Fourteen-year-old Keladry of Mindelan is not your average squire. For one thing, she’s a girl. For another, she’s almost six feet tall. And most important of all, her ability to pass the Ordeal that soon confronts her may determine her kingdom’s future.
When Kel 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 earns respect and admiration among the men, as well as the affection of a fellow squire.
It’s feminist, it’s fantasy, and its alternately funny or full of feelings. What’s not to love?
I also find it a lot easier to relate to the characters when their older- while I enjoyed the first two books of Kel’s series, and indeed Alanna’s as well, having them grow up and encounter adult situations and choices is a lot more interesting that their exploits as a child.
Reasons why this book rocks:
1. Periods are something that almost all teenage girls have to deal with. And when you’re an ass-kicking knight-in-training, this can be a tad inconvenient. Pierce doesn’t shy away from the fact that yes, our heroine is a girl who gets periods and she has to deal with them accordingly. The only other fantasy book that I can think of offhand that deals with this is Throne of Glass.
2. Kel is passionate about helping other people. Injustice gets her riled, and she simply cannot stand people/animals being mistreated, and sets about rectifying unfair situations as much as it is in her power to do so. She also manages to do this WITHOUT being a Mary Sue. Passive and goody-two shoes she is not.
“The world is imperfect, Kel. But you do more than your share to set things right. Next tine, report it. Even if nothing is done because the one reported is too powerful, a record is made. When he does it again, the record will show he won’t stop.
3. It’s political. The right decisions are not always good decisions, or popular decisions, and vice versa. Political manuovering is essential for stability, but is not always savoury.
Kel wasn’t surprised. She didn’t think much of the man, though she had to admit he was a good king. Maybe her father was right, and good kings weren’t always good men.
“Change the law, the king repeated. “Squire, what do you think her majesty and I have done ever since we took the thrones? No, don’t answer – I dread to think what you might have the courage to say…The problem is that monarchs who wish to live until their grandchildren are born do not hand down any law they like.”
4. Mentorship. Raoul is a fantastic mentor for Kel – he genuinely respects her abilities, cares for her and stands up for her. He also recognises the double standards that exist, and tries to mitigate these for Kel.
“Nobody makes men surrender private life when they take up arms, Kel,” Raoul said, filling their cups. “We only ask that such lives happen off duty. It’s more complicated for women. It’s not fair, but I think you already know the world isn’t.”
5. Feminist! Women who have control over their own bodies! Sex as something enjoyable and on your own terms! Sex education! Birth control!
“Our families are so determined to keep their bloodlines pure that they insist their daughters remain virgins before marriage, poor things. You don’t see that nonsense in the middle and lower classes. They know a women’s body belongs to herself and the Goddess, and that’s the end of it…Perhaps you should see a healer,” Ilane suggested. “Get a charm to keep you from pregnancy, until you’re certain you’d like to be a mother. Then, if you do get carried away, you can surrender to your feelings.” Ilane grinned wickedly. “Goddess knows your father and I did.”
6. Snark! Comebacks! Burrrrrrrn!
“Yield,” she advised, her voice even. Or I carve my initial right there.”
He raised gauntleted hands. “I yield.”
Kel smiled coldly. “And they say conservatives can’t learn.”
7. Kel is strong, certainly, but she’s not infallible. Or magical. She has to work for every bit of strength and muscle and stamina, and while she does well, she also doesn’t win all of her battles or challenges. And Kel herself knows this.
Kel’s mouth popped open when she read her opponent’s name. “You’d better see the coffin maker and order me a box,” she told Cleon as he threw a stick for Jump to chase.
8. It tells it like it is.
“You’re an idealist, Kel. I’ve noticed that about you. See, I try to beat idealism out of Rider trainees. It just ruins their ability to give a fair report. So long as there are nobles and commoners, the wealthy and the poor, those with power will be heard, and those without ignored. That’s the world.”
9. Kel may be tough, but she still has feelings. And crushes. And insecurities.
She had decided years before that she was no prize on the romance market. Being away from Cleon for so long, she forgot the things about herself that made him like her.
PS. Ignore the shite cover.