Ten-year-old Kel is the first female in the history of the kingdom of Tortall to be allowed to enter training for knighthood. But Lord Wyldon, the training master, is adamantly against allowing girls into the ranks of pages, and Kel is put under probation for her first year. No matter how hard she tries, Kel can't seem to win the good opinion of Lord Wyldon. Will she be able to master the physical and mental tasks required of a page?
First Test is the first book in the Protector of the Small YA series (of four books total).
I read First Test on the advice of a friend, and look forward to reading the next three in the series. As a fantasy school cum adventure story, it is very engaging. It occurred to me that Kel's story is an interesting counterpart to Harry Potters, since many elements of the premises chime (underdog student suffers great injustice but perseveres to master an art in a magical world). Yet somehow First Test is a little more sophisticated--Kel doesn't have to pick up the slack for incompetent adults and save the day, like Harry does. Instead, she faces what struck me as real-world challenges (her own biology, against which she has to work hard to compensate for her female build; the open prejudice of authority figures who resent her). I did feel Pierce's writing was a little emotionally distant, but this didn't distract me enough to make me feel like I was disengaged from Kel's story. The book is clean and wholesome, something any parent or teacher would be comfortable sharing with a child--at the same time, I was quite entertained.