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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. When they see the state of her body, 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 (and taking care of a baby griffin).
  • 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.
  • All Periods Are PMS: Discussed between Kel and Lalasa when Kel has her first one and finds herself unexpectedly crying. Lalasa points out the different moods that can seize a person, such as her mother getting mean, and Kel notes that her own mother craves sweet things. The weepiness ends up being a routine symptom for Kel, who mentions it in Squire when she cries over a bad day that she normally wouldn't.
  • 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.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: 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 run harmless errands, others take the opportunity to physically abuse new pages knowing that their teachers will turn a blind eye to "tradition." Kel asks what happens when a bully becomes a knight—does he magically become a Knight in Shining Armor, or does he keep picking on the small and weak without fear of reprisal, just like he did all through his youth? Neal takes her point, and he and her other friends start joining her patrols after that.
  • 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.
  • Bandit Clan: Traveling raider groups are a frequent problem even near the capital city. Kel's group runs into a thirty-man crew during Page and barely survive the encounter. Her first week as Raoul's squire is a hunt for another group of twenty or so humans and centaurs who burned out a village. Although they don't have a formal family structure, they're usually made up of farmers and other peasants who are down on their luck and are often relatives of the people they rob, which makes their victims reluctant to give evidence.
  • 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 ghost-powered war machines. Stenmun rationalizes that these peasant kids are getting better treatment in those last days than their parents could give them in their whole lives.
  • 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 soured on Jonathan when he allows Wyldon to put her on probation. Although she acknowledges that he has charisma, she can't forget that he reneged on his decree in a way that seriously hurt her, and her one friendly encounter with him has a page leaves her convinced that she'll be expelled for showing him her fear of heights. 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 remains wary of him.
    • 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. She eventually persuades her friends to join her, and having several older and bigger boys alongside her eventually smothers Joren's efforts.
  • Call-Back:
    • Both Lord Wyldon's position and some of the training practices for pages were put in place specifically because of Alanna sneaking through eight years as "Alan". Wyldon was given the job of training master to placate conservatives who were outraged that Alanna was allowed to keep her shield. The final, public exams for pages were instituted so no one could claim that a page was illictly allowed through by collusion with the people in charge of training (even though the legalization of girls in knight training made another Sweet Polly Oliver situation unlikely).
    • A great deal of fallout from The Immortals shows its effects in Kel's training and duties. Some immortals have been hired as teachers or now do commerce with Tortall's human residents, but the more monstrous ones (such as spidrens) now pose a serious hazard for people.
  • 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.
    • Prince Roald is far more careful than his father was in how he interacts with his fellow pages, keenly aware of his position and influence. He's careful to rotate the groups he spends his off-time with (though he spends more time with Kel's friends than Joren's) and Kel doesn't blame him for hanging back from her anti-hazing patrols because he doesn't want to look like he's abusing his position as prince and heir. When serving as a knight in the Scanran war, he's frustrated by not being allowed near actual battles.
  • 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, are designed for noblewomen so that they can defend themselves if they are worried about a situation but can't openly carry a weapon. They like to play catch with them. This is the foundation of their saying "beware the women of the warrior class, for all they touch is both beautiful and deadly."
  • 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. Since it can't give her direction, a timeline, or any kind of divine assistance beyond nightmares to make sure she doesn't forget her task, Kel finds the experience extremely frustrating.
  • Death of a Child: Squire and Lady Knight. The killing devices are powered by the souls of dead children.
  • Defacement Insult: The first book has Kel walk into her room at the palace to see that her belongings have been mauled and a disparaging message against girl pages has been painted on the wall.
  • 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, Gil, turns out to be one of the bandits she'd fought as a page, and once he establishes that yes, she was the leader of the pages he'd fought, he pretty much worships the ground she walks on after that.
    • 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.
    • A lot of the regular characters in First Test, Page and Squire either don't appear or have very minor appearances in Lady Knight.
  • 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.
  • Fate Worse than Death: The Chamber forces Vinson to relive all the abuses he inflicted upon the women he assaulted or raped. To seal the deal, it forces him to call an audience with the king and confess to his crimes, while making him go through more pain. While he is locked up, it's implied the Chamber will be torturing him for the rest of his life.
  • 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.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: The Yamani Isles are a direct analogue to Japan. Yamani characters have Japanese names, they are noted for their strict etiquette, they practice Japanese-style martial arts (including the use of naginata) and much is made of Princess Shinkokami's arrival introducing kimonos and similar articles into Tortall's fashion trends. Kel even has a collection of lucky cat statues from her family's time as ambassadors there.
  • First Period Panic: Kel, like Alanna, experiences her first period during page training and is not happy about it. Unlike Alanna, Kel had a responsible mother who informed her long ago that this was going to happen. After the initial confusion at seeing her hose bloodied, Kel realizes she's started her "monthlies" and is upset because it's going to make training that much more difficult.
  • 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 giving poppy to children so they can die free of pain after he's selected them to fuel a killing device.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Alanna is still frosty with Jonathan for succumbing to political pressure and hiring Kel on probation. She feels personal that it felt her struggles and their friendship meant nothing. Jonathan tried to tell her to no avail that he personally agrees with her, but change isn't that easy and not every knight has the gods helping them.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: Peachblossom's bad temper 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.
    • Joren tries to make Kel's life harder through things like giving her a weighted practice lance (aka one that's much heavier than the normal lances) and talking conservatives into jousting her once she's a squire. Neither of them work- weighted practice weapons just make Kel stronger, and jousting the conservatives gives her more practice and shows everyone that she's just as good as any man.
  • 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.
  • Grim Up North: The northern border region between Tortall and Scanra becomes the focus and setting as Kel reaches adulthood. The lands up there are harsh, with winter conditions extending well into the spring months, and the river that forms the border is an icy torrent that "keeps what it takes." One of the ways Scanra's new King, Maggur Rathhausak, persuades Scanra to declare war on Tortall is by promising his troops that they'll have their pick of the rich southern lands as opposed to their own barren landscape. The people Kel meets in Scanra are noticeably flinty and cynical about their lives.
  • 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.
  • Hard Truth Aesop: One of the messages of the series, particularly evident in Squire, is that no single person can really stop the injustice that is ingrained on the societal level. One outstanding female knight and Thayet's new egalitarian military corps has done little to change most people's minds about female soldiers (and the assumptions about their morality). Kel is forced to accept that she cannot give Lalasa the justice she deserves even though Jon fully agrees that the laws governing the noble treatment of commoners are morally wrong and dangerous besides. Changing laws around traditional societal values takes years if you want to do it without an uprising. Similarly, some people will never "come around" and will even act against their own interests to serve their hardheaded idelogy. None of this makes doing the right thing pointless, but it does mean there are limits to what you can expect to happen.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Kel has Jump, who attaches himself to her after she rescues him from a butcher after Jump stole some sausages. Lord Wyldon breeds dogs, and his letting Jump stay with the pages and generally treating him well shows that he's not as bad as he seems, before his character development.
  • 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.
  • Imposed Handicap Training: After Kel discovers that her practice weapons had extra weight added to them as a trick to discourage her, she continues to use them without complaint, both to save face and in the hopes that training with the extra weight will make her stronger.
  • 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).
  • Internal Reveal: Readers will quickly guess that Alanna is the person sending Kel all of those practical gifts and gear, with the prologue scene demonstrating Alanna's character for those who haven't read previous books. Kel never imagines that it's her because to her, the Lioness is a distant legend whom she has never met.
  • 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.
    • Lord Raoul has his own in his Number Two, Flyndan Whiteford. Flyndan is hardnosed and prone to cynicism, which balances out Raoul's easygoing nature.
  • 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.
  • Loveable Rogue: Subverted with the bandits Kel encounters. She sees nothing admirable in raiders who kill and burn defenseless villagers (who are sometimes their own kin) and doesn't understand why they're so romanticized in ballads and folktales.
  • 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.
  • Malicious Slander: Kel usually ignores it, but she is aware that being a woman in a "man's job" invites disgusting gossip and speculation about her. Her friends get into fights about it behind her back, and Raoul's Number Two brings it up as a problem when she first becomes his squire. (He cheerfully replies that the court gossips have had him in bed with other men for years given his long bachelorhood, so being put in bed with his squire doesn't worry him.)
  • 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.
    • Kel's mother and Alanna would like to get in line when it comes to confronting Lord Wyldon about how he's been treating Kel. The only reason that her mother doesn't is that it wouldn't help Kel's situation at all, though Wyldon after about half a decade has the courtesy to apologize to Kel for being a sexist jerk.
  • 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.
  • Medieval Stasis: Subverted—it's breaking down. Jonathan and Thayet are working to actively reform the country through new laws for women's equality, establishing universal education, and more. Certain noble privileges have become dangerously outdated due to the rise of a large and influential middle class as another group who could rebel if pushed too far. Relations with other nations also exert an influence; when Prince Roald's betrothed arrives from the Yamani Islands, kimono-esque clothing becomes highly fashionable.
  • 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.
  • Must Let Them Get Away: The mastermind of Lalasa's kidnapping, Joren of Stone Mountain, is only able to be fined for the loss of her working hours because she's only a commoner and he's a noble, even though the ruffians who carried out the crime get hard labor. The injustice is obvious to everyone present, but even though he agrees to pursue a change to the law, King Jonathan can't change the outcome of that specific case. He also orders Kel not to issue a private challenge since that would violate the spirit of the reform she asks him to institute.

    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. Having had to walk a tightrope of instituting reforms without provoking rebellion, particularly after a costly war, he is very careful so that he can (as he puts it) be the sort of king who lives to meet his grandchildren. When dissecting the conversation Kel had with him in Squire, Raoul notes that Jon probably wants her to be confused about him, never does anything for just one reason, and is much more complicated than he was when they were lads.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Kel can't live down her fear of heights, and Wyldon takes every opportunity to test it. Works out for her in the end, though.
  • 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, comes along.
  • 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 beating two girls and raping a third 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.
  • 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.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Wyldon. He's a misogynist and heavily biased, but he's also smart enough to know when he's wrong and he's got the backbone to admit it.
  • 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.
  • Riddle for the Ages: In-universe, people speculative about how Garvey made it through his Ordeal intact, given he was part of Joren's Gang of Bullies and neither Joren nor Vinson pass. He just seems happy to come out of it considering the number of people that gather to see if he's going to fail.
  • Rule of Three: Vinson, Joren, and Garvey go through the Chamber of Ordeal. Vinson is tortured and given the same beatings and injuries that he inflicted on his rape victims, Joren is killed, but Garvey comes out with his mind and body intact.
  • 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, although he may have just meant that nobody goes in for a reason that is not an actual Ordeal.
  • She Will Come for Me: If you are under her protection and something happens to you, Keladry will come for you.
  • Shoot the Dog: During the hunt for the refugees, Kel has to order "no prisoners" when attacking a group of Scanrans—her group can't hold them, and she can't risk them getting back to their comrades and warning them.
  • 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.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • It takes a full decade since Alanna's knighthood for any noble girl to apply for training as a knight herself. The presence of a single legendary hero (strongly Gifted and Goddess-touched) did not make much of a dent in the nobility's attitude towards women knights. Both the dangers involved and the inherent scandal of girls and boys in a mixed environment mean that no noble family is willing to let their girls pursue knighthood until the Mindelans—who had spent years out of Tortall as ambassdors to a country with a completely different cultural view of women and combat. Furthermore, Kel gets some comments from other women that are just as disparaging as the ones she gets from men, because women in patriarchal societies enforce those standards too.
    • 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 favor. He flat out says that if he'd been the training master, he'd never have let Joren get to squire.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: After learning that Kel rode in to Scanra alone after Wyldon ordered her to abandon the captured refugees, Raoul tells Wyldon "Mithros forgive you if she does, because I never will."
  • Time Dissonance: The Chamber of the Ordeal describes its perception of human time as that of a person trying to perceive the interior of a globe from the outside. Thus, it can't answer Kel's demand to know when she is going to meet Blayce the Gallan and if she should run off to find him before she can be given a stationary posting on the warfront. All it can tell her is that she is definitely going to meet him sooner or later.
  • 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 was 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.
  • The Unfought: Kel never actually gets to fight Joren one on one. Word Of God explicitly stated that this is because he felt that to do so would be to accept her status as a page/squire, and he refused to do that.
    • King Maggur never appears in the books, and killing Blayce does not actually end the Scanran War.
  • 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.
  • Worldbuilding: 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.
  • You Can Barely Stand: The climax of Lady Knight, when Kel faces Blayce the Gallan. While fighting Stenmun, Kel gets stabbed in the shoulder. She manages to give herself a makeshift bandage after the fight, but by the time she faces Blayce, she's woozy from blood loss and needs to lean on her glaive. It's the only reason why Blayce's illusion spells kept her at bay for as long as they did. She ends up passing out from the blood loss afterwards, though luckily her friends find her.

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