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“When people say a knight's job is all glory, I laugh and laugh and laugh. Often I can stop laughing before they edge away and talk about soothing drinks.”
Lord Sir Raoul of Goldenlake and Malorie's Peak, Squire
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The third series in the Tortall Universe. Ten years after King Jonathan decreed that noble girls can train for the knighthood, someone finally comes forward to accept the offer: Keladry of Mindelan, daughter of the Tortallan ambassadors to the Yamani Islands, Baron Piers and Lady Ilane. However, the presence of Alanna and Thayet hasn't magically done away with the deeply entrenched misogyny and paternalism of Tortallan culture, and Kel is faced with discrimination right away when the training master, Lord Wyldon of Cavall, insists that she be put on probation. Fighting against bullies and frequently shifting standards, Kel is ready to fight injustice and earn her shield.

Protector of the Small is also the last Tortall series to be a quartet. The success of Harry Potter made publishers realize that kids and teens will, in fact, read long books, allowing Pierce quite a bit more leeway after the writing of Page.

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The character sheet may be found here.

  • First Test
  • Page
  • Squire
  • Lady Knight


Tropes appearing in this series include...

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    A-M 
  • Abuse Mistake: Kel goes to the public baths one day to enjoy soaking in the warm water after a session of jousting training with Raoul. Concerned women rush over to assure her that whoever he is, even if he's a noble, he'll be caught and tried and made to pay. She has to explain that she is a squire and those are normal injuries that one gets from combat training.
  • Action Girl: Kel, of course, who is in training to become a lady knight.
  • Action Mom:
    • Alanna is a mother by this time and still an active-duty knight, although she has to play a minor role thanks to politics.
    • Kel's mother is not a warrior by trade, but that didn't stop her from fighting off pirates in the Yamani Isles when Kel was a little girl.
  • Action Pet: Jump, a dog of war if there was ever one.
  • Almighty Mom: Kel's mom, Baroness Ilane. Apart from being an Ambadassador, she speaks quite sharply to Wyldon and the palace healers at the end of Page, sets her daughters-in-law to "several years worth of mending" when they compare Kel to a cow, and has a very frank conversation with Kel about sex and attitudes towards in Squire.
  • Altar Diplomacy: Kalasin's brother Roald, the Crown Prince, is engaged to a minor Yamani princess in the first book, a marriage negotiated by protagonist Kel's diplomat parents. In the second book, Princess Chisakami dies in an earthquake before even meeting her intended, and the marriage has to be renegotiated from scratch. Much of the third book deals with the arrival of the new Yamani princess and her delegation. Kel notes that Princess Shinkokami is of a much higher rank than Princess Chisakami was, which means that the Yamanis must be placing a lot of importance on their alliance with the Tortallans.
  • Ambadassador: Kel's parents, but her mother in particular. Her rescue of royal treasure from pirates raised the Mindelans' stock quite significantly with the Yamanis.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: The original edition covers for the US and UK all depict Kel in roughly the same scenes (holding a spear, the baby griffin, her helmet) but the American ones for Squire and Lady Knight make her look serious and intent rather than smiling and optimistic.note 
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude:
    • The animals at the Palace are all unnaturally bright thanks to Daine living there. The sparrows Kel feeds soon become attached to her enough that they drive away bullies, both from Kel and people Kel likes, and fetch help when needed. A bunch of horses break up a fight between the pages, unsettling the training masters. And Daine deliberately infuses the camp animals with intelligence in Lady Knight, although she considers it Dirty Business.
    • Defied by the baby griffin Kel takes care of in Squire, which is a realistically difficult wild animal that might wind up trusting Kel more than any human who's not Daine, but is high maintenance, bites and scratches especially when her attention wavers, is noisy and messy, and never gives any sign of understanding her or caring what she thinks. Its parents are intelligent, but as an infant the baby griffin is mostly a huge pain.
  • Anonymous Benefactor: Alanna acts as this for Kel, anonymously sending her practical and high quality gifts such as a bruise balm infused with healing magic, armor and weapon cleaning supplies from the realm's best armory, and saddlebags stocked with camping gear, since she is not allowed to openly mentor the girl. Kel doesn't find out who her mysterious benefactor until after she is knighted and Alanna presents her with a new longsword.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Invoked in Lady Knight when Kel finally reaches Blayce the Gallan. Once she sees through his concealment spell, he goes down easily. She's a little incredulous at how little effort it takes to kill such a monstrous individual.
  • Ascended Extra: Raoul of Goldenlake becomes Kel's knight-master in Squire.
  • Badass Family: The house of Mindelan. Kel's mom is an Ambadassador and two of her brothers became knights themselves, both veterans of the Immortals War. And even before she goes off to page training, Kel is badass enough to fight a group of boys on her own and try driving off a spidren.
  • Badass Normal: Kel, the only protagonist in any of Pierce's novels not to have any magical abilities.
  • Bathe Her and Bring Her to Me: A borderline example in Lady Knight. Stenmun drags children to the castle, then Blayce has them bathed, clothed in silk, fed well, and given toys before he kills them for his devices.
  • Beta Couple: Raoul and Buri get together in Squire while all of the squires are falling in and out of love.
  • The Big Guy: Raoul, good grief. He's called the Giant-Killer, but he practically is one himself.
  • A Birthday, Not a Break:
    • Kel remembers it's her birthday after falling out of a tree.
    • She spends another fending off a bandit attack with a few of her friends, and then throwing up in front of Lord Wyldon thanks to her fear of heights.
  • Blade on a Stick: Kel and her mother both use naginata, and are quite good with them. A later book describes Kel as "that mad woman with the giant pigsticker."
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Keladry is very soured on Jonathan when he allows Wyldon to put her on probation. When she meets him after Joren's trial and learns that he has to keep a lot of things balanced if he wants to make reforms without his vassals rebelling, she's a little more understanding, but she still seems to dislike him on a personal level.
    • We also hear that this decision caused the longest rift ever between him and Alanna.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Lalasa was raped by her older brother, and her parents refused to believe her. It made her understandably cynical about authority and men.
  • Bully Hunter: Kel during her page days.
  • Camping a Crapper: Joren and his gang try to ambush Kel at the latrine in First Test — only to be attacked by her sparrows.
  • Central Theme:
    • People with strength and power should use it to protect those who don't have any, rather than abuse it.
    • Societal progress is a long process that is painful for pioneers, but worthwhile.
  • The Chains of Commanding:
    • Kel, a natural leader, wonders in Lady Knight if her old schoolmates resent her commanding them. She also has to refrain from greeting old friends with a hug — the leader can't drop her dignity. Plus, in order to gain the trust and respect of her command, she needs to do every unpleasant chore in camp without complaining, and she fully expects to be executed for coming to the rescue of several hundred children. She spends at least sixteen hours of every day working.
    • Princess Kalasin is another example that occurs off-screen. She had wanted to become the first openly female page, but her father vetoed the idea for political reasons. So she made a deal with him where she got final veto power over any marriage arrangements and heavy involvement in any negotiations.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Balor's Needle — a very tall, thin tower in the palace that Kel shudders to even look at, and which pages are barred from since one committed suicide there a few years ago — is pointed out in First Test. She actually winds up forced to climb it early in Page when Gary chances to send her up on an errand. Jon has to put her in a trance so she can get back down. She has to go back alone and unaided at the end when Lalasa is kidnapped there in the end.
  • Chilly Reception: In First Test, Kel hasn't even set foot in the castle for her page training before she's being hazed, having been put on probation by her training master. Needless to say, the boys she trains with don't exactly improve matters. She makes friends and triumphs regardless.
  • Combat Hand Fan: The Yamani shukusen, which sport razor-sharp metal struts. They like to play catch with them. And this is why you should never try messing with a Yamani noblewoman. Particularly because they're also trained in self-defense and naginata skills.
  • Continuity Nod: The lords of fiefs Eldorne, Tirragen, Malven and Sinthya are invited to host extremely expensive banquets during the royal progress due to members of those families causing trouble for Tortall in the past.
  • Continuity Snarl: The infamous-among-fans "missing year", in which Kel celebrates her 14th birthday, then her 16th just one year later.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Not as much as Alanna or Daine, but Keladry is given a quest by the Chamber of the Ordeal in Squire, and it sticks with her for Lady Knight. She's not pleased about it.
  • Defeat Means Friendship:
    • Occasionally, or respect if not actually friendship. In Squire, one conservative knight admits that he was wrong after a jousting match; he wins but Kel acquitted herself well, and this leads him to tell her that the things he'd heard of her were wrong and to wish her luck. In Lady Knight a convict soldier turns out to be one of the bandits she'd fought as a page, and he compliments her publicly about the battle.
    • People also gain respect for Kel when Wyldon doesn't knock her out of the saddle during their second jousting match, though she does get "tilt-silly". After this, even Wyldon gets more respectful of her.
  • Demoted to Extra: This is invoked and justified in the small prologue for First Test. Alanna is eager to mentor the first openly female page in over a century, but Jonathan and Wyldon forbid her from doing so, as the conservatives will just claim that Alanna helped her with magic. She makes up for it by anonymously sending practical and high-quality gifts like sharpening stones and bruise balm, but she's only able to meet Kel in public after Kel is a squire, and briefly, to keep people from getting suspicious.
  • Desecrating the Dead: Keladry normally buries enemy dead before the Stormwings can have their bodies, but she allows them to have the Big Bad and his Dragon because they're so monstrous.
  • Determinator: Kel has this in spades. Whether it's dealing with the rigors of training, facing the prospect of repeating four years of pagehood, or rescuing two hundred refugees who've been taking deep into enemy territory, you had better not get in the way of her doing it.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Wyldon, though he's never (or rarely) shown to needlessly raise his voice. He's a hard, uncompromising disciplinarian, but his purpose is that of any drill sergeant: to train the recruits up so they'll survive in battle. They don't have to like him.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Joren is abruptly killed off partway through book three, between chapters. Kel only hears about it when his father tries to kill her over it. After this, the main plot of the book switches to the Scanran war.
  • Drowning Unwanted Pets: The series begins with Kel confronting a group of boys who are trying to dispose of a sack of kittens in the river.
  • Duel to the Death: By Jon's time, duels of honor are satisfied without a fight to the death. However, one knight tries to do this — illegally — in a joust against Kel in Squire. She responds by knocking him out of the saddle on the next pass.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Chamber of the Ordeal, which becomes a major character in the last two books.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: After being dubbed "the Protector of the Small" by Irnai in Lady Knight, Kel finds it embarrassing.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Our first meeting with Kel establishes several important things about her: at the age of eleven, she attacks a spidren (a giant spider with a human head) by throwing rocks, in order to save some kittens, and then has a crippling attack of acrophobia.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Wyldon resigns as training master after Joren's death and Vinson's confession to rape. He may be a Jerkass but even he knows that if two students failed and their common link was a girl that Wyldon hated who ended up surpassing the odds, then he failed as an instructor.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin:
    • The title of each book in the quartet. Fitting with Kel's matter-of-fact and unromanticnote  personality.
    • The things that the Tortallans dub "killing devices" from the last two books: giant metal contraptions that Scanra uses as weapons.
  • Face Your Fears: The Chamber, as in the Lioness books, although it turns out to be more complex than that; the knights keep repeating that you have to be willing to "bend" to the Ordeal, and those that don't bend will break. Whenever Kel is at the Palace in Squire, she makes a point of testing herself against its brutal visions before undergoing the real thing.
  • Flaying Alive: Blayce deals with disobedience this way, though Stenmun carries it out. A number of rotting victims hang in cages from the castle walls. Disobedience can be subverting the pain he's going to put the children through by bringing them poppy when he picks them for his killing devices.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Peachblossom's bad-tempered nature is humorously contrasted by his name.
  • Four-Star Badass: Raoul, as Commander of the King's Own.
  • Fresh Clue: In book four, Kel and her soldiers are able to tell how close they are to the Scanrans they're pursuing by the freshness of the horse manure they leave.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Although Kel lacks wild magic, she has long had a habit of taking care of abandoned baby animals and strays, from kittens to sparrows to an infant griffin — hence her eventual nickname. (Daine's proximity at the palace means that many of these animals start gaining intelligence anyway.)
  • Generation Xerox: Joren of Stone Mountain is so filled with bigotry that he dies during his Ordeal (a magical experience in which one's flaws are tested), and when his father comes to blame Kel for it, he proves himself to be much the same.
  • The Ghost: Maggur Rathhausak, the King of Scanra, is often referred to but is never encountered by any of the characters.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Somehow after Joren dies, his father is able to break into Kel's room and attempt to murder her. If not for Jump being vicious and Raoul being reasonable, he may have succeeded.
  • Glove Slap: Any knight Kel refuses to joust in Squire does this — once it happens a few times, she gives up and just accepts from the start. That is, until Crown and Freckle pass away and Kel, too upset to joust, angrily maintains her refusal to her challenger even after being slapped.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Wyldon upped his Training from Hell to ensure that Kel wouldn't complete her training. Not only does she succeed and win his respect, but he belatedly realizes that his methods allowed a rapist and a kidnapper — Vinson and Joren respectively — to act horribly without his notice or punishment until they faced their Ordeal.
  • Good Is Not Nice: This series moves away from the Black and White Morality some with this. Prejudiced Lord Wyldon proves eventually to be good, though flawed. Raoul specifically points out to Kel, who also saw it with the emperor of the Yamani Islands, that a good king isn't necessarily a nice king.
  • Hand Signals: Frequently seen while Kel is with the King's Own. She continues to use them in Lady Knight, and teaches the sparrows several flight signals as well.
  • Heroic BSoD: When the seer-child Irnai tells Kel that the refugee children are now in Blayce's possession, she uncharacteristically breaks off conversation and kicks Peachblossom into a gallop, riding past her forward scouts to the gates of the keep to confirm the news for herself.
  • Heroic Safe Mode: When Kel realizes if she had reported Vinson for attacking Lalasa in Page, he might not have gone on to attack and rape three girls the following year. She wanders the halls aimlessly until she is jumped by Joren. She attacks him without thinking, pushing him against the wall and shoving her arm against his neck. She then pursues Percussive Therapy.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Pierce has said that Lalasa is gay, but it wasn't important enough to put in the books outside of subtext between her and Tian without invoking Have I Mentioned I Am Gay?.
  • Huge Schoolgirl: The last time Kel's height is mentioned, she's 5'10", fifteen, and not done growing yet.
  • Horsing Around: The horses of Tortall have very distinct personalities in general, but special mention goes to Peachblossom, Kel's inappropriately named, bad-tempered gelding, who decides to be Kel's equine partner because she treated him well, and because, as he tells Daine she needs to be looked after.
  • Hypocrite: The conservative knights claim that taking Lerant of Eldorne, whose aunt rebelled against the crown, into the King's Own is yet another proof of Raoul's corruption (in addition to taking on a female squire, treating Bazhir and K'miri as equals, and daring to put a noble on trial for a crime he committed), but have among their number Voelden of Tirrsmont, whose family took part in the exact same rebellion.
  • I Can Still Fight!: Merric pulls this in Lady Knight. Though still affected by blood loss from his wounds, he insists on joining Kel's quest to save Haven's captured refugees by being tied to his horse.
    Kel: You had to tie him to his horse to get him this far!
    Merric: [in tones of utmost reason] But I'm really well tied.
  • Infant Immortality: Way averted in Squire and Lady Knight. The killing devices are powered by the souls of dead children.
  • Instant Messenger Pigeon: The sparrows, Justified because they are smart enough to recognize commands rather than relying solely on homing instinct, and they're only sent over short distances (elsewhere in a village or on a battlefield).
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: Buri tells Kel this after a Public Execution of bandits Kel helped capture. Kel is disturbed by the festival atmosphere when she knows the bandits' circumstances are as mean as their victims, and Buri assures Kel that nobody in the Riders or King's Own enjoys hangings either.
  • Jousting Lance: Plays an important role in Squire, allowing Kel to show that she is just as worthy to be a knight as any male.
  • Karma Houdini: Garvey passes the Chamber without any ill effects, although he comes out pale and sick from the Ordeal. Some fans speculate that his knight-master, who complimented Kel's jousting skill, got him to stop being such a jerk once he was away from Joren.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Joren is only fined as a sentence for having Lalasa abducted due to his status as a noble and hers as a servant. Kel is quite disgusted. However, this is only true for one book; see below.
  • Karmic Death: Joren of Stone Mountain, punished by the Chamber of the Ordeal. Too fatally inflexible to handle the prospect of Keladry succeeding as a lady knight, the Chamber breaks him.
  • Kidnapped from Behind: Lady Knight Kel's group takes out stragglers of the Scanran group they're tracking and takes back the prisoners they can reach without being seen in blitz attacks.
  • The Lancer: Flighty Deadpan Snarker Neal to level-headed stoic Kel.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Vinson is punished for beating and raping commoner women when the Chamber of the Ordeal makes him physically experience what he did to them. Justified in that it's a godlike entity that examines would-be knights' souls.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Thanks to the numerous cameos from Lioness and Immortals characters — a cast list appears in back of First Test, setting a trend for every subsequent Pierce novel.
  • Magic Music: Numair Salmalín manages to retrieve several large boulders to fortify the defences around an army camp in Lady Knight. (Word of God says that the name of the music he uses — "The Sorcerer's Dance" — is a Shout-Out to the Sorcerer's Apprentice.) It should also be noted that the Sorcerer's Dance is considered an absurdly simple spell (the scale which Numair uses is rather huge, though). Scanran mages are also mentioned to be quite good at music magic.
  • Mama Bear: Despite never actually having children, Kel fits the mold quite well indeed. Do not pick on people close to her. There's a reason the quartet of books featuring her are collectively called the "Protector of the Small" series.
  • The Man Behind the Curtain: The man creating the killing devices, revealed in the Chamber's vision to be a dumpy, fidgety little man with acne. When Kel kills him in Lady Knight, she's shocked at how easily he dies.
  • Maybe Ever After: At the end of Lady Knight. Kel is still attracted to Dom, and the book ends with her excited to see him again, but without saying if they strike up a relationship or not. Pierce specifically avoided They Do with anyone to show that it's possible to have a happy ending without romance. She later confirmed that they don't end up together.
  • Mind-Control Device: Blayce tries to do this on Kel in their battle. Not really a specific device, as Numair explains, but most mages need a shiny object to grab their target's attention.
  • Moving the Goalposts: Wyldon will only retain his post as training master if Kel is accepted on probation instead of a full page, despite the letter of the law, and the king agrees. Kel is very unhappy.

    N-Z 
  • Naginatas Are Feminine: Keladry is trained in them, and her mother once helped hold off a pirate invasion with one. They're specifically mentioned as a weapon women train with in the Yamani isles, which are based on Japan.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Between Joren's antics and Wyldon's desire to make Kel leave of her own accord, Keladry becomes stronger and more skilled than she probably would have otherwise. Wyldon acknowledges that Kel became a stronger person than her male peers because she had to overcome so much more than they did.
  • Non-Lethal Warfare: Mock battles using non lethal weapons in Kel's Page years.
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: Not as random as some examples, but Kel is noticeably... ineloquent after three rounds of jousting with Lord Wyldon.
    Kel: I know, my lord. You wish I were a boy. But being a girl is more fun. More fun-er? Is that right?
    Wyldon: Go lie down, Mindelan. You're tilt-silly.
  • Older and Wiser: King Jonathan is much more experienced and political here than he was during the Lioness books.
  • Only the Chosen May Ride: There's a mundane example in Peachblossom. He's a gelding with a foul temper and generalized misanthropy after having been abused, and Daine has to persuade him to let Kel ride him. Kel is the only person who can do so (he'll kick or bite anyone else) until Tobe, who has horse magic and can communicate with him like Daine does.
  • On Patrol Montage: Occurs in First Test. Kel goes "running in the halls" every night to fight older pages who take hazing too far (which is mostly Joren). Eventually Neal and her other friends insist on joining her, and they put a stop to it.
  • Percussive Therapy: Kel, after Vinson confesses to raping two girls and beating them up after his Ordeal, goes out in the snow to practice archery with a bow she's not adept with. Buri comes to talk to her, and tells her that learning from her mistakes is more productive than beating herself up, Deconstructing the trope.
  • Pet Baby Wild Animal: The griffin, in a sense. It's much less sweet than most uses of the trope, attacking Kel and her pets and being much like a real, high-maintenance rehabilitated animal than a loving pet. Caring for it is a duty and a hassle. Despite herself Kel is still sad when its parents are found and reclaim it, though this lifts to simple relief. The griffin for its part never looks back or returns, though its parents give her some of their valuable feathers.
  • Pet the Dog: Wyldon does this literally. He takes a liking to Jump, despite rules against pages having pets, which is the first indication that he's not as bad as he seems.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: After losing her schoolgirl crush on him, Keladry and Neal became this.
  • Politically Active Princess: Kalasin. She wants to be a knight, but due to the current state of the country she cannot do so without causing trouble. She decides instead to compromise with her parents, allowing her considerably more freedom with who she marries if she doesn't become a page. Keep in mind she's thirteen at best during this.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Joren and co. are sexist whenever they feel they can get away with it. As a bonus, they are also extremely classist and treat commoners like dirt.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: When the killing devices show up, they speak like toddlers or cry like infants once they're broken. It's later revealed that Blayce, their creator, does not actually have to use children. He just likes to because he's a sick, twisted little man.
  • Power Incontinence: A minor example: Duke Baird mentions that Numair's power is so strong that he can't do very small workings. For example, most mages can put out candles with magic. If Numair tried, he'd blow up the candle.
  • Promotion, Not Punishment: At the end of Lady Knight, Kel is "punished" for her desertion by being put in charge of a new and bigger refugee camp. This is helped by the fact that Wyldon realised that he asked too much of her by ordering her to abandon her kidnapped people, particularly when she was chosen for the duty in the first place because she would care about them.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: A brief example in Lady Knight. Neal magics Alvik, the innkeeper who physically abused Tobe, so that any attempt to beat his other servants will rebound on him. Forcing a magic is illegal, but Neal's response is basically "I'm a Queenscove." The problem is, noble abuse of privilege and private law was a major point in Squire, one that Kel protested fiercely. Granted, Neal threatened the magistrate first, and Alvik's implications that they were buddies was when Neal went with Plan B. But given how big a deal it was in Squire, it stands out.
  • Proud Warrior Race Girl: Buri. At this point, she's a high-ranking member of the Queen's Riders.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: The Chamber of the Ordeal. If you go in, and are not fit to be a knight, to bend to the Chamber's torment, it will break you. As Joren and Vinison found out. And if you are, you'll still be quite wobbly afterwards.
  • Punishment Detail: In Lady Knight, Kel makes sure everyone — including herself — rotates through latrine detail. But she also uses extended latrine detail in lieu of whipping and threatens a particularly difficult man that she'll have him noted as having a particular talent for cleaning sewage tubs if he doesn't settle down.
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Most of Kel's page friends disappear for Squire, as they're scattered around the country with their own knight-masters. Neal and Cleon are the ones most frequently seen. The Bus Came Back in Lady Knight when they were all posted to the Scanran front.
    • A mini-example with Faleron of King's Reach, in particular, who is one of Kel's better friends in Page (so much that he jumps to defend Kel's honor when it's implied they sleep together) and features prominently in the fight with hill bandits, only to disappear completely in Squire when it comes time for his year-mates to go through their Ordeal.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • After Joren is fined for having Lalasa kidnapped, Kel is outraged that the only punishment he gets is a fine, since his family can easily afford it. She meets with Jonathan and Thayet, points out how wrong that is, and when Jonathan asks what she wants him to do about it, Kel asks him to change the law... only for Jonathan to tell her that while he's been doing his best to change laws like the one in question since he became king, it's not as simple as just ordering it to be changed, because he has to keep everyone on his side as every group, from nobles to commoners, can take revenge on the crown if angered. He does agree to do his best to change the law, but tells her that it's going to take time and won't be easy.
    • In addition, Kel had been looking forward to exercising a bit of noble privilege of her own and challenging Joren to a duel after the trial was over. King Jonathan reminds her that if she wants the laws to apply equally, that she has to mean it, and insists that she swear not to challenge Joren in exchange for the King managing to get the law changed.
    • In the first book, Neal confronts Kel over her continually fighting Joren and the other bullies. She tells him and their other friends that hazing is plain wrong, and even if one boy limits it to having a newcomer fetch something he forgot, others will happily take the opportunity to physically abuse the younger boys- and because everyone else turns a blind eye, they know they'll get away with it. Knights are supposed to be kind to the weak and powerless, but a knight who grew up knowing that he can push around the weak and powerless and nobody will care won't suddenly decide to stop upon getting his shield- so it has to stop now, and she'll be the one to do it. The others start joining her patrols after that.
    • After Joren dies in the Chamber and Vinson's crimes are revealed, Lord Wyldon retires as the pages' teacher. When asked why, he explains that he knows his approach was at least partially responsible, and that it could well be said that the best thing that came out of his tenure was Kel becoming a knight, and in that case, he definitely needs to retire, given that he did his utmost to prevent it from occurring.
    • When Kel first joins the palace as a page, the majority of the boys make it plain that they don't think she deserves to be there and they don't want her there. Kel manages to make friends and proves herself, but her most fervent detractors don't change their minds and aren't convinced by her efforts, no matter what happens. Sometimes it doesn't matter how hard you work or how much effort you put in, you can't change things.
    • Theoretically, anyone who undergoes page training and fulfils their term as a squire will undergo the Ordeal and become a knight, unless something happens during the Ordeal. But as Raoul points out in Squire, not all the pages are strong enough or good enough to become knights, and not all are suited for it — and in those cases, the training master discouraging them or sending them home is doing them a favour. He flat out says that if he was the training master, he'd never have let Joren get to squire.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Defied by Kel on her first day there. She wears a dress specifically to remind everyone that she is a girl and has a perfect right to be there, thank you very much. It's noted that she didn't particularly care for dresses before arriving at the palace, only having brought a few, but liked the idea of this tiny revenge against everyone thinking to drive her away.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: In Lady Knight, Kel initially thinks that her assignment to build and manage a refugee camp south of the Scanran border is this, with the not-unreasonable thought that she's being kept from the front because she's female. However, this is not the case — she's given the job because Wyldon and Raoul know that she's incredibly responsible and unlikely to go haring off out of boredom, unlike some of her peers.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Fully aware that it's technically treason, Kel still rides off into enemy territory to rescue her kidnapped refugees. In the middle of a war.
  • Serial Romeo: Neal. His friends are quite surprised when he starts to act very differently around Yukimi whom he marries. Usually, he will sigh and mope and write bad poetry about women who already have husbands, or at least lovers.
  • Series Continuity Error: In Lady Knight, Raoul says that no one has ever entered the Chamber of the Ordeal twice. Except that Song of the Lioness established that kings have to do it too, and presumably there have been quite a few who were knights first.
    • It's possible he meant that no one goes in if they aren't going through their Ordeal. You only go in if you have to go in.
  • She Will Come for Me: If you are under her protection and something happens to you, Keladry will come for you.
  • Shout-Out: Lord Wyldon of Cavall is a blatant one to Cavall, King Arthur's favourite hunting dog. He is pathologically loyal, ruthless, kindhearted and breeds dogs.
  • Shown Their Work:
  • Shrinking Violet: Lalasa, at first.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: This seems to be the default state of Yamani women. We don't get to see them in action, but after Neal interrupts a game of fan toss, Yuki tells him the following Yamani proverb, right before she uses the fan to slice up a wooden tent pole as if it were made of paper.
    Beware the women of the warrior class, for all they touch is both beautiful and deadly.
  • So Proud of You: At Kel's knighting ceremony, this is her mother Ilane's response to Kel saying that she'll lose face for crying. While her father Piers doesn't say so, it is evident that he is proud of her too, as he is also crying in happiness and pride. Shortly after, Alanna says the same thing when telling Kel how the latter was an inspiration to other girls.
  • Split Hair: Raoul demonstrates the sharpness of Kel's naginata to Flynn by placing a feather on the blade. It, of course, cuts the feather in half without any effort. Kel also tests the sharpness of a blade sent by her Anonymous Benefactor with a hair from her head.
  • The Squadette: The only female page during her training, the only woman with the King's Own during her years as a squire, and only the second lady knight in recent Tortallan history. (And during the four books, she never serves in combat with Tortall's other lady knight.)
  • Standard Female Grab Area: Defied. In Squire, Lerant tries to intimidate Kel by grabbing her roughly by the arm. Her response is to flex her bicep, which forces his hand open.
  • The Stoic: Kel and her "Yamani face". She uses it to get through the hazing and sexism without visibly blowing a gasket.
  • Straight for the Commander: Discussed in Squire. Some of the King's Own favor killing the soldiers first as they're the ones who do most of the fighting. Kel and Dom prefer to kill officers first because they think and lead.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Kel's father is stated to be about five foot four, while her mother is a good several inches taller. Kel inherited her mother's height.
  • Title Drop: In Lady Knight, the Chamber of the Ordeal names her Protector of the Small through Irnai. Kel is not thrilled with the nickname, but it gets picked up by the rest of Tortall anyway.
  • Training from Hell: Wyldon does this on purpose anyway (they are, after all, training to be war leaders), but Kel has to deal with the misogynists' continual attempts to drive her out of training on top of that.
  • Trial by Combat: Not actually done, but discussed. Raoul notes that many knights like to claim that if they win jousts against their opponents, it's proof that the gods favor their side of the argument, but if they lose those jousts, it's because the opponent cheated or they had faulty equipment rather than them being in the wrong. Kel learns the truth of it when several knights joust her to "prove" that the gods don't want women to be knights, only to take it back when she wins. Despite the gods being very real in this universe, Cleon believes that they're too busy to care about minor jousts, and nothing in the narrative says otherwise.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Wyldon is a lot friendlier in Lady Knight than he was in any of the previous books. Kel eventually realizes that this is in large part due to the fact that he didn't actually enjoy being the training master, he merely felt it his duty.
  • The Tourney: They're mentioned in the first couple of books and become a major element in the third. Wyldon, ever the traditionalist, lectures his students on how tourneys had been going out of fashion as risky and extravagant until the Immortals War, after which they were taken up as necessary events for knights to hone their skills. There are numerous tourneys during the stops on the Grand Progress, and Kel's jousting in public does a good deal to engender support for lady knights as she demonstrates her considerable skill.
  • True Companions: Kel, Neal, and several other pages from their year become this.
  • Turn in Your Badge: After Joren dies and Vinson confesses to raping two girls, Wyldon resigns as he feels that his Training from Hell and misogynistic means of trying to drive off Kel ended up not teaching the boys right. That said, he does remain a knight and still active in power.
  • Waif Prophet: Irnai, a little girl who first appears in Lady Knight. She showed up in a Scanran village one day and predicted that the "Protector of the Small" would come with her companions (alluding to the other knights, Fanche, etc) and her "knowing animals". But she can only give fifty-fifty odds that they'll actually beat Blayce.
    • In The Stinger, she casually prophecies that Neal's eldest daughter is going to try and become a knight. Neal has yet to actually get married.
  • War is Hell: Present in the encounters with bandits that happen during Keladry's page years, but it becomes a major theme in Squire and Lady Knight as hostilities with Scanra become a full-fledged war. The descriptions of death and brutality are quite vivid.
  • War Refugees: Much of what Kel deals with in Lady Knight. Even though they're civilians, they're subject to frequent attack due to their location and must be trained to fight alongside the meager amount of soldiers allotted to the camp's protection.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Kel's stern training master Lord Wyldon serves as one of these for Kel — a conservative opposed to the concept of female knights, but fair enough to recognize her hard work and skill. He even admits to Kel that it took a little arm-twisting from his own conscience for him to allow her to stay on as a page after her first year, and up until that point she was all but convinced that he intended to see her fail regardless of her actual talent.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Kel's fear of heights is crippling, making her freeze up and sometimes vomit. When Wyldon figures this out, he orders her to climb tall trees and landmarks to survey the area to get her over it, and she starts climbing walls in the Palace for the same reason. She kicks the worst parts of the fear after being forced to climb down Balor's Needle in Page, but she still never likes them.
  • Weak, but Skilled: Neal and his father Duke Baird, when compared to Numair magically. Nowhere near as powerful, but as healers, they're trained to a level of precision that Numair could never hope to match because of his Ace Lightning Syndrome. It's only in comparison to people like Numair and Alanna, though; otherwise they are considered to have a strong Gift.
  • World Building: This quartet does a lot to expand Tortall's setting, particularly in Squire. As squire to the Knight Commander of the King's Own, Kel sees quite a lot of Tortall, from the Palace to the Great Southern Desert to little villages struck by bandits and earthquakes. The royal family's Grand Progress also showcases Tortall's culture and the ways it's starting to change due to events from the first two quartets.
  • Xanatos Gambit: Joren's plot at the end of Page. Either Keladry ignores the kidnappers' note, incurring shame for abandoning her servant, or she rescues Lalasa and misses the page exam, thus having to repeat the four years of training (and, the culprit assumes, quitting rather than doing it all over again). She chooses to rescue Lalasa, and the examiners decide to let her take the exams anyway in light of the extraordinary circumstances.
  • The X of Y: Protector of the Small.
  • You Killed My Father: Seaver and spidrens. He flips out at the end of First Test and attacks the spidrens head-on, saying the trope name word-for-word.

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