Pierce, Tamora. Protector of the Small. Random House, 2000. ISBN 0679889183. $5.50. 253 pp. Reviewer: Lillian H. Heil Reading Level: Young Adult Rating: Significant shortcomings Genre: Fantasy Fiction Subject: Knights and knighthood-juvenile fiction; Adventure and adventurers-juvenile fiction; Fantasy-juvenile fiction; book-reviews; Tamora Pierce's four-volume story of Keladry of Mindelan, Protector of the Small, is full of action as a small but stubborn and hardworking girl overcomes all obstacles to progress from her first test to a lady knight. She does indeed protect the small-the animals and the commoners who are sometimes mistreated by her fellow nobles. Kel is a likable heroine, intelligent and able to laugh at herself as she challenges bullies and commanders who doubt her ability to become a knight. Despite her skill as a writer, Pierce falls down in her logic in the third book in which Kel is a squire. Keladry has diligently fought for equal rights for commoners; nobles should not consider themselves better than others. Here comes the rub. Nobles are expected to be virgins before marriage. Presumably this means being a virgin is special. If virginity is good for nobles, according to this book, it ought to be the norm for everyone, but commoners are not expected to live this way. Kel's mother tells her that it's okay for her to have a lover since she doesn't intend to marry a noble. That doesn't sound like equality, and it presents a flaw in Kel's fight for a single standard. The reader will only encounter this lack of logic in book 3 and a paragraph in book 4, but be aware that the double moral standard doesn't square with Kel's determined fight for equality for the small and common.
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