Sunday, March 11, 2012

Reading List Update: First Test

Epic Reading List: Mark Two Updated March 11th:

1. Mockingjay -Suzanne Collins
2. First Test -Tamora Pierce
3. Darkness Falls -Cate Tiernan
4. Page -Tamora Pierce
5. Where Things Come Back -John Corey Whaley
6. Squire -Tamora Pierce
7. Beautiful Darkness -Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl
8. Lady Knight -Tamora Pierce
9. Cinder -Marissa Meyer
10. Trickster's Choice -Tamora Pierce
11. The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight - Jennifer E. Smith
12. Trickster's Queen -Tamora Pierce
13. Halfway to the Grave -Jeanine Frost
14. Tortall and Other Lands -Tamora Pierce
15. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer -Michelle Hodkin

We've officially jumped into the next series of Tamora Pierce's Tortall world. The Protector of the Small has always been my favorite. There was always just something about Kel and her situation that got to me a little bit better than the others. So I was excited to start this one, to jump into Kel's story. Excited but, at the same time, apprehensive. My affection for Alanna has grown a great deal since I last read her series and I was almost a little worried that Kel wouldn't be the same.

I didn't have to worry.

That's not to say I don't love Alanna. I just relate to Kel more.

As a kid I was always a bit different than my sisters, now, at 23, things haven't really changed much. I strayed a little from the beaten path. Had fewer, but closer, friends, wore what I wanted, stood up for who I was, and 'normal' was/is rarely a word used to describe me. I'm okay with this.
Kel is different from her sisters. She wants to be a knight. She goes to court and shows them that she is a force to be reckoned with and never fails to let them know that, yes, she is a girl.

Not everyone can be the first to stand up for what they want, like Alanna, but it takes a different sort of courage to be the first person to stand behind them. Kel is the first going out openly for her knight's shield. Doing something brave opening is a terrifying thing and I think when you're in middle and high school reading someone you identify with doing things like that can be an incredibly powerful thing. And as someone who didn't stick to the norm I loved her for it. And I still do.

But enough sentimental rambling.

She's still brave and snarky. I love snark. I employ a large amount of snark in my everyday life. She's witty and I love witty heroines. I think she'd fangirl over Alanna just as much if we were friends.  Plus, we share a phobia, heights. Pierce goes to lengths to keep Kel humanized. She knows she's not as strong so she works for it. She has bad days and a logical fear. Her crowning moment isn't that she does something unbelievable and myth worthy like Alanna, but that she steps up and uses her skills when only she can help. And she's terrified. Kel is an everygirl striving to better herself.

In First Test, Tamora Pierce does what she does best. Fast paced action sequences and glorious character interaction. I cannot tell you how many lines from this book I still quote. Calling people ducks (this is where I got it), Neal's "If I was useful you wouldn't know it was me." I love it.

The cool thing about this book is that it covers such a short span of time, at least in Tamora Pierce terms. It covers a little under a year in 228 pages. We see important things, Kel's friends becoming her friends, her standing up for herself, and taking the lead. She grows into her role as The Protector of the Small but its start is firmly embedded in this book. We witness her defending a number of different types of creatures, people, horses, kittens. All the while Pierce lays down exactly the kind of relationships Kel is going to have with each character. It doesn't have many pages but Pierce utilizes every line she's given.

A post wouldn't be complete without a comment about a fictional boy. Of course, I have also always loved Neal. Nealan of Queenscove has ALWAYS been my absolute favorite Tamora Pierce boy. It's odd considering he's supposed to be 15. He's snarky, and witty, and not a morning person, and dry, and smart. He set the bar kind of high. He's not overly romantic but wants a life of passion and color and it's so obvious how much he cares.

We get outside glimpses of Alanna in the beginning but her presence is known. We get to see Raoul and Jonathan without the familiarity that both Alanna and Daine presented. It's really interesting to see Jon through the three different heroines. Alanna's love for him, Daine's awe and crush, and Kel's ultimate resentment. It was difficult not to resent him with her, even knowing why he put her on probation, and knowing what kind of character he is. We also get an outside glimpse of Daine and I chuckle a little that Neal has a crush on her and one brief glimpse of Numair that shows at a glance just how shatterwitted and distracted he can be. I always enjoy seeing the old characters.

I'm back in Tamora Pierce bliss so I'm struggling to come up with negatives. Or I just had a long day at work. Or both.

As always I do wish the book were longer. First Test is one of the better ones in terms of time compressing but I always want more.

Overall: Beyond Epic (I struggled with the rating. I want to give it Massively because I'm trying not to be too sentimental but this is an excellent and accessible groundwork book. So, I caved.)

I'm going to stop since I can't organize my thoughts anyway.

Next I'll start the second of Cate Tiernan's beautiful Immortal Beloved trilogy: Darkness Falls.

Until then, or when I come back to clean this post up,


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