Mark Reads ‘First Test’: Chapter 11

In the eleventh and final chapter of First Test, spidrens. S P I D R E N S. Oh, and feelings. SO MANY FEELINGS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish First Test.

Chapter Eleven: Spidren Hunt

I did it. I finished the book and how do I deal with all of this.

  • Casual reminder that a good portion of the characters in this chapter are ten years old.
  • Ten.
  • 10.
  • The number after nine and before eleven.
  • Okay, we’ve established the terrifying context of the spidren confrontation. Tamora Pierce does a fine job of conveying the fear and disgust all the pages-to-be and pages and squires experience after such a traumatizing event, so I don’t think she’s forgetting how young these people are. But again. Ten. What was I doing at ten? I can’t even remember. Being frightened by spiders the size of a dime? Yeah, probably that.
  • So much Lord Raoul in this chapter. I approve.
  • I am also super into Qasim, and I really hope he appears in future Protector of the Small books, especially as someone who further trusts Kel. He’s one of the only men who meets Kel and does not once denigrate or insult her because she’s a young girl. Instead, he’s supportive of her! That’s what she needs!
  • It’s part of the reason she romanticizes Alanna. It’s a way for her to gain confidence. Of course, we know that Alanna has experienced terror in battle before, but for Kel, Alanna represents something else. She needs the hope that Alanna’s very existence gives her, at least in the context of her cultural importance.
  • “It was nervous work.” You mean I wanted to throw up because I was so anxious.
  • The entire bit with the sparrows helping Kel find the spidrens is a wonderful bit of continuity with The Immortals quartet. It’s emotionally rewarding to those who have been following along with the Tortall books, isn’t it? We now understand how the world in Corus has changed irrevocably because of Daine’s wild magic. That carries over to Kel’s experience in the capitol, where these sparrows have latched on to her because she demonstrated kindness towards them. In return, they help her in a huge way. Whether that ultimately played a part in what Wyldon decides is unspoken, but it’s nice to think it did.
  • Y’all, when Neal, Faleron, and Merric come to Kel’s defense in front of Wyldon and Raoul, I melt. Oh my god, it’s so beautiful, especially when you consider that they are putting themselves at risk, too. They don’t care. They know that Kel can be trusted, and social consequences be damned!
  • “Even if I can’t come back, she thought fiercely, I’ll have done this much. I’ll have lead a spidren hunting party.” Excuse me, Tamora Pierce, you are not allowed to crush me like this. Stop it.
  • I’ve said it before, but I’m perfectly fine being repetitive here. Tamora Pierce can write battle/actions sequences without overwhelming me in the wrong way. Emotionally, I’m all over the place, but that’s fine. I understood where the characters were. I understood the plan designed by those in charge. I wasn’t confused by terminology, and I didn’t feel hopeless or lost within the narrative. Bravo. That’s fantastic!!!
  • Let me remind y’all again that Kel is eleven. Barely! She just turned eleven, and now she’s facing down an entire VALLEY full of GIANT SPIDERS. What is her life? This is a LESSON. In SUMMER SCHOOL, basically! But this is the reality of the world post-Immortals War. These kids have to be trained to defend Tortall from the threat of immortals. Granted, they’re just expected to be sentries, but I had a feeling that spidrens would appear from the rear.
  • Despite that they were warned against heroics, Seaver foolishly attacks a spidren out of revenge for the death of his father. It is here that Kel snaps instantly into this protective mode, showing that she can perform under heavy fear and pressure. She turns into a natural leader, barking orders at her fellow pages-to-be in order to save Seaver, and then ignoring her training precisely at the point where she realizes that wielding her spear like a glaive would be more productive. It’s brilliant, honestly. And I made a few posts during my read of this book that focuses on Kel’s “plainness” as a contrast, but here, we see that when it matters, she is anything but plain. She is extraordinary.
  • I’m still really torn up about the fact that the village woman didn’t survive? THIS ENDING IS SO DISTURBING.
  • Then everything gets sad. Real sad. Really, really sad. Even though I now know the ending, it’s still upsetting to revisit this and see how Pierce set things up to get us to think that there was still a very high possibility that Kel could not come back the next year. The way her friends said goodbye hurt. Well, some of them, I should say. Many say nothing at all. There’s the “gloom” she feels when she reads her mother’s letter. Then there’s the meeting with Wyldon himself, which is steeped in dread. As he started to talk to Kel like she was his daughter, his words are so disheartening. Don’t boys’ bodies change, too? Don’t their desires shift over time? Don’t they fall in love, come to grief, cause others to do so, or think about matters of the heart over combat? Nothing he described was the sole act of a woman, so I felt like Kel was doomed. He couldn’t get over his misogyny, and she was destined to fail in his eye from the very beginning.
  • Which is why I was shocked by him telling her to come back the next year and by him requesting that she choose otherwise. Wait, WHAT THE HELL. Is this some weird form of concern trolling? Is he trying to say that he thinks Kel will have a better life if she is not a knight? DOES HE SECRETLY LIKE AND RESPECT HER, BUT THIS IS HIS BACKHANDED WAY OF SHOWING IT?
  • And then this book ends on one huge high note: Kel gets one last gift from her mysterious friend. A saddle. A really good saddle. A saddle that says, “Hi, you’re awesome, know you are loved, and also, this is totally Alanna because Mark thinks this would be the best idea ever, also because it inspires maximum feelings in him, so there.”
  • I teared up at “Goddess bless, lady page.” What a monumental way to end this book. I’M SO EXCITED TO READ MORE.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Mark Links Stuff

– I have been nominated for a Hugo in the Fan Writer category! If you’d like more information or to direct friends/family to vote for me, I have a very informational post about what I do that you can pass along and link folks to!
I have announced what the next books I am reading on Mark Reads will be, as well as updated y’all on the events, cons, tour dates, GOING TO EUROPE OH MY GOD, and general shenaniganry going on in my life. I have a similar post up on Mark Watches, detailing the next two shows I’m doing as well as the return of Double Features, and I finally explain what happened with my Vimeo account. Check these posts out!
- Mark Reads Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is now published and available for purchase! It’s available in ebook AND physical book format, and you can also get a discount for buying the ENTIRE SET of digital books: $25 for 7 BOOKS!!!
- Video commissions are open, and you can commission a Mark Reads/Watches video for just $25!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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