The final book from the Protector of the Small quartet, it’s possibly my favorite of the four. At the start, Kel wakes up and finds that there’s a stormwing in the palace grounds, she tells it to go away, and it says “is that any way to greet a future companion?” Luckily, she doesn’t actually have to travel with a stormwing as a partner. What the stormwing meant was that it was probably going to be following her because she’d be fighting in the war too. So of course, that meant she’d kill people. She doesn’t want to go fight in the war though, she has the chamber’s orders for her. To try and find out more, she goes in a second time to talk to it. It only tells her that Blaise and her will cross paths at a point, and she her way will become clear to her at a point. Blaise is the “nothing man”, the person who makes the killing devices, which are given life via children’s souls. So she goes to the north with the rest of the army and… stuff. Anyway, on the way, she meets a young boy called Toby who is part Scanran, and she hires him by buying his indenture (I think that’s how it’s spelled) off of the guy who had it before. He was MEAN… beating Toby for example. And even though he was supposed to buy Toby a new pair of shoes and a new outfit each month, he never did. He was also supposed to pay Toby and make sure he knew how to read. Another thing he never did. So of course Kel takes it into her own hands to do so. One of her reasons for doing this was the fact that Peachblossom seemed to like Toby. When the boy had run into his stall, he hadn’t bit him after all.
Eventually, Kel is given a refugee camp to name and command. She didn’t like the man who had previously commanded it, he was fond of whips and things like that. And the convict soldiers were beaten often it appeared. There were two captains (Olaf and Ingvar I think) who were in charge of the convicts, they were fond of beating them too. Kel named the camp Haven, and got rid of the whips and things like that. She addressed everyone and treated them as equals (something which some nobles just don’t get, like Merric, one of her friends). She told them that if they had complaints, they could come to her. Refugees start arriving, and there are plenty of Scanran raids. “King Maggot”, as King Mauger has been dubbed by his enemies, has a nasty habbit of having three different attacks going at once.
Because of this, Fort Giant Killer falls. So of course they’ve got to make a new one. Lord Wyldon is the district commander, in charge of Fort Mastiff, while Lord Raoul is commander of Fort Steadfast. For awhile, Kel has Numair, Duke Baird, and Domitan’s squad. They have to leave eventually though. Things go well at Haven, Kel learns things, gets a few complainers including Idrias Veilstone. Mr. Veilstone is a trader and keeps on demanding special attention, Kel tells him he won’t get it so he keeps on insulting her. The clerks Numair had brought with the refugees he came with are very useful to Kel. She asks one of them to put Idrias on latrine duty to possibly sweeten his temper. They tell her that he’ll complain whether it’s raining or shining, so she says to put him on anyway to maker her feel better. When Daine arrives at a later point, Idrias storms into the mess hall and says that she’s taken offence because he’s named her for the (whatever insult it was) she is, according to him. The soldiers (convicts and non-convicts) get angry at this. Did I mention that when Kel arrived, she was approached by one of the convicts, who turned out to be one of the hillmen she fought as a page? Anyway, Kel is happy that they are angry about insults to her, but she doesn’t want them attacking Idrias.
Daine fills the camp animals with her magic (which was the best way she had of describing it) so they’d be able to think like humans and help out. She did the same with a few wild animals too. So now Kel’s sparrows, who could only learn some hand signals before, can learn them all. When they go to Wyldon’s fort, Kel reports and Wyldon asks why she didn’t list the complaints in her written reports. She told him that reports are only supposed to include things of military interest, which would also include mutiny. But she points out that the only mutiny she’s likely to get would be the other refugees kicking Idrias and his complaining lot (minus his wife) out of Haven, and she reckoned that she had until June. That made Wyldon smile, though he tried to hide it.
Things go well, the refugees learn to fight with Kel’s help, the children too, and they destroy a killing device. Then the refugees defeat a Scanran raid by themselves, making Kel feel that they can protect themselves in case of attack. So she goes to maker her second report to Wyldon at Mastiff. This time, something happens. While she’s there, Toby arrives in the night, having gone through the woods (being lead first by the sparrows, then by an owl) to reach Kel. Haven had fallen to three killing devices and a bunch of Scanrans. The head clerk had made sure Toby made it out to inform Kel. They went there and found that it had been destroyed. Not completely, but still. The infirmary was the only place without fire protection spells, so it had burned to the ground. The other buildings, which had fire protection, were only scorched (showing just how powerful Numair’s magic was).
Kel finds only sixty-eight dead, mostly soldiers. And there were around five hundred refugees at Haven, which brings the question “where are the others?” She searches, but they aren’t found. Finally she concludes that the Scanrans took them. Kel wants to go save them, but Wyldon refuses. Kel leaves on her own, risking a sentence at Traitor’s Hill so she can save her people. Wyldon, when this report is brought to him, doesn’t have much time to think before Raoul comes busting into his office, demanding to know if it’s true. Wyldon says it is, and after a brief argument (in which Wyldon admits he wasn’t thinking properly, because he knows that Kel wouldn’t take that order well) Raoul saying “Mithros forgive you if she doesn’t come back, because I never will” before leaving Wyldon’s office.
But Raoul doesn’t settle to just having argued, oh no, he orders Dom’s squad to go find Keladry and do whatever she says needs doing. At the same time, Neal, Esmond, Seaver, Merric, and Owen are plotting to go find her as well. The knights tell Owen that he can’t risk his knight-hood for this, so Owen goes in secret with Toby, Peachblossom, and his warhorse, Happy (Owen is so sweet, giving a warhorse the name “Happy”). Dom’s squad finds Kel, her sparrows, Jump, ten camp dogs, and ten camp cats first. Then comes Owen and Toby, and finally Neal and company (which included Connac’s squad). Kel is not happy with this, she tries to get them to go, but they won’t.
After making it into Scanra, they find the refugees, minus the children, which Blaise’s dog, Stenman Kinslayer, had taken ahead to Blaise. The refugees were going to be made into slaves. Of course, they free the slaves with the animal’s help. Then Kel sends Esmond, Merric, and the refugees back. She can’t send the rest back, Gil and his squad of convict soldiers (who were with the refugees) insist on staying as well. Loyalty is a wonderful thing isn’t it? They start picking Stenman’s men off, when they are close to Blaise, Kel tells Gil and his squad to go ahead and cut them off, and she asks Toby to call the horses to him if possible (he’s “horse hearted”). Gil and his squad come thundering back, telling Kel that there’s an army camped by the small village. They go there and Kel sees nothing. Meanwhile, Neal and the others tell her there’s an army etc. etc. Kel finally thrusts her griffin feather band onto Neal’s and Dom’s foreheads. Neal, who had seen and felt the mages in the illusion, went bright red. Dom however, was satisfied, because he had noticed that the flags were limp, even though there was a good breeze. Now he knew why.
They went down and Kel once again sent Gil after Stenman. She came upon them at a bend in the road, their horses wouldn’t go further, and the animals rushed back, frightened. Three killing devices came. After they destroyed them, the missing Scanran villagers appeared. Then a small girl did, she turned to the villagers and pointed at Kel, saying that she was the one, then she started listing of titles for the others “the healer, the knowing animals, the bitter mother” etc. etc. Then she told Kel that Blaise had the children, and that the gates were closing. The villagers were going to help her, the protector of the small. The chamber of the ordeal spoke through the girl and told Kel “your time is now, protector of the small”.
It’s all very exciting! And I loved the ending. 🙂 Unfortunately though, Happy dies. 😦 I felt so sorry for Owen when that happened. My favorite character is Owen, other than that, Keladry, and then Neal, then Raoul, and then Wyldon. It’s a really good book, I recommend it highly. ^_^