In the medieval and magical world of Tortall, Keladry of Mindelan tries to become the first girl to train to become a knight after a royal decree allowing it. But unlike the boys, Kel has to prove herself able to keep up to Lord Wyldon the training master during the trial period or her dreams of a shield are forever lost. This first year is full of hazing and a rigorous schedule to make her fail. Kel soon learns that being a girl and a knight isn’t going to be easy.
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At first I thought that First test was going to be a repeat of Alanna: The First Adventure, so I actually put off reading them for a while. While I don’t think it is as great as Alanna, it shows how a normal lady knight is made without magic. Plus, there are a lot of differences: different lessons, different fighting techniques, different challenges.
Overall: PG For fantastical fights
Violence: PG For fights with fantastical creatures
Language: G Creative derogatory names
Adult Content: G
Reading Level: Grade 4 – 12
Here are just a few of the themes present in First Test by Tamora Pierce.
- Bullying: Kel tackles the unfairness of hazing which has gone too far and turned into outright bullying. At first she gets beat up often, then she has a group of friends which help her stop the bullying by just standing up for another person.
- Grit: First Test shows that you have to keep on trying even if something is hard. Kel keeps going even when the odds are stacked against her and everyone wants her to fail.
- Gender Equality: The idea that a girl can do whatever a guy can do and vice versa is the main theme of this book. Kel works hard to show that physically she can do anything the boys can do, while she is trying to change their idea of the role of women.
- Cultural Differences: Kel has lived longer outside of Tortall than inside and has to relearn how to interact with others and perceive their social clues. The cool part is the culture that she grew up with gave her skills that helped her succeed in her training.
“I’d like to find whoever taught the Stump that extra work builds character and push him down the stairs,” Neal told Kel at lunch.
“You aren’t a bit romantic, are you?” he asked, amused.
She sat back and stared at him. She was beginning to think that Neal required a keeper. He seemed to have the craziest ideas. “Romance? Isn’t that love stuff?” She asked finally.
“It’s more than just love. It’s color, and—and fire. You don’t want things magnificent and filled with—with grandeur,” he said, trying to make her understand. “You know, drama. Importance. Transcendent Passion.”
“I just want to be a knight,” Kel retorted, putting her used tableware on her tray. “Eat your vegetables. They’re good for you.”
Kel isn’t a normal girl. She would rather be practicing with weapons, saving animals, or in a fight than work on her needlepoint. Don’t get me wrong, she is also a lady a wears dresses whenever she can to remind the boys who she is even after wrestling them in the mud. My favorite part is how caring Kel is and how it is her kindness that pushes her to become a knight so she can protect those who can’t protect themselves. Granted in this book standing up for others usually leaves her black and blue, but it helps her get better at fighting. Kel is also very refreshing and different from all of the other female protagonists in Tamora Pierce’s books, she doesn’t have a drop of magic. If anything this new magic-less journey shows how real Keladry is and helps more girls to connect with her. I think girls and boys alike would love this books.
Next Books to Read
Other books to read include Page, book two of this series, by Tamora Pierce, Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce, Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C Wrede, and The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable.