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First Test

(Protector of the Small #1)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  56,672 ratings  ·  1,506 reviews
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 w ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 240 pages
Published May 23rd 2000 by Random House Children's Books (first published June 7th 1999)
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Echo Yes. It's set in the same world, but 10 years after the Song of the Lioness series is complete. About 5 years after the Immortals Quartet. While it's …moreYes. It's set in the same world, but 10 years after the Song of the Lioness series is complete. About 5 years after the Immortals Quartet. While it's not focused on Alanna, she does show up as well as some other familiar faces. I highly recommend reading the Immortals Quartet first though, as the first book references events from that series pretty heavily.(less)
Zoe Alanna's story was focused around her hiding her identity as a girl from the rest of the knights, her reluctance to practice her magic, and an eventua…moreAlanna's story was focused around her hiding her identity as a girl from the rest of the knights, her reluctance to practice her magic, and an eventual love story. Kel's story differs because everyone knows she is a girl, so the central conflict is her proving that she is good enough to be a knight despite her gender. Also, she doesn't have magic or a love story.(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 4.20  · 
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 ·  56,672 ratings  ·  1,506 reviews

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Start your review of First Test (Protector of the Small, #1)
Jun 01, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: basically anyone.
Recommended to Allison by: fond memories.
Recently I decided to reread all of Tamora Pierce's books, because, well, it's been too long since I read them. For her Lioness Quartet, Circle of Magic books, and The Immortals series, I was refreshing my memory, but with the Protector of the Small series, it was almost like reading them for the first time. I read this series only once, when I was a preteen, and I had honestly forgotten just how much I love Kel.

At first glance, the story of Keladry of Mindalen seems like a rewrite of Tamora Pie
Rachel E. Carter
Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: have-paperback
No review I could ever write would do this book (or series) justice.


This series to me is the pinnacle of Tamora Pierce's career. She had many wonderful books but the emotional and physical turmoil her protagonist Kel goes through to earn her knighthood is nothing that I have ever experienced in another YA book. Kel perseveres against every trial imaginable, and while at times she can seem a bit too mature (she's only 10 in this one!), she is unique and refreshing in a world of cliche. She is wh
Cristina Monica
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This is my first book/series from Tamora Pierce, meaning that I did not read her Song of the Lioness series prior. However, although Alanna, and as I discovered, multiple other characters from the author’s other books in the same world are mentioned, I did not feel as though there was something I was missing to enjoy this particular story.

Actually, because Alanna was mentioned so many times, I now feel very interested in picking Pierce’s Song of the Lioness up. Though it’s true there are some sp
Dichotomy Girl
3rd Read: 12/16/2016
Edit: Raised this up to 5 Stars, because after discussing it with Rachel E. Carter, I've decided that yes, Kel is the awesomest. :)

I had forgotten how good this series is. It's hard to decide which is my favorite, this one or Alanna.

Original Read: 11/11/2012
I started this series with the thought that it was going to be a do over of Pierce's previous, successful Alanna the Lioness Quartet, which followed a girl (named Alanna, of course) who dressed like a boy and took her twin brother's place in page training while he took her place in magic school (not dressed as a girl). The four books of that quartet follow her progress from page, to squire, to knight and king's champion--with her sex being discovered along the way. I was pleasantly surprised to ...more
Fafa's Book Corner
Mini review:

Trigger warning: Animal abuse

Minor spoilers ahead!


Tamora Pierce is an author I have heard off. On a whim I decided to try on of her books. Unfortunately this book didn't work for me.

In the beginning (the first chapter) Kel stops these boys from drowning kittens. While attempting to rescue the kittens a monster comes. And starts to eat them. I couldn't make myself read anymore. I felt sick to my stomach.

I do still recommend it. As Kel's a very strong character and I have a feeling
Linda ~ they got the mustard out! ~
3.5 stars

This isn't exactly like Alanna: The First Adventure, but that's mostly because 1) Kel doesn't have to hide the fact she's a girl and 2) Kel's quite a different character from Alanna. But it's still more or less the same general plot and same types of obstacles and challenges. Kel's singled out as the first female page, gets bullied and befriends all the good guys and pisses off all the bad guys, and has animal friends to boot (birds this time). At least Winthrop got some nuance.

I really
Oct 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I am going to save my reminiscing about this series for the third book. Or at least I'm going to try. Some might creep in unnoticed.

First off:
Spidrens were, actually, the first Immortals I ever read about, because I went straight from the Lioness Quartet to this series. So in the first chapter or so, when Kel finds a spidren biting the heads off kittens, I was deeply disturbed. I still am. What I love about that scene is Kel's react
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I liked this book - listened to it as an audio book. It was a quick, fast read. I was mostly interested, but the story was entirely predictable. My biggest problem was that Kel is a 10 year old girl, but at no time did she actually act like it. She was way too mature for her age - both in how she acted, her physical abilities and even how she spoke. It was in no way believable that she was a child. My other gripe is: (view spoiler) ...more
Alanna clenched her fists. What was going on? Was Jonathan inclined to give way to the man who'd saved his children?
And with that, possibly the stupidest line Pierce has ever written, Kel's story begins. I'm big on details lately, and the introduction is shaky on them. Here are more places the writing is less than precise:
The training master absently rubbed the arm in its linen sling. At last he bowed in his chair. "May we compromise, sire?"
Maybe that first line is here to show Wyldon's hesitati
Bridget Mckinney
Apr 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013

Before starting to read the Protector of the Small quartet, I read that Kel was just another Alanna and that the books are basically Song of the Lioness all over again. I was actually okay with that going into this series, since I love Alanna and think that there are far worse things Kel could have been than just like her. I'm happy to report, however, that although there are similarities between Alanna and Kel, their experiences are extremely different and Kel's story expands upon and continues

I recommend this book to two (not mutually exclusive) groups of people: kids who love Harry Potter and are looking for something to read next, and girls looking for a heroine who is not just a badass, but an Interesting Person to boot.

Review of entire series:
I read this series so many times in my teenage years, I nearly wore out the library copy. I was never over-impressed with Pierce's writing, but Keladry's quiet strength got under my skin and fascinated me. So many literary heroines are more
Lucy Ralston
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book changed my childhood. I had read stories about lady knights before--about women dressing as men, fighting the odds, and changing the world. But this story is different. Kel doesn't dress in drag, she doesn't hide herself, she doesn't try to change the world. She just wants to be a knight, and will do whatever it takes to achieve her goal. She is my number one female character in a YA novel, and that has not changed in a long long time.

I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone
Jun 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
(re-read on May 26, 2013, the occasion of this review)

May I say first that whoever thought this cover (trendily cropped photograph of a conventionally beautiful young woman with her lips parted and wearing some sort of floating veil) was an improvement over this cover (painting of a ten-year-old child with an androgynous haircut, looking out optimistically at the world through her black eye, holding a kitten and surrounded by little birds) should be smacked with their own portfolio?

Thank you.

Arielle ⭐ Cursebreaker ⭐
This review was written ages ago when I was in library school but I'm leaving it because I'm lazy. This millionth re-read was just as good as all the rest and I actually listened to it on audio this time so that made it just a little more fresh and new. I will be reading all of Pierce's books FOREVERRRRRRR. Also I laughed bc for some reason I like indented two of those paragraphs but I'm leaving it just because why not.
Keladry of Mindelan and her family have just come back to Tortall from a s
I've read this book (this series) over a dozen times over the last decade and a half. Kel has been my rock (stone), and Tamora Pierce has been my strength. The Protector of the Small series has taught me feminism and fairness and strength and how to overcome it all.
Tortall is one of my happy places, and I'm so happy to return and find it unchanged after all these years.

Tamora Pierce is a FANTASTIC writer, a great world-builder, and a master of character development.
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: young-adults
4,75 stars - Audiobook - I have dyslexia -
Girls try to be knight, a theme brought up many times before. The heroïne of this book puts it to another level. Keladry of Mindalan's first year at the school for knights is discribed with trouble, wisdom, hardship,and humor in this book. Next to the battle against good and evil. Adventure spatter of the pages. But this heroïne also honors her former teachers. Afraid of hightech but not of combat. A special girl indeed. One point was a bit to much.... t
May 29, 2020 rated it liked it
This really is setup for the next book, but even here there’s early hints of what will later become definitive facets of Kel’s character.

A lot of this book is Kel meeting people, weapons training and overcoming (and fighting) hazing. It’s a good book - I don’t know, I don’t have much more to say about it than that.
May 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
I remember not liking this quartet very much when I first read it. I thought it was a less interesting retelling of Alanna’s quartet (which starts with Alanna: The First Adventure), which is also by Tamora Pierce.

However, this series has grown on me over the years. It’s better written than Pierce's previous quartets, and the side characters are more fleshed out. Kel stills seems far too wise beyond her years to me, and her lack of emotion is annoying, especially in the earlier books. I don’t min
Alex Black
Jul 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I remember never being quite as fond of the Protector of the Small series as I was the other Tortall books, particularly the two first ones, but as an adult, I thought it was absolutely brilliant. The premise of the series is that 14 years after Alanna, girls are allowed to become knights, but it's still a very sexist, patriarchal society, so no girl has. I really enjoyed that because it didn't just have Alanna fixing everything by being a heroic woman. She definitely changed the world a great d ...more
Jackie B. - Death by Tsundoku
Ten years after Alanna becomes King's Champion, a female of Tortall finally wants to become a page-- and eventually a knight of the realm. What sounds at first as a repeat of the Song of the Lioness quartet is quickly revealed to be much more. While our protagonist, Kelandry of Mindalen, is following the same path as Alanna, the road the walks is completely different. Tamora Pierce takes what could have been a copycat novel and turns a parallel story into something refreshing and new.

From the st
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Can't decided between 3.5 stars or 4. I did like it, but this is very much a "starter" book.


Review Taken from The Pewter Wolf

Keladry of Mindelan is the first girl who dares to take advantage of the new law of Tortall, allowing females to train for Knighthood. After growing up on the Yamani Islands, she knows women can be fearless warriors and she wants to be one. But Lord Wyldon, the training master, is dead against the idea
Jul 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, ya
After King Jonathan took the throne, he decreed that women could train as knights as well. But more than a decade has passed since Alanna was unveiled as a female knight, and still no other female member of a noble house has come forth to be trained. No one--until Keladry. The daughter of ambassadors, Kel spent her childhood in lands where women were trained warriors, and intends to become one herself. Jonathon's hide-bound nobles aren't pleased with this change of tradition, and to placate them ...more
Kirsty (Amethyst Bookwyrm)
This and my other reviews can be found at

First Test is about Keladry of Mindelan, the first girl who wishes to become a knight since Lady Alanna. She has been accepted for knight training, however, unlike the boys she will study and train beside, she has been given a First Test, one year to prove to the conservative training master that she is able to withstand the rigors of page training.

The storyline of this book progresses in a very good yet predictable
Mar 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I would've devoured this at age 10 or so. Now, I'm less interested in stories where women have to prove themselves to men. That's right. I'm embracing my inner Carol Danvers. That said, I loved Kel and Neil and their friendship, and this was a fast, fun listen. I would've given it four stars, except I'm not into stories where the big bad is a monstrous/non-human species. Just personal preference.

Definitely a book/series I'll give my niece and nephew when they're old enough.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I am very excited because my big reread has finally gotten to the Kel books, and Kel is my *FAVORITE* Tamora Pierce heroine. She doesn't have magic powers, so she gets everything done on her own. She's stubborn, she works incredibly hard, and she always stands up to a bully. I also have always loved Neal and his dramatics, even though this time around I couldn't help wondering, what kind of 15-year-old is perfectly happy to spend so much time with 10 to 13-year-olds? Doesn't he ever want to talk ...more
Oct 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
One of my favourite books from my childhood, along with the Lioness quartet. Will review properly later when I don't have a detailed essay (on the use of moving image/film as an art form to explore social media and psychosis) to conclude.

Came across my 2003 school reading log, and I think my ten-year-old self actually describes this book best. In my own ten-year-old words: "Excellent, I like the idea that girls are at least as good as boys, if not better!"
MrsJoseph *grouchy*
3.5 stars

It was cute. I really liked the MC and the way she looked at treating others. Even though I enjoyed it...I wasn't caught by it. She's no Daine. I'm in no hurry to go to book 2.

Love of Hopeless Causes
Five characters mentioned in the first sentence. Clearly this is not intended for people ignorant of the earlier series. My first attempt at this author, because it was the first number one in a series to became available. Ever seen "Minority Report" where he does the hands out thing to interact with the computer? After the third restart, I had to sit still and do that, just to track the sentence. Of Course, Tamora is on Overdrive like black on wild rice, so maybe she writes these in her sleep. ...more
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Hey, folks! I just discovered that apparently I have given some very popular books single-star ratings--except I haven't. How do I know I haven't? Because I haven't read those books at all. So before you go getting all hacked off at me for trashing your favorites, know that I've written GoodReads to find out what's going on.

I return to my regularly scheduled profile:
Though I would love to join gro

Other books in the series

Protector of the Small (4 books)
  • Page (Protector of the Small, #2)
  • Squire (Protector of the Small, #3)
  • Lady Knight (Protector of the Small, #4)

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We asked fantasy author Tamora Pierce your questions!
126 likes · 25 comments
“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.” 243 likes
“You know, ogres only sound stupid. Most are pretty smart."

"And it's a shallow person who judges anyone by the way they sound. I'm so shallow I'm surprised I don't reflect myself.”
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