In the tenth chapter of Page, the squires return to the palace, though things are not as Kel expects. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Page.
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Chapter Ten: The Squires Return
The real treat of this chapter is how surprising this is. I honestly didn’t expect the story to go in this direction, and the few hints about Joren’s character at the beginning don’t spoil what he actually does at the end. These characters are growing up in various ways, and that means they’re choosing to interact with one another differently. I’ll get to Joren’s morphing misogyny in the end, but we can see this manifested in the way Cleon and the other pages treat Kel. They’re confused about what role they’re supposed to play. Do they treat Kel as another one of the gang? Do they make an exception of her gender, or do they ignore it? Is there a good balance for that, and if so, how do they all deal with the influx of confusing hormones that they’re feeling, too?
Y’all, this is so great to see in a fantasy book, especially once for younger kids. I know I’ve said this a ton of times, but I wish I’d had a book that discussed these complicated issues. For example, this chapter starts off with the pages reacting poorly to Cleon’s colorful treatment of Kel. Kel herself doesn’t mind the behavior at all, and she understands that they’re just having fun. But Cleon also hasn’t been around for most of the year, so in one sense, Owen and Seaver are defending Kel. They’re pointing out the fact that Cleon treats Kel differently because she’s a girl, even if that treatment is positive. Which is true, and it’s something he hadn’t thought of. But Pierce also makes sure to show that ultimately, Owen and Seaver are speaking for Kel, which is something that we dudes need to always be careful of when it comes to sexism. Defending women becomes problematic when we speak for the very people we’re trying to help, and that’s something I had to learn from other women. We’re so used to being deferred to as men that we need to un-learn that expectation.
Still, even Kel is confused by the interaction when she speaks to Cleon privately. Cleon briefly hits on Kel, and it goes right over Kel’s head. She doesn’t realize what he’s done, but how can she at this point? She hasn’t gotten to a point in her life where this is something she might have to expect from other men. I’ll be interested to see how this is developed later in this book and the rest of the quartet.
I’ll save my Joren commentary for the end (F U I HATE U SO MUCH), so let’s start with Iden and Warric. What we’re witnessing here is how Kel’s presence and success is tearing down the pervasive sexist culture in the palace. I want to focus on how great Kel is here more than I want to praise Warric and Iden for overcoming their own fears of being seen as betraying their gender for going to Kel. I mean, it is great that they are starting to shed their preconceived notions of women in this context, but the point here is that Kel is slowly changing the world with her presence alone. That’s not necessarily her conscious purpose, as she’s trying to navigate the program and become a knight, but she’s a trailblazer nonetheless. Which is exciting! And I hope that by the end of this series, she’s paved the way for other young women to feel confident enough that they can become lady knights, too! I don’t think that’s entirely impossible, either. How many of the pages have come to Kel for advice and help? MOST OF THEM. Even Lalasa instructs Iden in how to stand properly, and it floors those two dudes. THEY DIDN’T EVEN CONSIDER THAT LALASA COULD KNOW SOMETHING THEY DIDN’T. And that’s a big fucking deal because their expectations and prejudices are being destroyed right before their eyes.
Ugh, I just love Lalasa and Kel so much.
AND THEN MIDWINTER IS NOT A DISASTER. It’s not even a little bit of a disaster. It’s challenging, of course, but to me, this was another sign of how much things have changed. No one rejects Kel as their server. Joren backs away from bullying a footman when he sees Kel! (Though I suspect that this has more to do with his latent fear of her and what she can do.) She gets to speak to Uline, who is LOVELY as usual, and Pierce gets to explore the complications of attraction when you’re young. Because all of it is so terribly confusing! Of course, I knew I was gay when I was in elementary school, so I’m coming at this from a different angle, but I can still appreciate what I’m reading here. Kel doesn’t think she’s attractive enough to land a guy, and I imagine the fact that she’s choosing not to be a royal lady is haunting her in some way. But at the same time, she kind of doesn’t care about marriage? And I like that Pierce has her state this so upright. She really wants to be a knight, and that desire is her priority.
I WILL ALSO NEED MORE OF LORD WYLDON. My god, what does he think about things? He is the greatest literary mystery on all of Mark Reads, I swear to Mithros. I CAN’T READ HIM. Oh, I can guess all I want, but I am so terrified of being wrong. But he compliments Kel for the first time!!!! OH MY GOD. Then he purposely makes her training more challenging, which Neal suggests is his way of making her better. Because right???? Lord Wyldon, who are you? Are you JAVERT?
So, let’s end this by talking about Joren. (UGH.) Yeah, I was completely shocked when he apologized to Kel, and I mentioned in the video that his apology felt wooden. It was too good, as if he’d recited it from memory. By the end of the chapter, I don’t know if that’s the case. It’s actually possible that Lord Paxton did try his best to undo the years of damage that Joren caused, but Joren’s misogyny has simply turned into something else. He may not be bullying anyone openly anymore, but he’s still a horrible person. He still believes that women don’t belong in the profession at all, but chooses to express that bigoted position in a new way. And I think it’s fascinating that Tamora Pierce gives us this because it shows us that prejudice doesn’t need to come with punches and bullying. It can be passed along within well-intentioned messages of concern, which is what Joren tries to do here. He is so comfortable when he tells Kel this nonsense, and it’s almost just as disturbing as when he was beating her up.
Ugh, fuck Joren. I hate him.
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