First Test, by Tamora Pierce

I’ve never been a fan of fantasy so I’m not really surprised that I couldn’t really get into this book. I’m not interested in the “magic” and supernatural aspects of this genre and was even less enthusiastic about the immortal characters (both good and evil). Not only that, but the battles, violence and detailed combat scenes had my mind wandering. I really had a hard time staying focused.

Despite all of that, I couldn’t help but love Keladry (Kel). She is strong, confidant and self assured. Actually she’s pretty brilliant all around, never quitting, using positive self talk and never feels she needs to indulge in self pity.

After planning to “fit in” with the boys and wear her usual clothes, she changes her mind and decides that she’ll dress like a girl “They may as well get used to it”, she reasons. She rejects the general stereotyping of women (delicately reared women), recalling her strong mother and admiring Alana, her idol, and all of her accomplishments.

Her greatest motivation is that she cannot tolerate bullies. Her strength is shown early standing up for the weak and combating injustice. Even though she does not possess any magical powers, she is goal oriented and quite competent, determined to achieve everything she chooses to do.

It is very easy to admire her. Clearly, she is singled out and treated unfairly, but it never makes her second guess what she knows she wants. She stands by her convictions. And her love for the animals, Peachblossom specially, who she also rescues, her friends and family is extremely endearing.

The feminism aspect was clear. And if the reader didn’t catch that while reading, it is spelled out by Lord Wyldon, who was her greatest nemesis. Questions of what she wants from life? How being a warrior will affect the ideals of what is considered womanhood. How her contrary, unconventional choices could hinder her future. And as it is in today’s society, like this fantasy, females are underestimated and underappreciated by most but a select few. The smart ones – they know better.




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