The third book of Protector of the Small continues to be a notable improvement over Song of the Lioness. Interestingly, it begins and ends with the Chamber of the Ordeal; the Ordeal itself isn’t so much, but it’s presence is part of Kel’s character development, as she keeps returning to it, and shows her some of her deeper fears.

The book covers about four years, as Keladry’s training moves from practice to the practical. There’s not a lot of fighting in this book, but there are a couple of very important fights, including a superbly climatic one near the end. Meanwhile, there’s also a lot of jousting. Pierce does a good job bringing it to life as a sport, and one that Kel spends a fair amount of time at.

Plot-wise, the book can seem weak, but the emphasis here is on the “coming of age” aspect of the series, as Kel develops as a person, and in her relationships, and as a future knight. And, the book is actually very well paced, and keeps just the right bit of action throughout… so much so, that the climatic battle I mentioned feels a bit off simply because it is so intense compared to much of the rest (which, may well be part of the point).