Page and Squire by Tamora Pierce

More books for the Pursuing the Lioness challenge hosted by Chelle over at Tempting Persephone. After reading First Test, the first book in the Protector of the Small series, I breezed through the next books so I thought I’d do one post about the next two books.

Here’s the summary for Page found at the back of the book:
Keladry of Mindelan has returned to the royal palace of Tortall, where she fights to maintain the rigorous regimen of a page while confronting the prejudices that come with being a female in a man’s world. And if that isn’t hard enough, she’s also starting to get something suspiciously like a crush on her closest friend, the handsome and sarcastic Neal. Yet Kel has much to be grateful for as well: a loyal circle of friends, an ill-tempered but lovable horse, and a scruffy dog who would give his life for her. Then one day, a group of pages is trapped by bandits, and the boys depend on Kel to lead them. Could this be a sign of things to come? Suddenly those in power are looking at Kel in a whole new way, wondering whether she can succeed far beyond what they imagined…

Although past events are explained in this book, I recommend that the series be read in order. Page continues with the remaining years of Kel’s training as a page. This book contained three years worth of action as compared to First Test, which only spanned Kel’s year on probation. In the first few chapters of Page, Kel had to deal with the same problems that she had in First Test – mainly the same bullies – but she also has a loyal set of friends who believe in her and even the training master, Lord Wyldon, has reluctantly realized that Kel is one of the best pages in training. An encounter with bandits during summer camp shows Kel’s potential as a commander and prompts a change in the pages’ training. Kel is a good leader because she’s very levelheaded and sensible and even during a fight, she keeps a cool head. It’s also interesting to note that while she gets a lot of action while training as a page, Kel was also dealing with changing from a girl to a young woman. And not just physical changes at that, also developing a crush on one of her closest friends. Although she knows that she has to accept the physical changes that come with growing up, she doesn’t like them and thinks they’re a nuisance. She’s also bewildered with having a crush and doesn’t know what to do about it. It’s nice to know that even a big hero like Kel has the same problems as normal people.

Near the end of the book, Kel has to make a huge decision. I don’t want to give spoilers but let’s just say it involves her final exam as a page. Page is a fast-paced coming of age story that’s closely tied to First Test.

Here’s the summary for Squire found at the back of the book:
When Keladry of Mindelan is chosen by the legendary Lord Raoul to be his squire, the conservatives of the realm hardly think she’s up to the job. Kel quickly proves her ability as a jouster, warrior, and guardian of a fiery griffin, ultimately earning respect and admiration among the men, as well as the affection of a fellow squire. In addition to coping with the challenges of a new romance and life in the royal guard, Kel must also prepare for the infamous “Ordeal,” the last challenge that stands between her and her dream of knighthood…

Kel has finished her four years as a page and has moved on to become a squire. The famous Knight Commander of the King’s Own, Lord Raoul, has chosen her to be his squire. At first Kel was disappointed because she always dreamed of being a squire for her idol, Lady Knight Alanna but she quickly realizes that she’s going to enjoy serving under Lord Raoul. Squire covers four years, in which Kel had to travel with the King’s Own all over the realm and encounter one adventure after another. Squire is full of even more action than Page because of the duties of the King’s Own. Kel still encountered people who questioned her ability to become a knight but what’s important is Lord Raoul believes in her and she learns a lot under his tutelage. I like this scene, where Lord Raoul explains the different types of warriors:

“At our level, there are four kinds of warrior,” he told Kel. He raised a fist and held up one large finger. “Heroes, like Alanna the Lioness. Warriors who find dark places and fight in them alone. This is wonderful, but we live in the real world. There aren’t many places without any hope or light.”

He raised a second finger. “We have knights – plain, everyday knights, like your brothers. They patrol their borders and protect their tenants, or they go into troubled areas at the king’s command and sort them out. They fight in battles, usually against other knights. A hero will work like an everyday knight for a time – it’s expected. And most knights must be clever enough to manage alone.”

Kel nodded.

“We have soldiers,” Raoul continued, raising a third finger. “Those are warriors, including knights, who can manage so long as they’re told what to do. These are common, thank Mithros, and you’ll find them in charge of companies in the army, under the eye of a general. Without people who can take orders, we’d be in real trouble.”

“Commanders.” He raised his little finger. “Good ones, people with a knack for it, like, say, the queen, or Buri, or young Dom, they’re as rare as heroes. Commanders have an eye not just for what they do, but for what those around them do. Commanders size up people’s strengths and weaknesses. They know where someone will shine or where they will collapse. Other warriors will obey a true commander because they can tell that the commander knows what he – or she – is doing.”

Sorry for the long quote, couldn’t really chop it up. I really liked Lord Raoul, he’s a great mentor and just the right one to handle Kel. I love the dynamics of their student-teacher relationship and how they both respect each other and the easy camaraderie that they have. With the serious and conservative Lord Wyldon as her training master during her page years, Kel deserved to have an easygoing knight-master. I also liked Kel’s interactions with the rest of the King’s Own and how she earns the respect of even the most cynical of them. The rest of Kel’s friends are still present although she doesn’t get to spend as much time with them while they’re all squires assigned to different knight-masters. Kel also develops a romantic relationship with a fellow squire. This isn’t entirely unexpected and even though Kel knows that she wants to settle down and have a family someday, she doesn’t want anything to interfere with her goal of becoming a knight.

I enjoyed and recommend all of the books in this series, I’ve already finished the last book, Lady Knight but I’ll do a separate post about it. What I regret though is that I haven’t read Tamora Pierce’s Immortals series. I want to read more about Numair and Daine! As soon as I make a significant dent in my TBR pile, I will hunt for these books. Also, can I just say that I love the covers in the Protector of the Small edition that I have? They’re just so pretty and I love that each book has its own color. I like these better than the other covers of the series that I’ve seen.

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