From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8-Ten years after the proclamation that girls are eligible for a page's training at the court of King Jonathan of Tortall, 10-year-old Keladry applies and is accepted, but on probation, a condition never forced on male applicants. Resolutely accepting the challenge, the hostility of the royal training master, and harassment by fellow pages, Kel makes her way through this difficult year. Trained from early childhood by stoic Yamani warriors, she is capable of hiding her feelings, fearless in a fight, and willing to work hard to develop the necessary physical capacity. Her sympathy and support for the underdog and her sense of chivalry earn her the admiration of a group of fellow pages. She also befriends the sparrows that live outside her window and wins over a difficult horse. Kel performs well in her first real battle and is grudgingly allowed to stay for another year of training. The medieval/magical world of Tortall has been the setting for eight of the author's titles; in First Test, the first of a new series, this fantasy world is clear and well developed, allowing the book to stand on its own. Characters who may be familiar to readers of the previous titles are reintroduced successfully or remain on the sidelines. The scrappy Kel is an appealing and believable girl whose struggles to integrate a formerly all-male world are both familiar and freshly told. This is smooth storytelling and a satisfying read.Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Pierce begins a new sequence of books set in her imaginary kingdom of Tortall with a new heroine, 10-year-old Keladry, who must fight her way through her first year of knight training as a page. Despite Alanna's success years before (recounted in The Lioness Quartet), both the knight trainer, Lord Wyldon, and Kel's fellow pages oppose a girl being introduced into the program, so Kel uses her wits and courage to overcome the many obstacles set for her in her probationary year. Pierce takes small liberties with her medieval setting (Kel has a privy and eats with cutlery) but does a fine job making Kel's perceptions of the concrete details come to life. Part school story, complete with bullies; part fantasy with powerful evil creatures such as the disgusting Spidren; and part animal story as Kel makes friends with a flock of sparrows and bonds with her balky gelding Peachblossom, this is a splendidly rousing feast. Susan Dove Lempke