In the first chapter of Lady Knight, Kel, eager to find a way to address the vision the Chamber of the Ordeal gave her, does something no one has ever done. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start Lady Knight.
Chapter One: Storm Warnings
OH MY GOD, I’VE MADE IT TO THE LAST BOOK. And just from this one chapter alone, I can tell this is going to be very different from the previous four books in the quartet. First of all, holy gods, this is so dark. I’m reminded of my experience reading the Harry Potter series, and how those books grew with the audience. I think these books have grown as well, and it’s been so astounding to me to read Tamora Pierce’s books in chronological order. (Which is the primary reason I’ve decided to stick to the same plan for the Discworld books!) Watching an author get better is SO WONDERFUL.
But this is not just about Pierce’s writing improving. In Protector of the Small, she’s been able to address far more difficult and challenging topics than she might have otherwise done.
In this case, the threat of a bloody, brutal war hangs over the opening of Lady Knight. I imagine that Kel never thought that this was what becoming a knight would be like. Of course, we’ve never heard of the Chamber of the Ordeal giving a new knight an assignment. Oh my god, it’s like if you graduated college and as you were handed your degree, your professor gave you a second thesis to write. What I was totally done THIS ISN’T FAIR. Thankfully, Kel’s irritation with the Chamber isn’t based on the same sentiment. No, she’s eager to help others out, and she’s horrified by the thought that someone is murdering children to make war machines. Instead, Pierce brings back one of my favorite trope subversions, one we saw in both Song of the Lioness and The Immortals: People standing up to gods for using them and giving them terrible information. Seriously, it’s such a common thing in fantasy for the hero to get an important vision that informs their quest. Of course, that vision is always extremely ambiguous and unhelpful, and Kel hates this.
Her main problem, though, is one of time. She wants to head north to find the Nothing Man, as she names him, but if she doesn’t do so before she’s ordered to go north by King Jonathan, then she’ll risk disobeying the king. And that is a surefire way to get her shield taken away. It doesn’t help, then, that the appearance of a Stormwing outside of her window acts as an omen for Kel. War is coming, and it’s coming much sooner than she wants it to. So it wasn’t lost on me that immediately after this, Raoul informs her that Maggur Rathhausak managed to unite every Scanran clan under his rule. WHICH NEVER HAPPENS. The war that’s coming is a million times worse than what they expected.
So Kel does something unexpected. She asks Raoul if anyone has ever gone into the Chamber of the Ordeal a second time. I mean, it’s actually a really good idea! She needs more information in order to seek out the Nothing Man, so why shouldn’t she go to the source? Of course, it is a strange thought. How would that work? Would you have to spend an entire day in there? Is it just like seeing an old friend?
IT’S LIKE NOTHING I COULD HAVE EVER GUESSED:
- The Chamber’s “home” is a barren void that exists outside of reality. The Chamber senses and knows all that ever is or was or will be and has no concept of space or time or geography and THIS IS SO FASCINATING TO ME. Is the Chamber another god???
- Reminder that when faced with the banal and sparse expanse where the Chamber “lives,” she tells it to clean up and “make things look a bit nicer.” She is literally my favorite forever.
- Reminder that she also rejects the ambiguous vision the Chamber gave her and demands more. TO AN IMMORTAL, INCORPOREAL GOD THING. Bless her heart.
- The Chamber is able to reconstruct reality within itself, and it does so by placing Kel in Nothing Man’s shop. His name is Stenmun, and he works with a mage named Master Blayce.
- The Chamber is offended by what Stenmun and Blayce are doing because they “pervert life and the living.” Why is the Chamber interested in this, by the way?
- The Chamber says that Kel can tell anyone about her experience “[i]f you think they will believe you.” Well, at least that is comforting. Go talk to Numair! I bet he could help.
Now, all of this would have been a fine introduction to Lady Knight in and of itself. It’s fascinating, it provides a framework for the story to come, and it was suspenseful. But Tamora Pierce isn’t done with us yet. Nope! Because Raoul is the first of the group leading their way north, after the king informs them they are now in military service to the Crown, to notice the palace:
Above the palace flew Stormwings by the hundreds, males and females, like a swarm of hornets. The sun bounced off their steel feathers and claws, shooting beams at anyone who looked on. Higher the Stormwings rose. Slowly, lazily, they wheeled over the capital city, then streamed north over the army as if they pointed the way to battle.
Oh gods, this is going to be so messed up, isn’t it?
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