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The Protector of the Small quartet is the fourth series published by Tamora Pierce and the third set in the Tortallan Universe. The books follow the story of Keladry of Mindelan, who wants to follow in the footsteps of the famous Alanna of Pirate's Swoop and Olau. The books detail Kel's way to knighthood.
The first book follows Kel through her first year of training. She has resently returned from the Yamani Islands. Keladry is the first female who officially wants to try for knighthood. However, she encounters much resistance in her plan. The training master is just as opposed to her being a page as are most of the boys. The training master even convinces the King to impose a probational period on Kel.
This book follows Kel through the rest of her Page years. Kel succeeded in convincing the training master that she was to be allowed to remain in the palace and continue her training as a page. But still the training master doesn't like her and makes no secret of it. In addition to her lessons, which grow ever more difficult, Kel has declared war on the hazing-practices of many older boys. At the end of her time as a page stand the big examinations, in which she has to prove that she has the abilities needed to become a squire.
The third Protector book describes Kel's next four years in training as a squire. Raoul of Goldenlake has choosen to become her knight-master. Raoul is as different from her first training master, Lord Wyldon, as a man could be. He introduces Kel to a new way of life, one that's as much fun as it is struggle. He not only allows her to carry and use her chosen weapon, the Yamani glaive, but he helps her to take her skill at jousting to the next level. With his help, she becomes a formidable new force on the tournament field, sending shockwaves through the world of young Tortallan knights-in-training, and intriguing young lady nobles.
But combat isn't the only thing she has to consider. In this novel, she takes a new foundling under her wing, as well as faces matters of the heart. Kel meets a wide panorama of faces, old and new, including the Yamani princess Shinkokami and her ladies, a very troubled squire, a baby griffin, and a metal creation like nothing she has ever seen before. Old friends and foes appear: Neal of Queenscove, Cleon of Kennan, Owen of Jesslaw, and the still-bullying Joren of Stone Mountain. Through it all, Kel never allows herself to forget what awaits her after her night-long vigil in Midwinter of her fourth year as a squire: the Chamber of the Ordeal.
The fourth Protector book describes Kel's first appearance as a Knight of the Realm. War with the neighboring country of Scanra is declared at last, and Kel finds herself in charge of a refugee camp. Her district commander, Lord Wyldon, has chosen not to place her in control of a border post or a portion of the army like the other knights, so she's certain that he wishes to keep her—who, as a woman, he views as inferior in combat to males—out of fighting. However, it is revealed that she was chosen for her post because she is the only knight Wyldon knows who wouldn't discriminate those not of nobility. Kel soon comes to realize that these refugees, torn from their homes, robbed of their wealth and self-respect, are her responsibility. She must feed them, house them, and keep them safe from harm, on a piece of ground that is far too close to the Scanran border. She is able to be a hero, even outside of the battlefield.
In her work she receives help in the shape of her old friends Neal and Merric, the horses Peachblossom and Hoshi, the dog Jump, and her personal sparrow flock, as well as from mixed a myriad group of others: the Wildmage Daine; Daine's lover, the great mage Numair; Neal's own father, Duke Baird of Queenscove; Kel's former knight-master Raoul of Goldenlake and Malorie's Peak; men of the King's Own (including Kel's friend and Neal's cousin Sergeant Domitan of Masbolle); convict soldiers who have been given the choice to fight in the army or to die at hard labor; several hundred disillusioned refugees who have received too many empty promises from nobles; smugglers, and a stolid, unusual boy named Tobe.
While Kel struggles with her responsibilities and the urge simply to abandon the camp and find a real fight, another obligation hangs over her. Before the war began, she was given a task by the Chamber of the Ordeal: to find and destroy the mage who is using foul magic to create the rat-like, swift-moving, deadly metallic things known to the Tortallans as "killing devices." But, tied to the camp, she cannot pursue it. However, as the summer wears on and the war intensifies, events move to put that perverted mage and his conscienceless war-leader in Kel's path, and at last her resolve is tested, and she and all of Tortall find out if she is truly worthy of her shield.
- Kel is the youngest child of Ilane and Piers, and the youngest daughter. She has eight siblings that go in order: Anders, Patricine, Inness, Conal, Demadina, Adalia, Oranie, Avinar, and lastly, Kel.
- She is mentioned as a close friend of Princess Shinkokami.
- Alianne of Pirate's Swoop mentioned that she was once jealous of Kel, before realizing that Alanna the Lioness (Alianne's mother) was proud of Kel not as a replacement daughter, but as a girl brave enough to be a knight.
- Kel greatly admires the Yamanis.
- Kel spent several years in the Yamani Islands, where she learned to use their fighting style and their way of using the glaive. Her advanced knowledge of combat helped during her Page years when fighting bullies picking on her and her fellow first years.
- If you look at the Random House covers, they all include at least one sparrow, an animal of some kind, and Kel.
A collection of the cover arts can be found here.