It’s now been a day and I have read almost 70% of the entire series.
One of the things I like best about all of Pierce’s work is how much detail and time she gives to the little things, the everyday rhythms of life. Both First Test and this book are short (<250 pages, I believe) but you don’t feel like you were cheated out of journeying alongside Kel. Now, to be fair, the first book is only slightly shorter than the second and yet covers only a single year of her life while the second covers the next three.
But nevertheless there’s something very soothing about how often Kel is in the stables, brushing Peachblossom’s coat. Or how often we get short descriptors of her feeding the sparrows in the morning. We don’t need to see her doing so–the fact that the sparrows flock around her and stay with her is evidence enough that she continues to do so–but in narrating Kel’s ongoing action, Pierce is making a conscientious effort to show her as a certain type of character.
And the thing is, it’s not quite as clear cut with Kel as it was with Alanna (and, yes, I understand that in only ever comparing the two women Knight/Knight-t0-Be I’m in some sense as bad as the conservatives who throw hissy fits whenever necessary for Plot). Alanna was always the hero, and you were always going to be on her side. Even if you thought Jonathan would make for a nice husband, Pierce was there to remind you that he was King and being Queen would have required sacrifices unbearable for Alanna. With Kel, though, wrestling what two equally reasonable seeming options is an ongoing struggle. Without being Chosen, your path is your own to take.