In the fourth chapter of First Test, Kel experiences her first day of classes, well aware of the challenge that she now faces. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read First Test.
Chapter Four: Classrooms
SCHOOL IS SO WEIRD. It’s coming up on nine years since the last time I was in some sort of schooling. Being forced to drop out JUST FOUR CLASSES AWAY FROM A DOUBLE MAJOR was disheartening, especially since the university I went to was incredibly ruthless and lacked any sympathy for my economic situation. Which is a long story in and of itself, and it also predisposed me to despise entitled rich people in the public schooling and academic settings. Real quick side story! I was valedictorian of my high school. HAAAAYYYY. I ended up going to Cal State Long Beach as a President’s Scholar because it provided me with four years of free schooling and housing on campus. Perhaps it wasn’t the best academic choice, but I had been living on my own for two years, had no money to my name in any form, and the promise of a free education was too good to pass up. At the end of my freshman year, I was supposed to stay on campus during the summer so that I could have a claim to a room my sophomore year, and that was included in my scholarship. I kid you not, a group of about 20-25 upper middle class/upper class students all banded together with their rich, influential alumni parents and petitioned the dean to suspend the free housing for President’s Scholars during the summer because it wasn’t fair to them. They didn’t want us to get first dibs on rooms for the following year, since there weren’t many to begin with, and they didn’t want to walk four blocks from off-campus housing since it was “too dangerous.” We’re talking about people whose parents made more than I have ever made in my life to this day and probably forever. These entitled assholes did not want to make the trip from off-campus housing (which they all could afford!) to campus each day. So all of us who were planning to stay for the summer for free were given a last-minute, eight day notice before the end of the semester to come up with $1,100+ in order to stay during the summer. I was working a minimum wage job for ten hours a week at that point (I WAS TAKING 21 UNITS AND COULD NOT WORK AN HOUR MORE WHY DID I TAKE 21 UNITS), so I was suddenly without a home. Again. I never got to live on campus after that because we all got booted out into the general lottery system, and most of us never got picked.
IT WAS AWFUL.
Okay, anyway, STORY TOLD, I have had a complicated relationship with school, but at the end of the day, I did love it. I loved learning, I loved learning new things, and I was always excited to start a new school year. I was pretty damn eager to read about Kel’s first year, too! Why wouldn’t I be when Sir Myles was her first teacher? Like I said in the video for this chapter, all my favorite classes started with a lecture, but eventually evolved into a class-wide lecture. I found that I learned better when working through material rather than it being told to me. (The one exception was my political science advisor, Dr. Roberts, whose lectures were far more one-sided, but they were endlessly engaging and entertaining.) Sir Myles does the same thing, using the students personal understanding of the Immortals War to then teach them about it. I REALLY LOVE GOOD TEACHERS, OKAY?
PS: Myles’s second in command is totally George. IT TOTALLY IS. Oh god, I miss him. Can he make an appearance in this book?
I’m also pleased that Master Lindhall is teaching in the capitol! I am fairly certain that his class is new, just as Kel can’t recall her brothers bringing up the subject. Is it possible that Daine had an influence on this as well, since she has such a unique connection to living creatures? Regardless, Lindhall and Bonedancer are both back, and everything is perfectly wonderful. So is Tkaa, who teaches about the world of magic to all the non-magic pages! I wonder if Tamora Pierce is going to address how strange that must feel for these specific pages. We’ve had two quartets centered around Tortallan characters who both possessed powerful magic of some sort, but Kel has none of this. What’s that experience like? Do these people feel inadequate because they’re not magical? If that’s the case, we haven’t seen that from Kel. She’s far more interested in be a good knight, you know? I don’t think she has much time or energy to expend on worrying about not being magical.
I am also interested to see if Oakbridge really does respect Kel or if he’s unfairly picking on her like Wyldon does. He says something very specific to her:
“Should I be satisfied as to the breadth and depth of your knowledge, I may call on you to assist me in preparing for courtesies to the Yamanis.”
There’s a distinct difference between this and how Wyldon treats Kel. Wyldon has absolutely no faith in Kel whatsoever. He expects her to fail because he appears to truly believe that a woman cannot naturally be a knight. (Remember that he considers Alanna to be a “cheat” of a knight.) There is no hope at all. However, as backhanded as Oakbridge’s compliment may be, he is suggesting that it’s entirely possible that Kel is knowledgable about proper Yamani customs, that she actually might be able to assist him. It’s a sign of faith that’s absent from most of the men in charge that Kel comes across! SO WE SHALL SEE HOW THIS DEVELOPS. Can it not become more puddles of urine at her door? Can that not happen again? I am not surprised that some dude would do this because we men are gross, but it just makes me sad. Again, it’s one of those things that becomes immensely disheartening when you stop and think about how absurd it is that this is a thing a woman has to deal with.
Having said that, I’m glad that this chapter ends with two high notes, the first being King Jonathan’s moving speech about post-war Tortall. I guess I’d not thought about the fact that the kingdom has a lot to repair after the Immortals War. It’s not just physical; it’s an emotional process as well. But Jonathan does not focus on the grim realities of war. No, he instills a sense of value and esteem in the page recruits by assuring them that who they are and what they do matters. Their studies are not an exercise in futility or tradition; they’re an attempt to benefit the world as a whole. This is particularly important because just pages earlier, Kel was feeling as if her classes were a waste of time, especially since she just preferred the physical ones. Now I’m curious to know if Kel will develop a specific interest outside of being a good knight. Maybe Sir Myles will help her figure that out!
And then Kel gets a gift, one she needed badly: a new belt-knife. IT’S FROM ALANNA. PLEASE LET IT BE FROM HER. Oh gods, it totally is, isn’t it? Whoever it is from, I’m glad it makes Kel feel like she can succeed. That’s what she needs most in such a challenging environment.
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!
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