I'm really enjoying my romp through Tamora Pierce's third Tortall quartet. I read this one through in one sitting in just a couple of hours, not because of the length, but because I was so engrossed in the world she's created, and probably more importantly, because I was so invested in what happens to Keladry, her main character.
Page picks up not long after First Test. It's Kel's 2nd year training to be a knight, and she's no longer on probation for being a girl. It would have been really easy for Pierce to keep the conflicts from book one the same, but the conflicts Kel faces grow as she does. Page covers roughly three years of story, speeding through her 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year, allowing Pierce to highlight the important stuff and gloss over the unnecessary.
She's still facing gender prejudice, despite being one of the best in her year (and as an incident involving bandits proves, probably the best at tactics and strategy), and she's still facing bullies (this series ain't called Protector of the Small for nothing), but now the bullies aren't just beating up first years in the halls. The most notable adjustment comes with her age. Not only is her gender always an issue (at least to some), but with the onset of puberty, Pierce adds sex into the mix. Kel is only marginally aware of it at this point, but it's clear that the boys around her are very aware.
This isn't the most complex literature ever written, but it's just good (in every sense of the word) in a way that a lot of YA lit today isn't. And now I have to wait for for book three -- Squire -- to come in from special order from my library, and who knows how long that's going to take (it's already been three weeks). It's either that or pay eight bucks for the paperback or the e-book, and honestly I might have to give in. (Haven't been able to find it at my local used bookstores, either.)