In the fifth chapter of Lady Knight, Kel settles into commanding Haven, discovering small problems and delights along the way before her knowledge is tested by a band of raiders. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Lady Knight.
Chapter Five: Clerks
I can’t ignore the sensation that I am horribly unprepared for this book. There’a brief reminder in the middle of this chapter that Kel was tasked with finding the creator of the killing machines, and it made me think about how I have no clue how Kel is going to accomplish this. I never expected her to be commander of a fort for refugees, and it’s clear from this chapter that the responsibility is going to take up all of her time. How is she ever going to get a chance to seek the Nothing Man out? And if the fifth chapter of this book can be this terrifying and thrilling, then what the hell do I have to deal with in the future? I DON’T WANT TO KNOW, OH GOD.
The majority of “Clerks” deals with logisitics. Kel is in command of Haven, and we see how she goes about doing so. She takes her leadership style from her mentors like Wyldon and Raoul, but she also imbues her behavior with empathy and sympathy in a way that is uniquely Kel.
CAN WE TALK ABOUT ALL THE THINGS SHE DOES AND HOW IT’S A WONDERFUL REPRESENTATION OF HER GROWTH AS A CHARACTER AND A WOMAN AND A KNIGHT AND I JUST CAN’T DEAL WITH THIS:
- Kel and her fellow leaders don’t eat breakfast separately from the rest of Haven.
- SHE SIGNS UP FOR ALL THE WORK LISTS. It’s great because not only is this something Raoul taught her, it shows everyone that she’s not above hard, manual labor. And she doesn’t fight it when the carpentry detail team rejects her for not being… well, good at carpentry. She knows when to fight for herself and when not to. That’s an ongoing theme for this chapter that I’ll touch on later.
- She dines at a different table in the cookhouse, not to “lecture or to eavesdrop,” but to get to know everyone as best as she can.
- TRAINING. SO MUCH TRAINING. And she involves Tobe in the process, too! It’s a neat thing for her to do because her teaching style isn’t as harsh as the other officers. This is an intentional act on her part because she correctly judges how the refugees and convict soldiers will react to aggression. She knows it won’t work.
- She provides an outlet for Neal to rant. This is so wonderful. We’ve seen time and time again that Kel is an amazingly perceptive person, and she’s able to tell when Neal’s anger might get the best of him. By providing him with a catharsis, she validates his anger (which is justified, since the treatment of the convicts is so gross) and prevents him from lashing out at those soldiers and officers around him. I think Neal is going to have to learn patience regardless; his temper and his wit have given rise to problems in the past, and Kel can’t always be there to save him. But I appreciate that Kel is able to root out the problems and complications in Haven and come up with solutions to them that at least temporarily solve them.
- As I said, Kel is able to choose the battles that she fights, and that is an essential tool for survival that most of us have to use to get through our days. Like, any of us who have been in a situation where we’re forced to deal with power dynamics that might not be in our favor have had to think about when we pick our battles. Sometimes, we ignore certain problems or aggressions because it’s impractical. Sometimes, it’s unsafe. Kel knows that if she picks apart every single problem she has, she’s not going to get anything done. And that doesn’t mean that the way people treat her as a woman in command is justified! It’s not. But she’s just one woman herself, and she can’t fight on every front.
- So she makes the stubborn men think that her ideas are their own. L O L.
- She also doesn’t fight with Fanche. I admit that the ongoing drama between these two is probably my favorite part of this whole chapter because it allows Tamora Pierce to discuss a fascinating dynamic. Kel knows that Fanche has no reason to trust her, given how nobles have treated her and her people. At the same time, Kel doesn’t want bickering or passive aggressive behavior to interfere with Haven being a successful refugee camp, you know?
- Kel also accommodates the cooks and refugees who are afraid of Numair after they all witnessed and experienced one of Numair’s more dramatic (and terrifying) spells. She knows Numair is a good person, but she understands that the cooks feel incredible uncomfortable and that their feelings are totally fair.
- Can you tell I love Kel a lot.
- Wait, let’s go back to Fanche. I REALLY LIKE HER AS A CHARACTER. She’s there to remind Kel that no matter how good of a commander she is, she isn’t always going to be liked. Kel is a noble, and it’s entirely fair that Fanche’s experience would bias her against Kel. And their conversation is JUST SO AMAZING TO ME. I love that Kel condemns people calling her a “slut,” and I love that Fanche is allowed the space to say that she doesn’t trust that the situation will end in favor of the commoners. Just because Kel has good intentions doesn’t mean that she’ll be able to protect the refugees from harm.
- But then there’s the additional subtext that Kel is in command and she’s got to find a way to win the respect of those around her, not just her fellow officers and soldiers. I felt like Kel wanted Fanche to ultimately respect her, you know? I think she’d feel validated if that were the case.
I also need to spend time freaking out about Numair being around. Can this last more than a chapter or two? I missed his weirdness in Tortall, and now he and Kel are TEAMING UP FOR STUFF. Sort of? He arrives with messages (KEL NOW GETS MESSAGES, AND I HAVE NO IDEA WHY THIS EXCITES ME SO MUCH), clerks for Kel (KEL HAS CLERKS NOW), and he’s going to outfit Haven with ~special spells~ which we don’t get to see because HOLY SHIT, THE WAR COMES TO HAVEN. In chapter five. In chapter five, the battle comes to Kel, and I can’t get over that this is chapter five. It was fascinating to see Kel snap into action, giving commands LIKE A BOSS while still being nervous. And I appreciate that sort of realistic portrayal of Kel because she’s in a role that’s so terribly new to her. She can still be brave and courageous while being nervous, you know? Plus, she’s really good at giving out commands here, and it’s her expertise that is able to turn the tide of the raiders. Well, it helped that Numair was there to burn two mages alive, which HOLY SHIT, Y’ALL. Of course, this is Tamora Pierce. Just as she tells her readers that the “tide of battle had turned,” she reminds us that we know nothing, we are unprepared, and everything hurts. I don’t even know where the robotic killing devices came from, but there are two of them coming over the eastern wall, and then she just ends the chapter, and this is so deeply unfair. WHY? WHY MUST I SUFFER THROUGH THIS?
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