Page: Deeper and better than First Test

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsTamora Pierce review Page Protector of the Small reviewPage by Tamora Pierce

Keladry of Mindelin (or “Kel” to her friends ) has completed her first year of training to be a knight, and conquered the unfair probation that the training-master Wyldon inflicted on her. Now she hopes she can finally get on with her life-long dream of following in Lady-Knight Alanna’s footsteps, and take the next step in becoming a knight of Tortall.

But things are never as easy as that, and there are still those among her who are determined to see her fail. Yet, as in her first year, Kel is helped by old friends Neal, Merric, Owen, Cleon and Prince Roald, her stallion Peachblossom and the flock of friendly sparrows outside her window. As well as this are two new allies; the timid maid Lalasa whom Kel takes into her employment, and Jump the mongrel who has ‘adopted’ Kel as his own. When the year starts the work begins, along with page-duties of serving the court, summer camps in the wilderness, skirmishes with bandits and the dreaded end-of-year exam. Should Kel fail, then she’ll have to repeat her entire training…and it’s the perfect opportunity for her enemies to sabotage her chances…

Page is thicker, deeper and altogether better than its predecessor First Test. Kel seems a bit more relaxed this time around, but still has her trademark qualities of calmness, loyalty, stoicism and her fear of heights — as I share this phobia I could certainly relate to her terror.

There are some components of the book that make it more appropriate for slightly older readers; such as Kel’s developing body and some allusions to sex which are mostly used in rather negative ways (Kel’s virtue is questioned and Lalasa is assaulted), as well as some blood and gore on the battle field. Tamora Pierce is perhaps the only YA writer I know that openly discusses a woman’s period in the context of a fantasy novel, and in this case Kel’s monthlies are placed alongside her growing crush on Neal — all of which create a sense of realism that works wonderfully well compared to the magical elements of the story.

In my review for First Test, I described this series as being more in the way of the school story than a fantasy story. There is more magic and battles in this installment, but even now, there are still some homages to the old school-story genres found in Enid Blyton and J.K. Rowling’s famous books; such as a young page who keeps using the word “jolly” and a range of school bullies (predominantly Joren, who bears a striking similarity to one Draco Malfoy — they even have the same hair color!) Likewise there are other fun and familiar moments, such as Neal’s long line of ‘true loves’ — here is a young man who loves being in love more than any particular woman.

Kel’s story is growing nicely, and most will be eager to read Squire, especially those that are familiar with Tortall and know that at the end of her training, the Ordeal is waiting for Kel…


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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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