In the fourteenth chapter of Squire, NO. I HATE ALL OF YOU FOR WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO ME. HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT ALL I DO ON MY SITES THESE DAYS IS CUSS AT Y’ALL? THAT’S BECAUSE THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to sob his way through Squire.
Chapter Fourteen: Friends
NO, WHY IS THIS CHAPTER CALLED “FRIENDS” INSTEAD OF “EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING DIES AND EVERYONE LEAVES YOU AND MOST THINGS ARE REALLY SAD”? THAT WOULD BE A THOUSAND TIMES MORE ACCURATE.
My gods, THERE IS SO MUCH HAPPENING IN ONE CHAPTER, and this is too much devastation for one human soul to take in twenty-four hours. Ugh, let’s get through this so I can cry some more.
Okay, this chapter really is about friends and what friends do for one another, so my opening rant is more due to my inability to process my emotions right now. For the record, at the time I’m writing this review (August 2nd), I’ve experienced the following in the last day:
- The Friday Night Lights episodes “A Sort of Homecoming” and “The Son,” which no.
- The West Wing episode “Bartlet for America.
- The movie Fruitvale Station.
And now, this. I think I have just lost the ability to be sad. It’s gone. I haven’t even rehydrated myself from yesterday’s cryfest. UGH.
One of the most compelling aspects of Squire is the constantly-growing friendship between Kel and Raoul, and in this chapter alone, there are multiple cases of each of them doing something amazing for the other person. You know, I really did want Kel to squire for Alanna because why wouldn’t you, but I can definitely say that I’m happy that Raoul is her knightmaster. As much conflict, drama, and stress as there has been in this book, he is a constant in her life. He supports her, encourages her, and loves her. He isn’t condescending, and when he can, he uses his privilege as a man to help her out or protect her. It’s… it’s so beautiful, y’all.
Kel returns the favor here by finding a suitable suggestion for someone to accompany Raoul to his great-aunt’s that’ll help discourage all the uncomfortable speculation about Raoul still being a bachelor. Right, and that person is BURI. IT’S SO PERFECT. WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS? Even better, Buri joyously accepts, and then they are totally kissing and doing adult things with each later and THIS IS REALLY AWESOME. I mean, beyond the fact that I support this, it’s also nice that Tamora Pierce casually puts adults having a sexual relationship into her story and doesn’t present it as a strange thing.
Raoul and Burchard
So. So. The first of many plot twists in this chapter comes courtesy of Burchard of Stone Mountain, Joren’s father, who bursts into Kel’s room with the intent to kill her. BECAUSE JOREN DIED IN THE CHAMBER OF THE ORDEAL.
And despite how much I utterly hated him, I could only sit there and just feel shocked at this development. Even though it was foreshadowed! Multiple times! That doesn’t mean I felt all that much sympathy for Joren’s father and uncle. Amidst their hateful, bigoted, and horrifying words, Raoul is there, his forearm at Burchard’s throat, keeping this assholes away from Kel, and he doesn’t care that he’s only clad in loincloth. (I’M SORRY FOR THAT HORRIBLE JOKE I MADE IN THE FIRST VIDEO, I COULDN’T HELP IT.) Like, these two constantly have one another’s back, and I love it so much. Of course, it’s also nice that he refuses to cater to these people’s violent conservatism, too. It is unthinkable that Joren died because his own stubbornness got in the way. Like, it’s not even an option to consider that maybe him HIRING PEOPLE TO KIDNAP KEL’S MAID was part of the reason he wasn’t suitable being a knight. Nope, that was Kel’s fault. And Vinson must have raped those women because of Kel, right? Yeah, fuck these dudes.
I did like the point Buri made when Raoul tried to say that Kel had nothing to do with what happened to Joren:
“Joren was a golden boy before our Kel arrived. Maybe the Chamber just found the selves that Vinson and Joren revealed around Kel.”
Bingo. I agree.
“Don’t let them poison you,” he told her. “Your coming was a fine thing, for the realm, for all those girls who come to watch you tilt, even for an old bachelor like me.”
I can’t deal with this.
As if coping with Joren’s death wasn’t enough, then we learn the LORD WYLDON HAS RESIGNED, and in the wake of this, we get one of the most satisfying and gut-wrenching scenes in the whole Tortall universe. I think it’s been pretty obvious that I am fascinated by Wyldon’s character growth, but was still able to engage with an analysis of his behavior in the past. It’s smart of Tamora Pierce to constantly remind us of how Protector of the Small began, as she’s done with the scenes between Kel and King Jonathan earlier in this very book. Here, though, she provides closure on some longstanding issues and events that all took place in the previous two books, and in the process, she helps demonstrate that Lord Wyldon really does consider Kel a friend.
I think it was necessary that Wyldon admit that his failings as a training master were rooted in his own rigid beliefs, that his misogyny was one of his great weaknesses as a leader. He encouraged the very behavior that Kel tried to stop, and then didn’t do enough to undo the damage that had already been done. He picked on Kel because she was a young woman, and he straight-up admits it, confirming Kel’s own suspicions. He confesses that he was downright wrong:
“Mindelan, it may be that the best thing said of my tenure is that you were my student.”
You cannot expect me to deal with that sentence. It’s cruel. You are all cruel.
“Sir, I learned so much from you,” she said at last. “You’re the kind of knight I want to be.”
He regarded her with the strangest expression in his eyes. “I am not,” he said. “But that you believe it is the greatest compliment I will ever receive.”
I’d say I’m done with this book, but let’s be honest. At this point, I was not. There was more waiting around the corner. But I was relieved and satisfied as a reader of Protector of the Small because this kind of closure was so necessary to Kel’s story. Wyldon had to admit he was wrong, or it would have haunted Kel and the reader for the remainder of the series. It hurts, but it had to happen.
Even in this moment of sadness, Kel demonstrates what a good friend she is: She gets Wyldon to accept Owen as his squire. I love you so much, Kel.
These two have a difficult path ahead of them, the worst of which is the very real possibility that Cleon will serve the crown in a place where Kel is not. He lashes out a bit at Dom for some harmless flirting of his, and it’s how he overcompensates for the inadequacy he feels. He can’t control where he’ll be, and he knows he can’t expect the King to keep him and Kel together. But they’re both supportive and kind to one another, so for the time being, it’s adorable.
After a very neat scene with Alanna and George, I discover that this chapter is still not done to me. I think this hit me the hardest because the sparrows have been another constant in Kel’s life, so much so that I never once thought they’d be anywhere else. The death of Crown, followed by her partner Freckle a few days later, is an indicator of the profound change that awaits Kel. She doesn’t have much time left as a squire, and soon she’ll be expected to serve the king, too. Life goes on, and the people and animals she loves will die. (If Jump dies anytime soon, I will not handle it well at all. Just a heads up.) But Cleon’s message at the end imparts the importance of appreciating the joy we have while we still have it. In a way, I wonder if he’s talking about Kel, knowing that he’ll have to leave her and it may be enough to end their relationship. For the moment, though, I’ll take it at face value. Goodbye, Crown and Freckle. You will be missed.
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