The books in the series are:
The first Protector of the Small book tells of Kel's fight to become an accepted and equally-treated first-year page. Pierce places Kel in a position that many women currently find themselves in: whilst the laws may have been changed to favour gender equality, the reality of entering into a traditionally male domain presents many hurdles. Kel is accepted into the royal page program, however is placed on probation for the first year. She is forced to deal with hazing from her all-male peers, including graffiti such as urine on her walls, the destruction of her belongings and discrimination from the training master. This is in addition to Kel being the first female to openly try to become a knight in 100 years. Throughout the novel, there is the ever-lurking question of whether the training master will let her continue to train, because he, like many, does not believe that women can equal men in combat.
Joren, her archenemy, appears to have stopped tormenting her. At first, Kel is distrustful of this apparent reversal of opinions, but gradually, she forgets to be cautious. When the ultimate attempt to force Kel to stop her training occurs, she must ask herself if Joren is really as repentant as he appears to be.
But combat isn't the only thing she has to consider. In this novel, she takes a new foundling under her wing, as well as faces matters of the heart. Kel meets a wide panorama of faces, old and new, including the Yamani princess Shinkokami and her ladies, a very troubled squire, a baby griffin, and a metal creation like nothing she has ever seen before. Old friends and foes appear: Neal of Queenscove, Owen of Jesslaw, Cleon of Kennan, and the still-bullying Joren of Stone Mountain. Through it all, Kel never allows herself to forget what awaits her after her night-long vigil in Midwinter of her fourth year as a squire: the Chamber of the Ordeal.
In her work she receives help in the shape of her old friends Neal and Merric, the horses Peachblossom and Hoshi, the dog Jump, and her personal sparrow flock, as well as from mixed a myriad group of others: the Wildmage Daine; Daine's lover, the great mage Numair; Neal's own father, Duke Baird of Queenscove; Kel's former knight-master Raoul of Goldenlake and Malorie's Peak; men of the King's Own (including Kel's friend and Neal's cousin Sergeant Domitan of Masbolle); convict soldiers who have been given the choice to fight in the army or to die at hard labor; several hundred disillusioned refugees who have received too many empty promises from nobles; smugglers, and a stolid, unusual boy named Tobe.
While Kel struggles with her responsibilities and the urge simply to abandon the camp and find a real fight, another obligation hangs over her. Before the war began, she was given a task by the Chamber of the Ordeal: to find and destroy the mage who is using foul magic to create the rat-like, swift-moving, deadly metallic things known to the Tortallans as "killing devices." But, tied to the camp, she cannot pursue it. However, as the summer wears on and the war intensifies, events move to put that perverted mage and his conscienceless war-leader in Kel's path, and at last her resolve is tested, and she and all of Tortall find out if she is truly worthy of her shield.