendship.
At the summer camp for pages, Kel and her friends assist Lord Raoul and the King's Own on a Spidren hunt. At the end of the year, Lord Wyldon surprises everyone by allowing Kel to continue to train to become a knight.
The second Protector book details Kel's remaining years as a page. She struggles to understand her changing body and opinions. For example, her first menstruation period arrives and she develops a crush on her best friend Neal. With the help of her very reserved maidservant, Lalasa, Kel manages to surmount all the challenges that nature throws at her.
Joren, her archenemy, appears to have stopped tormenting her. At first, Kel is distrustful of this apparent reversal of opinions, but gradually, she forgets to be cautious. When the ultimate attempt to force Kel to stop her training occurs, she must ask herself if Joren is really as repentant as he appears to be, and what it is worth to allow her fears to control her.
Kel's aptitude as a true leader is shown when she and her friends are attacked by bandits while camping in the Royal Forest. Kel keeps a cool head and gives orders, leading the boys to safety until Lord Wyldon and his troops arrive. In later training, Kel's growing skill with the lance and bow is clear, and she continues to prove her leadership skills in mock fights between her squads and other squads.
Through it all, she is forced to deal with matters of ethics and matters of the heart. After Vinson (an enemy and squire) attacks her maid, Lalasa Isran, she is forced into deciding to report him or to keep Lalasa and her job safe. Then thow in her difficulties while dealing with an infatuation with her best friend Neal.
Through all this, her fear of heights is shown here, when Lord Wyldon forces her to climb every height she sees as punishments for her actions. Kel tries hard to master her fear, and finally overcomes her fear after she is forced to climb the rickety, rusty, spiral staircase on the outside of Balor's Needle to save her maid. In order to save Lalasa, she knows that she will be late for the big examinations that will determine if she becomes a squire or not, and that the punishment for being late is that she will have to repeat all four years as a page. She decides that Lalasa's need is greater than her own, and puts her fears aside to climb to the top of Balor's Needle and rescue Lalasa. In the end, Kel is allowed to participate in the examinations by herself and passes, officially becoming a Squire. At the end of her tests, she receives another gift from her mysterious benefactor.
The third Protector book describes Kel's next four years in training. Her new knight-master, Raoul of Golden Lake and Malorie's Peak and Commander of the King's Own, is as different from her original master, Lord Wyldon, as a man could be. He introduces Kel to a new way of life, one that's as much fun as it is challenging. He not only allows her to carry and use her chosen weapon, the Yamani glaive, but he helps her to take her skill at jousting to the next level in addition to nurturing her natural ability to lead. With his help, she becomes a formidable new force on the tournament field, sending shock waves through the world of young Tortallan knights-in-training, and intriguing young lady nobles. As she travels with him and Third Company, she encounters Neal's handsome cousin Domitan, or Dom, as well as other interesting folk. Raoul finds himself pressed into escorting the "progress," a group of noblemen and women who are traveling across the entire realm to celebrate Prince Roald and Princess Shinkokami's wedding. Raoul reluctantly complies, and Kel has a chance to reunite with her Yamani friends, where she recognizes Princess Shinkokami as one of her childhood friends. She also tries to make things more comfortable between Roald and his future bride.
But combat isn't the only thing Kel has to overcome. In this novel, she takes a new foundling, a baby griffin with a tendency to bite and scratch, under her wing, as well as facing matters of the heart. Kel meets a wide panorama of faces, old and new, including the Yamani Princess Shinkokami and her ladies, a very troubled squire, a baby griffin, and a metal creation like nothing she has ever seen before. Old friends and foes appear: Neal of Queenscove, Owen of Jesslaw, Cleon of Kennan, and the still-bullying Joren of Stone Mountain. Through it all, Kel never allows herself to forget what awaits her after her night-long vigil in Midwinter of her fourth year as a squire: the Chamber of the Ordeal. Hormones quickly announce themselves in Kel and the other warrior teens. Faced with the infatuation held for Dom and the affections from Cleon, Kel must realize that not only is she a knight-in-training, but also a young woman.
The last book in the series describes Kel's first appearance as a Knight of the Realm. War with the neighboring country of Scanra is declared at last, and Kel finds herself in charge of a refugee camp. Her district commander, Lord Wyldon, has chosen not to place her in control of a border post or a portion of the army like the other knights, so she's certain that he wishes to keep her—who, as a woman, he views as inferior in combat to males—out of fighting. However, it is revealed that she was chosen for her post because she is the only knight Wyldon knows who wouldn't discriminate those not of nobility. Kel soon comes to realize that these refugees, torn from their homes, robbed of their wealth and self-respect, are her responsibility. She must feed them, house them, and keep them safe from harm, on a piece of ground that is far too close to the Scanran border. She is able to be a hero, even outside of the battlefield.
In her work she receives help in the shape of her old friends Neal and Merric, the horses Peachblossom and Hoshi, the dog Jump, and her personal sparrow flock, as well as from mixed a myriad group of others: the Wildmage Daine; Daine's lover, the great mage Numair; Neal's own father, Duke Baird of Queenscove; Kel's former knight-master Raoul of Goldenlake and Malorie's Peak; men of the King's Own (including Kel's friend and Neal's cousin Sergeant Domitan of Masbolle); convict soldiers who have been given the choice to fight in the army or to die at hard labor; several hundred disillusioned refugees who have received too many empty promises from nobles; smugglers, and a stolid, unusual boy named Tobe.
While Kel struggles with her responsibilities and the urge simply to abandon the camp and find a real fight, another obligation hangs over her. Before the war began, she was given a task by the Chamber of the Ordeal: to find and destroy the mage who is using foul magic to create the rat-like, swift-moving, deadly metallic things known to the Tortallans as "killing devices." But, tied to the camp, she cannot pursue it. However, as the summer wears on and the war intensifies, events move to put that perverted mage and his conscienceless war-leader in Kel's path, and at last her resolve is tested, and she and all of Tortall find out if she is truly worthy of her shield.
- Keladry "Kel" of Mindelan: The protangonist of the series, a young noble striving to become the first official Lady Knight in Tortall in over 100 years. She is the youngest daughter of Piers and Ilane of Mindelan, and has several older siblings. She spent six years of her childhood in the Yamani Islands, where her father, a Tortallan diplomat, negotiated a peace treaty between the two countries. As a result, Kel adopted several Yamani customs, which she continued to practice after returning to Tortall.
- Nealan "Neal" of Queenscove: Kel's first friend and year-mate in the training program. He is the son of Duke Baird of Queenscove, the chief of the palace healers. Neal has got a very strong healing Gift, which, like his father's, is emerald green. Neal is several years older than his year mates, since he initially studied healing at the university of Corus before deciding to carry on the family tradition of always having a Queenscove knight in royal service.
- Wyldon of Cavall: Lord Wyldon, nicknamed "the Stump" by Neal, is the stiff, conservative training master when Kel tries for knighthood, and is the one to demand a year of probation for her, because she is a girl.
- Joren of Stone Mountain: Joren is an enemy of Kel, and tries to drive her out. He has a group of followers who are against women being knights. He bullies first-pages, claiming that it is making them obedient. In Page, Joren seems to have changed, but it is later shown that this was just a ruse.
- Lalasa Isran: A maid to Keladry, and niece to Gower Isran. Joren hired two thugs to kidnap her, and this made Kel face her fear of heights and overcome them.
- Lennard, John."Reading Tamora Pierce's The Protector of the Small"
- Melano, Anne L. "Utopias of Violence: Pierce's Knights of Tortall and the Contemporary Heroic" (Crossroads: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, vol 3 issue 2, 2009)