In the sixth chapter of Squire, Kel spends many weeks at the palace with Raoul, who tasks her with quite a few new things to overcome. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Squire.
Chapter Six: Lessons
This is SO ENDLESSLY ADORABLE, Y’ALL. Tamora Pierce gives us a break in the narrative so that we can spend time with Raoul and Kel as she is learns so many thing. There is a lot of learning. And I love everything about this.
For the vast majority of chapter six, it’s just Kel, Raoul, and maybe Qasim and Dom. But through this, we get a much more intimate look at Raoul as Kel’s knightmaster, and I could not be happier that she is his squire. He is so tender with her in a way that isn’t condescending. He understands that she faces difficulties as a squire that he never went through, but he also doesn’t patronize her. He challenges her because he knows she can learn and she can persevere, and to me, that is so goddamn meaningful. Look, there’s a lot of talk about inequality in all its various social manifestations, but I’d like to say that this is how equality might actually be achieved. It’s not a matter of treating everyone the same. It’s about giving people the respect that they deserve, it’s about respecting their humanity, and it’s about acknowledging that in some ways, we are different from one another.
There’s a caring touch to the way that Raoul acts here that embodies that. I adore that he assists Kel with her new armor. (OH MY GOD, KEL IS AS TALL AS ME.) I love the way he talks to her. I basically swooned when he took Kel jousting. JOUSTING. And he makes sure to tell her that it is very rare for first-year squires to joust against their knightmasters ever. This is the kind of “special” treatment that actually helps to build character and talent, you know? Now, I don’t feel the need to dissect a lot of the jousting scenes. I think my live reactions in the two commission videos below spell out my reactions pretty well. I was more interested in discussing what this means, and it’s something I’ve already brought up, obviously. However, I’m also enamored with the way that Raoul teaches and how Pierce chose to write these sequences.
First of all, Raoul is not one of those teachers who gloats about knowing more than his students. Oh gods, can I just make this reference? He’s not Professor Snape. I am no less conducive towards learning than when I have a teacher who makes me feel bad for not knowing something I am in the fucking class to learn. At no point does Raoul expect Kel to know things she doesn’t, and he’s aware of what strong points she does possess. He knows that she can tolerate a lance to her shield. He doesn’t do this to cause her pain out of spite, and the same goes for when he does lift her out of her saddle. He knows that she is a tough gal, and he wants to push her to be better. And he even has a sense of humor about the whole thing, too! (Bless the sparrows and Jump. Y’all, this book is making me miss having a dog so badly. It’s terrible.)
I also wanted to talk about a common thing we’ve seen in Protector of the Small: Tamora Pierce’s deliberate writing of how Kel learns things. It’s very empowering to see this process because Kel’s characterization breaks the trope that’s usually associated with the hero of a story. She is not instantly good at something the first time she attempts it. She might be satisfactory, but what we get to witness is a gradual growth over time in her. It’s so pleasing to watch, especially since I learn the same way. Granted, I do have certain “natural” talents, but for the most part, I start at zero. It takes time to get used to something new, and that’s the case for Kel, too. When she faces off with Garvey and Jerel, she’s much better than she was when she started, but she’s not perfect. I appreciate that. It’s realistic. It’s good writing.
Let me jump topics rapidly: I love that the women in the bath are so ready and willing to protect Kel and offer her their help. That is goddamn beautiful, y’all.
Anyway, back to Raoul and Kel being SO FUN TO READ ABOUT. Raoul’s massive monologue about why he believes Kel is a commander is too much to handle. She needed that. Well, I mean that in the sense that in a culture that makes her question her own validity and usefulness, it’s refreshing that Raoul sits her down and says, “No, I believe in you.” It’s meaningful to her! I mean, contrast that with how Garvey treats her, which is par for the course for any man who doesn’t know Kel. They are polar opposites! It’s nice, then, that Jerel avoids that behavior, admitting that Kel performed well. Oh, shit, can Jerel’s attitude rub off on that asshole Garvey? Please? Because I was not happy he was back. I will dislike him until forever.
That is perfectly normal, okay.
Mark Links Stuff
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