AO3 ID: 4943506
Status: Complete (10 Chapters)
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Note: This is officially rated M, although I feel T+ is probably more accurate and the author’s just being paranoidly careful. There’s definitely some whump and blood, and yes some OC death, but nothing too crazy.
It all started when Gwaine and the other knights got the bright idea to go track down Merlin and find out his last name . . . since suspiciously no one seems to know. But when they find him in the marketplace of Camelot, Gwaine only just manages to warn Merlin in time for Merlin to avoid being stabbed by an assassin. And that’s not the only one to find him over the next few days. Not to mention, Merlin soon finds out that the twin Powysi crown prince and princess–officially at Camelot to sign a treaty with them–are actually there to “protect” Merlin. It seems that Gwaine and Merlin are the only ones who really know what’s going on, while the rest of the Round Table are clueless around them, but are these two friends even able to trust each other in light of recent revelations?
Enquiries was a very enjoyable Merlin fanfic for any number of reasons. For one thing, the writing itself is of excellent quality and is just plain fun to read. For another, the author did a great job of creating a unique, interesting plot and some complex, rich original characters–including Gwaine’s frenemy of a half-sister. Speaking of, we get some fascinating–and entirely plausible–backstory for the most secretive Sir Gwaine. Quite the can of worms to open there, I must say, but I thought that whole part was both well thought out and well executed. Plus, we get some great development on the Gwaine/Merlin friendship front, and that’s one of my favorite friendships in the whole Merlin fandom. It was nice to see a story focus so much on that, although it’s also weird to have so relatively little of Arthur in a story, if only because he figures so largely in most of Merlin’s stories. Still, both of Gwaine and Merlin and for other characters that don’t show up as much, I got the feeling that the author really understands the characters and the reasons the fandom loves them; these aspects of them are definitely highlighted. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a good whumpish bromance that also has some solid plot.
Note: You can find Enquiries on AO3 at https://archiveofourown.org/works/4943506/chapters/11347294#comments.
Author: Tamora Pierce
Protector of the Small, vol. 3
My rating: 4 of 5
Kel has surpassed numerous challenges–including lots of people not accepting a girl in the role of knight-in-training–and has finally become a squire. Or at least, she will be if any knight will take The Girl on as his squire. To her surprise and delight, Lord Raoul sees her potential and breaks his usual habits, taking her on to train. His unconventionality, gruffness, and practicality promise to make her four years as his squire both interesting and challenging. . . . Who knows, they may even be fun at times. Not that there won’t be plenty of challenges for her to face before achieving her knighthood–an ornery baby griffin, any number of stuffy individuals who challenge her capability, a huge royal progress across the country complete with parties and social expectations, boys. But of course, Kel will face them all with the clear-headed determination that has stood her in good stead so far.
I adore Tamora Pierce’s books, and Squire is an excellent example of her writing. The characters are fabulous. Kel continues to grow as a person in this book, and I love the way her character builds with every small choice she faces. I have to applaud Pierce for writing someone so vastly different from most of her other Tortallan heroines as well; Kel’s really distinct from, say, Alanna or Daine. Which actually makes it really interesting to get to see them in the same story, interacting with each other. There are plenty of other excellent character here as well, the most developed and fun to read probably being Raoul (whom I already like from Alanna’s story, but we get a different perspective on him here, which is fun). And the animal characters are just soooo good! The writing style, as always, is very comfortable and easy to read, although I am again impressed by how unconventional Pierce’s writing seems at times in the way it homes in on small jewels of events then pans out for broad, sweeping passages of time. It’s different, but it works–brilliantly, even. I do feel the need to highlight that, while the earlier books in this quartet could easily be considered children’s fiction (First Test, in particular), Squire sits solidly in the YA genre, with Kel facing some pretty big, adult stuff like death and sex–not so much kids’ stuff. So fair warning that, while still quite clean and fairly discreet, this is probably not the ideal book to give to your ten-year-old. Still, for a YA and older audience, Squire is an incredible story, especially for those who love a good fantasy.
Author: Tamora Pierce
Protector of the Small Quartet, vol. 2
My rating: 4.5 of 5
Kel has survived her first probationary year as the first female page in the Tortallan court. Now she only has three more years to make it through as an officially recognized page before she can become a squire–and those three years promise to be grueling, full of hard physical work, intense study, and opposition of her choice to remain coming from all sides it sometimes seems. Not to mention a young maid who’s come under Kel’s protection and a collection of first-years demanding her time and assistance. But Kel is nothing if not stubborn and determined. And the truth is that she does have friends to support her, from those among the other pages to her growing collection of animal friends to her secret benefactor who keeps on sending her far-too-expensive but always practical gifts. Somehow or another, Kel is determined to stick with it and make it through these three years.
As always, in Page, Tamora Pierce delivers an incredible story full of great characters–including a strong, relatable female lead–moving plot challenges, fantastic animal characters, and a simple, flowing, enjoyable writing style. I basically just love her writing, period. Page is kind of different from some stories in that it doesn’t so much have a huge, overarching plot path–other than the passage of time over the three remaining years of Kel’s page training. Which isn’t to say there isn’t plot; there is, quite a lot in fact. It’s just set up with a more episodic feel, and also in places with the passage of time simply flowing away without much note. I know that doesn’t sound so exciting, but I actually quite enjoyed the way in which it’s written. It explores how much Kel grows up in the course of those years, discovering her own womanhood, exploring how her gender plays a part in who she is and how she lives, her changing feelings over time, her growing as a person and a leader, her developing friendships, and the growth in her character. Page is a different sort of story, but highly recommended still, perhaps even because of that very reason. Plus, you know, Tamora Pierce, always recommended, period.