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The Protector of the Small quartet consists of four books following the progress of Keladry of Mindelan from childhood to knighthood.
The books in the series are:
The first Protector of the Small book tells of Kel's fight to become an accepted and equally-treated first-year page. Pierce places Kel in a position that many women currently find themselves in: whilst the laws may have been changed to favour gender equality, the reality of entering into a traditionally male domain presents many hurdles. Kel is accepted into the royal page program, however is placed on probation for the first year. She is forced to deal with hazing from her all-male peers, including graffiti such as urine on her walls, the destruction of her belongings and discrimination from the training master. This is in addition to Kel being the first female to openly try to become a knight in 100 years. Throughout the novel, there is the ever-lurking question of whether, Wyldon of Cavall, the training master, will let her continue to train, because he, like many, does not believe that women can equal men in combat.
The second Protector book details Kel's remaining years as a page. She struggles to understand her changing body and opinions. With the help of her very reserved maidservant, Lalasa, Kel manages to surmount all the challenges that nature throws at her.
Joren, her archenemy, appears to have stopped tormenting her. At first, Kel is distrustful of this apparent reversal of opinions, but gradually, she forgets to be cautious. When the ultimate attempt to force Kel to stop her training occurs, she must ask herself if Joren is really as repentant as he appears to be.
The third Protector book describes Kel's next four years in training. Raoul of Goldenlake, her new knight-master, is as different from her original 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 second-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, and then, after Kel, is Avinar.
- 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.