In the seventh chapter of Lady Knight, Kel faces a rude disagreement when refugees from Tirrsmont arrive at Haven. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Lady Knight.
Chapter Seven: Tirrsmont Refugees
It’s so fascinating to me that Tamora Pierce has chosen to frame this book in this way. With the threat of war looming over the story from the first chapter, I think most of us expected that Kel would be in battle for the entire time. Instead, Pierce has chosen to focus the majority of this book on a part of war that most authors never really address: refugees. There is a war going on outside of the gates of Haven, but it’s miles and miles away. So what we get is an exploration of the reality of war from a perspective that best highlights why Kel is a protector of the small. Hell, there’s an entire passage straight from Neal’s mouth that spells it out for the reader!
But there are some interesting moments in chapter seven before the Tirrsmont refugees arrive that I wanted to talk about. LIKE NUMAIR. The fact that Pierce rotates her cast of Tortall characters throughout her books is SO WONDERFUL because it allows us to see characters we’ve grown to love through someone else’s eyes. In particular, Daine and Numair seem so different when we’re not seeing them through the Immortals quartet. Now, this isn’t the first time in Protector of the Small that Numair is characterized slightly differently. Well… wait, I don’t think “characterized” is the right word. He’s still the same, it’s just that our perception of him changes when we see how his magic affects the people around him who aren’t used to his style as a mage. The refugees are frightened by his ability to manipulate the physical world around him, which, by the way, is a perfectly understandable reaction. The man can make the earth shake and move and ripple and twist and turn and THAT’S FUCKING SCARY. Then he’s doing that pied piper boulder thing, and it’s just weird to visualize it! Of course, I’m going to have to ruin this all for you, and I’m sorry, but as soon as I read he was using a recorder in his spell, this is the only thing I could think of:
Now, imagine Numair doing his boulder thing while also doing that. You’re welcome.
I always wanted to discuss how many times Numair’s actions paint him in a positive light, too. It’s not that Pierce makes us think about the ramifications of his magic only. He creates the tunnel for the animals to escape or to seek protection. Granted, he does this on Daine’s recommendation, but it’s a rather considerate act regardless. Then he creates what I can only call an invisible umbrella for the incoming refugees without a second thought. Um. He is so sweet? Which is precisely the same characterization we saw of him in The Immortals, no? He could be the nicest guy you ever met, but then we couldn’t forget that he had so much power within him. It’s actually Duke Baird who reminds us of Numair’s burden:
“Numair told me once he has to blow on a candle flame to put it out,” he said. “If he uses his Gift, the candle explodes. We have shaped our power to cut single veins if we must. Numair has to do big projects or nothing. You might show more tolerance.”
Ugh, thank you, Duke Baird. This is an intentional attempt to inspire understanding in Numair, and I appreciate it.
BUT KEL. KEL. I love her so much in this chapter, and she’s just so perfect for this role and CAN WE TALK ABOUT THIS and then we’ll get to Idrius, I swear:
- She does her best to accommodate everyone, no matter how demanding they may seem. (Like having Numair and Daine eat elsewhere so that the cooks aren’t freaked out.)
- She still cares for Numair and helps him, despite that she doesn’t understand his magic.
- Despite how busy she is, she still makes time to the younger refugees (led by the wonderful Tobe), who are interested in using a spear to defend themselves. Kel is generally empathetic with everyone, but I love the way she treats the kids in this chapter, especially when she recognizes that they don’t want pity. She does this all WHILE IGNORING VIDUR’S AWFUL BEHAVIOR. She proves him wrong silently. I LOVE IT.
Bless her heart. Now, it’s time to talk about the two best moments:
Neal grinned. “I respect you heaps, lady knight. I’d've thrown myself off a bridge, getting this assignment. You, you’re there with lists and plans. You listen to every flap-mouthed bumpkin who thinks he can do your task better, and you answer with a smile and a thanks. Why, you’ve inspired me to be a blessing to my fellow bumpkin, just like you.” He fluttered his fingers in delicate farewell and trotted down the stairs.
Okay, Neal’s doing that thing where he hides behind humor, but otherwise, he is so spot-on. Oh, Kel. YOU ARE SO GREAT.
I’d like to submit the evidence of how she deals with Idrius Valestone. Now, I tried to vocalize this while I was reading the scene in the commission for this, but I think I’ll do a better job of it here. I want to sympathize with Idrius, in part because his experience as a refugee must be awful. To be torn from your home, to lose friends and family members to war, disease, poverty, starvation… those can drive anyone to bitterness. So there’s always going to be a part of me that wants to understand these characters, no matter how abrasive they are. For example, I have no qualms with the way Fanche acts at all. I think it’s justified, and I don’t think she needs to like Kel either. Plus, experience and history has taught us that marginalized people in Tortall are subject to the worst of the human world. These people are at the bottom of the social hierarchy, so I don’t think we should approach their grievances without that context.
And yet, Idrius is an asshole and a misogynist, plain and simple. You don’t get to be sexist just because you’re poor and homeless. You don’t get to speak to women like that. Ever. There is no excuse for it, and thankfully, the narrative holds Idrius responsible for what he’s done. And this is what I love about how Pierce chooses to write her books. The evils of the world are still here – sexism and racism and homophobia and classism – and yet she positions the narrative so that it makes it clear that there is something deeply wrong. A lot of fantasy is realistic about its depictions of misogyny, but what does it do if you never engage with it? You end up passing those stereotypes and prejudices along instead of challenging them.
Pierce challenges them through Kel, who gives the most beautiful rebuttal of all time, I swear:
“Mistresses, have you ever noticed that when we disagree with a male – I hesitate to say ‘man’ – or find ourselves in a position over males, the first comment they make is always about our reputations or our monthlies?”
CRYING WITH JOY, I LOVE IT ALREADY.
“If I disagree with you, should I place blame on the misworkings of your manhood? Or do I refrain from so serious an insult” – she made a face – “far more serious, of course, than your hint that I am a whore. Because my mother taught me courtesy, I only suggest that my monthlies will come long after your hair has escaped your head entirely.”
I CAN’T. I CAN’T.
Kel hardened her face. “I am Keladry of Mindelan, lady knight and the commander of Haven,” she said icily. “My reputation is no concern of yours. What is your name?”
I JUST REALLY WISH EVERYONE HAD STOOD UP AND CROWDED AROUND A MOTIONLESS KEL AND WHOOPED AND SCREAMED, “OHHHHHH IN YOUR FACE” WHILE SHE JUST STOOD THERE. Ugh, where is her mic drop? Seriously, aside from entertaining this is, I think it’s entirely fascinating that this is the only time she’s let this side of her come to the fore. It’s well-utilized because she doesn’t treat those who deserve respect with this sort of treatment. She is putting this man in his place in a way that rejects his misogyny while reminding him of who she is.
THIS IS SUCH A GREAT BOOK, Y’ALL.
Please note that in the first video, the words “demented” and “idiot” appear in the text, and “whore” appears in the second video.
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