Thursday, September 28, 2017
First Test by Tamora Pierce
I first read this book in 2000 and fell in love with the characters and in particular the feisty and determined Keladry who has applied to train as a knight following in the footsteps of Alanna, lioness of Tortall, who completed her training ten years earlier by disguising herself as a boy. I have been recommending this book ever since but sadly no one seems to have continued reading beyond the first book. I do wonder why. This is a splendid series and would suit fans of books like Skulduggery Pleasant (a very popular series in my school library) and Rangers Apprentice.
In one sitting I read First Test again today. This is a book where you become totally involved with the characters and their activities. Tamora Pierce completely transports you into her medieval fantasy world. Here is the cover of our library copy
The story opens with a meeting between King Jonathan and Lord Wyldon the training master. A letter has come from Keladry of Mindelan, a ten year old girl who is requesting to train as a knight. Sitting in the room is Alanna the Lioness, the King's Champion. Wyldon is incensed :
"Girls are fragile, more emotional, easier to frighten. They are not as strong in their arms and shoulders as men They tire easily. This girl would get any warriors who served with her killed o some dark night."
The King will not be swayed, however, and Kel is allowed to begin her training but unlike all the boys, her time is to be a trial - a probation AND Alanna, who had thought to mentor the girl, is forbidden all contact.
Kel arrives and she is so excited to begin her training but the bullies have other ideas and they will not give in until she gives up.
"Entering her room, Kel shut the door. When she turned, a gasp escaped before she locked her lips. She surveyed the damage. ... The drapes lay on the floor ... her packs were opened and their contents had been tumbled out. Someone had used her practice glaive to slash and pull down the wall hangings. On the plaster wall she saw written 'No Girls!', 'Go Home!', 'You Won't Last.' "
The boys fight her physically and mentally. One of the worst things is the way they tamper with her lance and fill it with lead. Kel eventually discovers this trickery but not before she has spent months doing extra arm strength exercises determined to master this huge weapon. On the positive side Kel does have friends. The servants are on her side and so is her sponsor Nealan of Queenscove who by luck is also a healer and her horse, even though he has been badly treated previously, becomes a wonderful ally.
One of the aspects of this book that I enjoyed is that while Kel is strong and intelligent and very disciplined she does have one weakness. She cannot cope with heights.
"Kel's ears roared; she could not catch her breath. The broad moat that passed in front of the wall was a long drop below. She heard nothing, she did not feel hands prying her grip from the stone .. 'I'll fall' she whispered."
You can read more about the whole series here and also in this Wikipedia entry.
When you read First Test you will realise it is part of a series of books which intertwine.
The Alanna series are written for an older audience so senior primary students can start with Protector of the small.
One of my favourite Canadian bookshops Woozles in Halifax recently featured the newest book in the Tortall series. Tamora Pierce visited Halifax and so many of their Facebook posts featured her books.
Here is the cover of the newest book in this series which now number 18 books.