First Test by Tamora Pierce

First TestInformation

Goodreads: First Test
Series: Protector of the Small #1
Source: Purchased
Published: June 7, 1999


Ten years ago the king of Tortall decreed that girls would be allowed to train as knights.  Not a single girl took advantage of the new law, until now.  Ten-year-old Keladry of Mindelan is determined to become a hero so she can protect the weak and small.  But until she can achieve her dream of becoming a lady knight, she has to make it through one year of probation as a page and prove to the training master she can be as strong and brave as the boys.


First Test is a true celebration of female power.  Keladry of Mindelan is the embodiment of a “strong female heroine.”  While not as brash or sassy as her predecessor Alanna (Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet), Kel exhbits confidence, perseverance, and an admirable determination to do what’s right.  She’s a heroine readers will be pleased to meet.

The book takes readers through Kel’s first year as a page (on probation).  While the training itself is challenge, Kel’s major difficulties come from the discrimination and harassment she fights as the only female in the training program.  Pierce does not gloss over the forms of  crassness and downright cruelty such discrimination can take, but Kel maintains a firm belief in herself that keeps the tone of the novel optimistic.

A diverse cast of likable characters, ranging from Kel’s wise-cracking sponsor to her feisty horse, also add heart and humor to the book.  Readers will enjoy meeting these characters, as well as getting glimpses of old favorites from Pierce’s other Tortall series.

First Test is basically a YA fantasy must-read.  Exciting and empowering, it will appeal to anyone who loves a good adventure story and strong female leads.

6 thoughts on “First Test by Tamora Pierce

  1. vlangloisx3 says:

    I’m pretty sure I read this while in middle school, but I’m not sure. I did read everything by Tamora Pierce! This does remind me of her other series, her Alanna books, but I think all of them revolve around the same theme.

    I’m really glad you liked this! I really need to take all of her books, and reread them. They were so good when I was younger!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana says:

      Yes, I think her stories tend to have a lot of similarities between the girl-power themes and the fact they’re all set in one of two universes. …And all the people in her Tortall series are related to people from other Tortall series.


  2. Dragon Babies (@dragonbabiespod) says:

    My sister and I just reread this book for our YA fantasy nostalgia podcast and it was really exciting to realize how feminism-forward First Test (and Kel’s entire series) really is. I recognized that it was empowering when reading it as a teen, but couldn’t articulate why I found Kel more exciting than Alanna, the original Lady Knight. Because Kel doesn’t have to hide her gender, she can really redefine women’s places within the knighthood (instead of being forced to adhere to the masculine ideals within which Alanna is trapped).

    I also found it pretty incredible how hypocritical the bullies were… although they insisted Kel shouldn’t be able to do what a man could do, they regularly beat the stuffing out of her as if she were any other boy.

    I love Kel’s quiet confidence and I am so happy I revisited this book. Thanks for sharing in the Tamora Pierce love!


    Liked by 1 person

    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I think that’s a great point about Alanna and Kel achieving different things for women in Tortall. And about the bullies being hypocritical because you’re right they wouldn’t actually beat up a lady like that! I’m glad you enjoyed your re-read. I just read Tempests and Slaughter and remembered all over again how much I love Pierce’s writing.


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