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First Test: Book 1 of the Protector of the Small Quartet and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

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First Test (Protector of the Small) Hardcover – June 7, 1999

335 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-8-Ten years after the proclamation that girls are eligible for a page's training at the court of King Jonathan of Tortall, 10-year-old Keladry applies and is accepted, but on probation, a condition never forced on male applicants. Resolutely accepting the challenge, the hostility of the royal training master, and harassment by fellow pages, Kel makes her way through this difficult year. Trained from early childhood by stoic Yamani warriors, she is capable of hiding her feelings, fearless in a fight, and willing to work hard to develop the necessary physical capacity. Her sympathy and support for the underdog and her sense of chivalry earn her the admiration of a group of fellow pages. She also befriends the sparrows that live outside her window and wins over a difficult horse. Kel performs well in her first real battle and is grudgingly allowed to stay for another year of training. The medieval/magical world of Tortall has been the setting for eight of the author's titles; in First Test, the first of a new series, this fantasy world is clear and well developed, allowing the book to stand on its own. Characters who may be familiar to readers of the previous titles are reintroduced successfully or remain on the sidelines. The scrappy Kel is an appealing and believable girl whose struggles to integrate a formerly all-male world are both familiar and freshly told. This is smooth storytelling and a satisfying read.
Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Pierce begins a new sequence of books set in her imaginary kingdom of Tortall with a new heroine, 10-year-old Keladry, who must fight her way through her first year of knight training as a page. Despite Alanna's success years before (recounted in The Lioness Quartet), both the knight trainer, Lord Wyldon, and Kel's fellow pages oppose a girl being introduced into the program, so Kel uses her wits and courage to overcome the many obstacles set for her in her probationary year. Pierce takes small liberties with her medieval setting (Kel has a privy and eats with cutlery) but does a fine job making Kel's perceptions of the concrete details come to life. Part school story, complete with bullies; part fantasy with powerful evil creatures such as the disgusting Spidren; and part animal story as Kel makes friends with a flock of sparrows and bonds with her balky gelding Peachblossom, this is a splendidly rousing feast. Susan Dove Lempke

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 - 13 years
  • Grade Level: 5 - 8
  • Lexile Measure: 760L (What's this?)
  • Series: Protector of the Small (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (June 7, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679889140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679889144
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.7 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (335 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #971,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Tamora Pierce is a bestselling author of fantasy books for teenagers. Her books, known for their teenaged girl warriors and wizards, have received critical acclaim and a strong fanbase.


Tamora Pierce was drawn to books from a young age. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, the child of a "long, proud line of hillbillies," her family never had much. "We were poor, but I didn't know it then. We had a garden where my folks grew fruit and vegetables and our water came from a well," she explains. But one thing they did have was plenty of books. So Tamora read.

A self-proclaimed "geek," she devoured fantasy and science fiction novels, and by the age of 12 was mimicking her literary idols and writing her own action-packed stories. It was thanks to her father that Tamora began writing. "He heard me telling myself stories as I did dishes, and he suggested that I try to write some of them down," Pierce says.

But Tamora's novels had one major difference: unlike the books she was reading, her stories featured teenaged girl warriors. "I couldn't understand this lapse of attention on the part of the writers I loved, so until I could talk them into correcting this small problem, I wrote about those girls, the fearless, bold, athletic creatures that I was not, but wanted so badly to be."

Seventeen years later, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, a brief career in teen social work and some time spent writing for radio, Tamora Pierce held true to her childhood crusade, and published Alanna: The First Adventure, the first in a quartet about a valiant, young, female warrior. Pierce's heroine struck a chord with readers across the country and quickly earned her a loyal following.

Pierce is now a #1 New York Times bestselling author and has written twenty-five books, including her newest, BEKA COOPER #2: Bloodhound. "It's a pretty good life, if I do say so myself. Struggling along as a kid and even through my twenties, it's the kind of life I dreamed of but never believed I would get. Yet here I am, after a lot of work, a lot of worry, a lot of care for details, and a massive chunk of luck, the kind that brought me such strong friends and readers. Pretty good for a hillbilly, yes? And I never take it for granted," she says.

Pierce lives in upstate New York with her husband Tim and their three cats and two birds.


"[Tamora Pierce's heroines] faithfully reiterate an ideal of feminine power that relies on brains, not beauty; of feminine attractiveness that relies on competence, not helplessness; and of feminine alliances that grow stronger, not weaker, in the face of conflicts." -The New York Times


"With its rollicking adventures [and] appealing characters . . . Terrier will be in strong demand by Pierce's fans. It will keep readers on the edge of their seats." -School Library Journal, Starred

"Memorable characters and well-drawn settings. . . . This timely and appealing anthology will surely help swell the ranks of teenage fantasy readers." -School Library Journal

"The plot sweeps readers along in a whirlwind of court intrigue, deception, murder, and romance. The humor is wicked, and the plot twists will keep the pages turning to the supremely satisfying end. Teens will be inspired by Aly's determination, her resourcefulness, and her heart." -School Library Journal

"Aly arrives fully formed, a snarky, talented uber-heroine. Cameos of old favorites complement a rich cast of new characters. Aly's difficulty with the complexity of colonialism adds surprising, welcome depth." -Kirkus Reviews

"Unrelentingly realistic in its depiction of the horrors of war, this novel draws the reader into a complete and believable fantasy world. Pierce provides exquisite details of the weaponry, topography, and culture of her world, and her control of a voluminous cast of characters is masterful." -Voice of Youth Advocates

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#86 in Books > Teens
#86 in Books > Teens

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Sheila L. Beaumont VINE VOICE on May 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ten-year-old Keladry wants to be a knight like her hero Alanna the Lioness. After she rescues some kittens from a spidren monster, she becomes more determined than ever to go to knighthood-training school, so she can learn how to protect the weak and small. Kel is the first girl page since Alanna (who was disguised as a boy at the time), and the odds seem to be against her: The training master thinks girls shouldn't be knights; some of the boys play vicious practical jokes on her, trying to get her to drop out. Kel shows her courage when she is the first student to stand up to the school bullies. As always in Tamora Pierce's fantasies, there are plenty of good, likable characters, such as the Shang Wildcat, Daine (who converses with animals), King Jonathan, the mage Numair, good old Sir Myles, Neal of Queenscove, and Lord Raoul. And then there are the animals: Kel's faithful horse, Peachblossom, and the sparrow Crown and her flock, who prove quite dangerous to Kel's enemies. There are some exciting confrontations with immortal monsters. "First Test" is the first book in Ms. Pierce's third Tortallan series, Protector of the Small, and it's just as much fun as the two earlier series. I'm now looking forward to reading the next book, "Page."
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Lynn Munter on December 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I thought this book was great. Some people have been comlaining about the lack of involvement from charachters in previous books, but them staying in the background helps to make this book original, not just restating previous books. Also, there are some reviewers asking where Kitten is, but they must not have read "In the Realms of the Gods" very carefully, because in it Diamondflame takes her back with him to the dragonlands. The question I agree the most with is, Didn't Princess Kalasin say she wanted to be a kinght? Where is she? Since Roald is an older page and Kally is a year younger, she ought to be a page the same year as Kel, but there's no sign of her. I suppose the author thought it wouldn't be the same if there were two girls, but she still could have offered a reason why Kally wasn't there instead of pretending she doesn't exist. Some people have claimed that there wasn't any excitment. I guess they somehow missed the spidren hunt, the fights, the weighted lance, and other parts. There's also the mystery of the anonymus gift-giver, though I'm pretty sure I know who it is. I won't spoil it for those who haven't, however. I like that Kel is way different from either Alanna or Daine. In fact, she and Alanna are in many respects complete opposites. Of all Ms. Pierce's charachters, I guess she most resembles Daja (of Circle of Magic), or Raoul, Alanna's friend from her days as page and squire. One thing: we really didn't get to know Roald, I suppose because Ms. Pierce didn't want to repeat lady knight/heir of throne friendship. On the whole, this book was a good read, my only real regret being that it was over too soon. I would have liked to read Joren's reaction to the Stump's final desicion. I can't wait for the next one to come out, speaking of which, why is Ms. Pierce starting a new series? That will be wonderful, but finish this one first! Keep up the good work, whichever series, though!
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Ever since I read this book (about 5 months ago) I've been waiting with baited breath to find out what happens. It starts off Keladry(Kel) of Mindelan has just decided to become a knight. Ever since Alanna (Lioness Quartet) became King's Champion, it has been legal for girls to become knights. So against the better judgement of Lord Wyldon, the guy in charge of the training, she is accepted. The only catch is Alanna is to have NO contact with her. And Kel is on probation unlike any boy. After Kel gets to the palace no one wants to beseen dead with her except Neal, Duke Baird's son. Kel learns to deal with bullies, unfair treatment and fear. It's a really great book! The reason I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 was it wasn't written like the Alanna and Daine books. It's more like the Circle of Magic books, kind of young seeming. It's still a great read though!
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Anna on February 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
All right, I will admit that this was not one of Tamora Pierce's best books, and I should know, because I've read them all (Song of the Lioness, Immortals, Circle of Magic-which sucked). And this was not one of her best. It was interesting, to see someone who had no magic whatsoever, deal with people the normal way. You know, without turning them into trees, or throwing bolts of lightning on them. Kel was a very unique person, whose only fault, in my opinion, was that she was too stuck on the Yamani Isles way of life. Hey, if she loves them so much, she can go back, right? This book did provide a good continuation of the Immortals series, and gave us readers (who still haven't recovered from the abrupt cutoff in Realms of the Gods)a glimpse of what happened between Daine and Numair (I mean the fact that she's sleeping with him kinda gives you a hint!). It is nice to return to our beloved Tortall, and join Kel (who seems much older than 10 years old) and her friends (I only remember Neal, the others were just unnecessary) battle everyday life.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 17, 2000
Format: Hardcover
In fantasy, generally, the idea of girl turned warrior is overdone, and most of the time, very badly done. One main exception was the entire Song of the Lionness quartet, which I highly recommend reading before First Test. So, when I heard Tamora Pierce had written another book about a female knight - I looked to it with high expectations. Mostly, this book lives up to the previous Song of the Lionness potential at least. Keladry is not as memorable a character as Alanna, and it is reading the surrounding characters that makes the book worthwhile. The minor characters and lesser protagonists have made much more of an impact in my mind than Keladry. The story at times is trite - but I won't hold that against it, that occurs in the best of the best fantasy and especially in 'young adult' reads. I mean, what can you do differently in a book about warrior training and facing difficulties with bullies, etc? Yet, despite that, it holds enough suspense that I am eagerly awaiting the next addition to the series. Overall, this book is worthwhile reading (especially since you get to see Alanna, Daine, and Numair among others again!), but I wouldn't classify it among Pierce's best.
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