In the twelfth chapter of Squire, Kel enters her first tournament, which sets in motion an interesting learning experience for her as the Great Progress comes to an end. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Squire.
Chapter Twelve: Tournament
Mithros bless this chapter. This is so good!
There’s a lot of action here, but all of it is rooted in an emotional core, one that’s based in Kel’s journey to become a knight, or Raoul’s hope that he has in his squire, or in the fact that Kel by herself is destroying sexist stereotypes with every single joust she participates in. There’s a lot going on here, and Tamora Pierce keeps the narrative complex enough that it’s never just about Kel jousting.
But those jousting scenes are terribly exciting. They are! As Kel geared up to ride against Ansil, I certainly felt nervous. This was a huge moment in her life, not only because it was her first official joust, but because she was doing it so early into her position as a squire! On top of that, this was her first chance to defend the honor of her knightmaster, so it’s clearly an important step in her training. And that’s how I read a lot of this chapter: Kel was learning. Hell, I seriously feel like her entire time with Raoul has been non-stop education, you know? And that’s so awesome for her. Ugh, this is great!
I figured that since we knew Ansil has a weakness, Kel would exploit that. So when she does, unseating him in the process, I was exactly 0% surprised by his reaction:
When he reached Kel, he sneered up at her. “This proves nothing, wench.”
HAHAHAHAHA, of course your patriarchal tradition suddenly has no meaning now that a young woman kicked your ass. You aren’t even trying! And I love that just for a moment, Kel drops her Yamani calm to rip into Ansel, who tries to wiggle out of his responsibility. So much for all those myths that men aren’t emotional in the face of a crisis. I’d say that Ansil is pretty damn emotional.
Cleon is pretty adorable in this chapter, too, and I thought it was lovely that he listened to Kel’s reasons for wanting to take thing slowly, and then he respected them. Aside from a few risky kisses, he’s so nice to Kel here, and I’m pleased with that. So far, I should say. So far.
Anyway, it’s fascinating to me how Kel’s first joust with Ansil is the catalyst to a ton of conservative men deciding to face Kel and put her in her place. Which… look, that thought alone is really fucking disturbing when you think about it in the context of what’s happening. Men are seeking Kel out for the expressed purpose of causing them harm. Hell, look at what Sir Voelden does. He tries to KILL HER. And it’s not an accident, either. It’s intentional! (Actually, during this sequence, I was super worried that the griffin would interfere.) Oh gods, I was so happy with what Kel said after she destroyed him:
“Yield,” she advised, her voice even. “Or I carve my initial right there.”
He raise gauntleted hands. “I yield.”
Kel smiled coldly. “And they say conservatives can’t learn.”
HAHAHAHAAH THIS IS THE BEST. IT’S THE BEST.
There’s really one part of this chapter that didn’t fit in with all the jousting scenes, though it explained the young griffin’s restless behavior. You know, I really do think I’ll miss the griffin, despite that I acknowledge that the creature needed to be back with its own kind. And Kel’s life should be easier, right? But I’m still going to miss the little shit.
BACK TO JOUSTING! How amazing is it that when Kel finally loses a match to a knight, he apologizes to her? See, he wasn’t being condescending about it, as if he thought she couldn’t handle the joust. No, he apologizes because he chose to compete against her based on bad information and stereotypes. Again, this is a big fucking deal, y’all. KEL IS CHANGING MINDS. However, nothing in this chapter matters more than the massive plot twist dropped in my lap near the end:
Kel’s mouth popped open when she read her opponent’s name. “You’d better see the coffin maker and order me a box,” she told Cleon as he threw the stick for Jump to chase.
He straightened, confused, and read the name she pointed to: Wyldon of Cavall.
Oh, I can’t. I STILL CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS. Honestly, I didn’t see this as a hateful or spiteful thing at all. In fact, I thought it was both a sign of respect and a joke on Wyldon’s part. I mean, come on. He had to know that Kel would be terrified to see his name on that board, you know?
“Lord Raoul asked me to tell you that if you get yourself killed, he will never speak to you again.”
This is just the best thing in the world, and Raoul could not be any more perfect, I swear.
So, not a single part of me was shocked by Wyldon completely dominating Kel. We’d been hearing about how good of a rider he was for a while now, and Kel just started. But even more than before, he’s gentle and kind with Kel. He asks about Joren, which did surprise me, and I am just going to sit here, a puddle of feelings, because you cannot fucking tell me that he doesn’t respect Kel. He totally does. Can they just be best friends now as well?
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