Yet another enjoyable series by Tamora Pierce. Also set in the Tortall universe, this series is all about knighthood.
Book 1: Alanna the Lioness became a knight by pretending to be a boy through training and managed to become such a strong knight that she became the king’s champion. The king ruled that girls could now train to be knights if they desired, but for ten long years, no girl ever dared. Until Keladry of Mindelan. But the training master is not thrilled to be training a girl and convinces the king to put Kel on a one year probation (and forbid Alanna to see her). The odds are stacked against her and it doesn’t help that the boys aren’t happy to have a girl training alongside them. With so little support, can Kel make it through her first year?
(Skip ahead to after book 4 if you don’t want anything ruined.)
Book 2: Having managed to surpass all expectations, we follow Kel through the rest of her time as a page (three years). It seems like even though she’s made it passed year one, she may not make it through the rest in order to become a squire. She may have made some friends, but that doesn’t mean everyone is rooting for her success. Many are still reluctant to believe that a girl could ever be as worthy a knight as a boy (regardless of Alanna the Lioness’s successes). What I don’t like about this one is that so much time is compressed into such a short amount of pages, making it harder to get engrossed in her story. Despite book 2 feeling rushed, I found myself really liking it.
Book 3: Finally, Kel has made it through her page years and is a squire. But will any of the knights in the realm want to take on “The Girl” as their apprentice? It certainly doesn’t look like it, until Raoul of Goldenlake, chief commander of the King’s Own, decides to take her on. (As a close friend of Alanna’s through training, he knows what a girl can do.) Her time as a squire isn’t easy, in no small part because of the baby griffin she acquires along the way and a first romance. But the real thing worrying her is the Ordeal of Knighthood, which all Squires must complete in order to become a knight. Like the last book, this one felt a bit rushed, but is also filled with lots of intrigue and excitement. (Without ruining it, I will say that the best part of this book for me was the ending, when the one meeting you’re waiting for finally happens.)
Book 4: Kel has finally managed to become a knight, but a haunting image given to her by the Chamber of Ordeal haunts her. She is told that she must find a man who uses children’s spirits to fashion dangerous war weapons. The kingdom is drawn into a war with the Scanrans. She wants to go out and find this man but is instead relegated to a run a refugee camp. She is torn between her sense of duty to the refugees she protects and the quest the chamber has set for her that could help Tortall win the war.
Kel is like Beka Cooper, of Pierce’s newest Tortall series, determined to protect the innocent, strong and uncompromising. These characteristics serve her well because without them, she would have no chance of making it through her first year, much less the entire training to become a knight. Kel is a fun and admirable character, making her easy to root for in this male-oriented society.
Pierce has shown herself to be an excellent writer and I look forward to the rest of the books I can find by her.