Book Review: Tamora Pierce’s First Test

Posted March 12, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews, Middle-Grade readers, Young Adult readers

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Tamora Pierce’s First Test

First Test


Tamora Pierce

It is part of the , series and is a fantasy that was published by Random House for Young Readers on May 23, 2000 and has 240 pages.

Explore it on Goodreads or Amazon.

Other books by this author which I have reviewed include Alanna: The First Adventure, In the Hand of the Goddess, Woman Who Rides Like a Man, Lioness Rampant, Wild Magic, Trickster's Choice, Trickster's Queen, Wolf-Speaker, Emperor Mage, Realms of the Gods, Page, Squire, Lady Knight, Terrier, Bloodhound, Mastiff, Daja's Book, Sandry's Book, Tris's Book, Briar's Book, Magic Steps, Street Magic, Cold Fire, Shatterglass, The Will of the Empress, Melting Stones, Battle Magic

First in the Protector of the Small fantasy adventure series about the second girl to ever train to become a knight in the kingdom of Tortall. You may want to read the previous quartet subseries in the overall Tortall series before starting this one; if you’re interested, there is a chronological listing of the Tortall books on my website.

My Take

I was back to being confused as to whether I was in Valdemar or Tortall!

Truly, this is an excellent series for kids as it promotes the fact that girls can and should be encouraged to follow their dreams and that their sex should not be a hindrance. It’s about loyalty, friendship, honor, and teamwork.

Kel does develop an interesting relationship with her horse Peachblossom. I love it when Kel tells her that she’ll tell Stefan on her and Peachblossom immediately behaves. She certainly does have quite a bit of her own growing up to do as she tries to incorporate her brother Anders’ advice on getting along at school with her own sense of honor. An honor that is challenged early on.

Kel has a nice response when the boys challenge her on her bully patrol.

‘If we take this [bullying] as pages, what about when we are knights? Do we say, Oh, now I’m going to be nice to the weak and the small? Or do we do as we learned when we were pages?…Joren and his friends are out there looking for someone to hurt. I want to stop them.’

‘They’ll beat you up,’ the prince remarked quietly.

‘I think of it as combat exercise.’

The Story

Lucky for Kelandry that she had those six years of training in the Yamani Islands or she may not survive the hostility and brutal pranks pulled on her when she arrives at the training school in Corus. Fortunately, Kel has the sparrows for company. Every morning she strews breadcrumbs with the occasional dried fruits for the birds. They repay her generosity with protection and aid.

Joren and most of the school don’t waste any time in harassing Kel in a variety of incidents from just plain mean to nasty.

But Neal proves to be a staunch friend with his own support with homework to bully patrol as well as finding outside support to deal with Peachblossom.

And someone out there is also interested in Kel succeeding as they send her valuable gifts that are amazingly useful to a student.

The Characters

Keladry of Mindelan is ten-years-old and feels she is more than ready to begin her training as a page. Baron Piers and Lady Ilane of Mindelan are her parents and supportive of her dream. Kel’s brothers — Anders, Inness, and Conal — are already “good, worthy knights”.

Kel’s year mates include Merric, Esmond, Quinden, and Seaver. The older pages assigned to help the new students acclimate are Faleron, Cleon, Zahir ibn Alhaz, and Prince Roald respectively while and Nealan volunteers to help Kel. Nealan is a cheeky, much-older page who won’t stand for Joren’s bullying. Joren‘s fellow bullies include Vinson and the aforementioned Zahir and Garvey.

Queen Thayet is married to King Jonathan of Tortall; Kalasin, Roald — he’s betrothed to Princess Chisakami of the Yamani Empire, Liam, Lianne, and Jasson are their children.

Sir Alanna of Pirate’s Swoop and Olau is the King’s Champion and thrilled that at long last a girl is applying to be a page. It’s been ten years since Jonathan sent out the proclamation opening the training up to girls. Now she is forbidden to interfere or talk to Keladry; I think she’s Kel’s source. Sir Miles, Baron of Olau, is not only Alanna’s adopted father and a member of the king’s council, but also Kel’s history and law teacher. And the kingdom’s official spymaster. Duke Baird of Queenscove is Neal’s dad and chief of the realm’s healers. A nice guy.

Lord Sir Raoul of Goldenlake and Malorie’s Peak, Knight Commander of the King’s Own, Qasim, and Captain Flyndan are part of the spidren patrol on which they learn the benefits of Kel’s feathered friends.

Lord Wyldon of Cavall, a.k.a., the Stump, is the royal training master and hates the idea of girls invading his training school. He uses the Immortals war to extort his own brand of acceptance on King Jon. Two Shang warriors are also instructors: Hakuin Seastone, the Shang Horse is a Yamani and Eda Bell, the Shang Wildcat both become friends of Kel. Lindall Reed is a mage and old friend of Numair’s who, along with Bonedancer (see Emperor’s Mage) has chosen to move to Corus to teach at the school. He’s very anxious to discuss animals with Daine. Master Oakbridge teaches etiquette and he has Kel help teach Yamani etiquette when he learns the identity of her father. Master Ivor is her math teacher. Stefan Groomsman is still in charge of the stables. Master Yayin teaches reading and writing; Tkaa the basilisk teaches about Immortals. Sergeant Obafem Ezeko is the weapons instructor from Carthak. Salma Aynnar is in charge of the servants in the pages’ wing and she offers Kel refuge.

Numair Salmalín is King Jon’s wizard and Veralidaine “Daine” Sarrasri’s teacher. A wildmage, she talks to animals and has learned that her father is the hunt god Weiryn while her mother has become the Green Goddess. Kaddar is the new emperor after Daine’s adventures in Emperor Mage.

Spidrens are metal spiders with human heads — monsters from the Divine Realms.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a medieval feel to it with Kelandry’s bowl haircut, her clothing, the birds clustering around her, and the cat she’s holding. The banner hanging from the iron rod with the arrowed finials and the golden fringe at the bottom displaying the name of the series and the book’s title certainly adds to the feel. The background has a dreamier quality with bushes directly behind Kel, a river, more verdant lushness on the other side of the river with a castle and town towering in the mists behind Kel.

The title reflects Kelandry’s first year as a page in Tortall. It is her First Test of honor.