First Test by Tamora Pierce
Published by Random House Children’s Books on May 23, 2000 (originally 1999)
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Goodreads avg: 4.25 (as of 2019-01-19)
In the medieval and fantastic realm of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl to take advantage of the decree that permits females to train for knighthood. Up against the traditional hazing of pages and a grueling schedule, Kel faces only one real roadblock: Lord Wyldon, the training master of pages and squires. He is absolutely against girls becoming knights. So while he is forced to train her, Wyldon puts her on probation for one year. It is a trial period that no male page has ever had to endure and one that separates the good natured Kel even more from her fellow trainees during the tough first year. But Kel Is not a girl to underestimate, as everyone is about to find out…
I read this quite some time ago, but only owned the first book and never continued with the series. For Christmas, I received books 2-4 and decided to re-read this so that I could jump into the rest. I had forgotten most of the plot, although all of it felt familiar to me. While I couldn’t have predicted anything that happened, once it happened I thought to myself “oh yeah, I remember that.” Luckily, I enjoyed it just as much as Tammy’s other books and am very excited to finally finish the series!
One of the things I love about Tammy’s writing is that she’s able to create such distinct characters. While most of her books focus on “strong” women, they’re not all the same. Where the Lioness is hot-tempered and loud, Daine is timid yet stubborn, Aly is quiet and calculating, and Kel is even and impenetrable. Each of her characters have different strengths and weaknesses, and I think that makes it possible for girls to find representation they are able to relate to.
This book follows Kel in her initial (probationary) year as a page, the first female page to enter the program since girls were allowed to join. There are plenty of obstacles along the way: a lot of the boys think that a girl doesn’t belong there alongside them. Kel’s advantage is that she and her family had lived with the Yamanis as an ambassador for most of her early life. The Yamani culture is much different from the one Kel has transitioned back into and one of the biggest things she has learned is to “be as stone” and hide all of her emotions behind a smooth mask.
Overall, I found the pacing to be great and the story fun to follow. I worked through the book fairly quickly and am looking forward to what comes next, although I plan to wait until Fantastic February to continue reading since this series is obviously perfect to put on my TBR for it. I recommend this to all Tamora Pierce fans, as well as anyone looking for some YA fantasy with a strong female character.