Sunday, May 5, 2013

Miss Eliza's Book Review - Tamora Pierce's First Test

First Test (Protector of the Small Book 1) by Tamora Pierce
Published by: Bluefire
Publication Date: June 7th, 1999
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Ten years since the proclamation that girls might attempt a page's training in the hopes of one day being a knight there has been no candidates. Then one day Keladry, known as Kel, applies. The Royal Training Master wants to reject her application, but his hand is forced because of the proclamation. Therefore he sneaks in a rider. Kel will be on probation for a year. At the end of that time, if she is up to snuff, she may stay. The boys make it anything but easy for Kel, teasing her constantly and pulling merciless pranks. Yet Kel refuses to give up. She was trained in the Yamani Islands to fight and hide her emotions. No boys can break her. She not only has the sparrows on her window ledge to brighten everyday, a special patron that sends her presents, and dresses to wear to every dinner to make sure the boys know she is one of them but not one of them. Soon Kel has her own posse of students that take out vengeance with fists against those older students who are a bit thuggish. Though, her only thought is that after a year, when the Training Master calls her name, it won't have probationary in front of it anymore.

People have been telling me to read Tamora Pierce for years, and after reading this book I don't know if it was just because I started with the wrong book or I didn't get introduced to her at a young enough age, but it was derivative and predictable. Also, I wouldn't categorize this book as YA, but strictly Y... if I read this when I was ten, maybe I would have thought it cool... maybe. Kel's journey has been written in a hundred different ways by a hundred different authors, all who did it better. There's Harry Potter in there, there's Arya's journey in Game of Thrones, and if you really want to see magical schooling done right for a far more adult audience, there is Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind. The fact that this is the first in a Quartet made the ending inevitable. Obviously she's going to get past her "first test" and go on to be a page and squire and then a "lady" knight, because obviously, the word knight needed a qualifier, much like she needed "probationary" added to her name. And this rant is just in the general since. I mean, how many badly written training sequences with staffs and quatrains can you jam into a short book? Well, a lot if there really isn't a plot to the book. Also, what does this book teach? Bullying is ok if you fight back and never tell anyone? What the hell!?!

The there's just stupid and sloppy world building. Yamani, well, let's just call it Japan, because, well, it's Japan. Do I really need a glossary for all the stupid animals and people in the world? No. You know why? Because I couldn't care who these people are. I divided them into those for Kel and those against Kel, which members of my book club didn't even bother doing, because they were that bored with the book. And how about those Immortals. Well... yeah, didn't need them. It's like Pierce had to have some villain, some enemy that was so obviously defined, that this Immortals, these, half human crazy things that eat kittens will do. And YES, the Lord of the Rings ripped off Spider people ATE KITTENS! And now that I'm on the topic of animals, what the hell is Kel's connection with animals? She supposedly doesn't have any magic, though her tendency to gather animals around her would indicate that she has wildmagic. Not that I care if she has it, it's just, if you're to introduce this concept and then have her have ALL the traits, just admit it already. I mean the freaking birds are showing her where enemies are and are alerting her to the boys pranking her when she's using the bathroom. Um, excuse me? Sparrows protect me while I urinate? Then, in the preview for the next book she gets what, a dog? Is this freaking Bremen town musicians? She's going to have a whole menagerie following her around like a butch Disney princess?

I just couldn't like this book. There was nothing redeemable, except it's brevity. I also had this weird feeling that I had read this book before, and this is aside from Pierce being a magpie off everyone else. Then it struck me, this book was totally like the bad 80s movie Troop Beverly Hills. Misfit girl(s), fighting against the establishment despite being allowed in, then big dramatic denouement in nature. And you know what? I'd rather watch Troop Beverly Hills any day then read this book again.

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