Honestly just wondering, why do you like Keladry? Because to be honest with you, I kind of found her annoying, and I don't really like her as much as the rest of the tortall characters
Ahaha YOU ASKED FOR IT, I guess it’s time to dedicate (yet another) love letter to Keladry of Mindelan. If you’ve been following me since my Tortall-only days you’ll probably have heard these arguments before, so bear with me.
Primary thing I love about Kel is actually also (like Nico) the contrast between her outer appearance and her inner personality. Kel is always described with her plain mousy hair and her “dreamer’s eyes” and she’s known for her “Yamani Lump” expressionless face (which to my thinking is the best “fuck you” gesture of all time, holy shit? The opposite of love ain’t anger and hate, it’s apathy, and Kel knows exactly what pisses her enemies off most: showing them she doesn’t care) but Kel is honestly so, so passionate. I don’t understand when people have trouble placing Kel in a Hogwarts house because she is Gryffindor to the core. She’s brave and righteous and is honest-to-god angry as all hell when injustice is done to people who can’t protect themselves. And that’s what makes her such a fun subject for me to draw - you have to try to capture this passion and determination behind these “dreamer eyes” which I picture as sort of sleepy-looking.
I love that Kel never complains, even when things are unfair, and this is a testament to her efficiency and practicality in the field of battle, too. She knows what obstacles are in her way and she knows what she has to do to overcome them to achieve her goal - complaining doesn’t do anything but hold her back. If something has to be done, she’ll do it, even if she hates it (she’s willing to retake ALL FOUR YEARS of page training because she knows the punishment for being late, and she never even thinks of using her very-legitimate-reason as an excuse). Kel is totally muleheaded about not being treated specially, whether it’s in her favor or not.
I love that Kel loves being a girl, and wears dresses to supper to remind them that she is one rather than trying to be “one of the guys.” I think it’s great that she’s shown growing into and out of crushes but never lets it get in the way of her duties. Her practicality is something refreshing to read in YA fantasy - she prioritizes her sense of duty to the people she’s responsible for rather than another person (and I love that she doesn’t ride off into the sunset with some dude the way all the other Tortall protags do).
This might be personal taste but I also really love it when characters operate on cold anger. Hot anger sort of makes the character lose their minds but cold anger can be turned into something useful, and that’s what drives Kel a lot of the time. I will forever be in love with the scene in Page where Kel finds Vinson trying to sexually assault Lalasa and she realizes for the first time (paraphrased) “the kind of rage that might drive some men to commit murder.” Just - that level of care and protectiveness for Lalasa, the moral outrage she feels, makes me swoon every time. Kel may have a reputation as the quietest of Tammy’s protags (hint: this should actually go to Beka), but she takes no shit from other people, especially people in positions of power. She may follow orders but she isn’t shy at all about speaking her mind (her confrontation with King Jon is pretty great as well).
I love how Kel commands respect from the people around her, by virtue of how very hard she works. She’s so disciplined and dedicated to learning as much as she can, to overcoming her own weaknesses, that people naturally start to trust her and even people predisposed to hating her start begrudgingly respecting her anyways. Wyldon’s gradual acceptance and eventual admiration of her is one of my favorite character development arcs in the Tortall universe (in any universe, really).
Kel’s relationship with her yearmates (+Owen+the older boys in their group) is always a joy for me to read because they all look up to her so much for her maturity and the way she naturally looks after people (every time one of them calls her “mother” I sigh at the page). And this deep friendship is completely earned - people don’t just magically love Kel (Merric absolutely didn’t at first, which is why Merric/Kel is my second fave Kel pairing, haha…). Because Kel is always compassionate and tactful and understanding of different people’s situations, and when she acts she acts for herself, not to be thanked. Remember Kel saving Merric from Joren that first time, and Merric shoving her afterward? That’s actually one of my fave exchanges between the two of them because Kel completely understands how humiliated Merric is feeling, and lets him have it. She doesn’t need others to be grateful to her - she just needs to act in a way where she won’t be ashamed of herself for doing nothing when she could’ve helped. Even in Lady Knight, Kel is sensitive to the fact that Merric might bristle at being under her command, only by that point he trusts her enough to follow wherever she leads (my heart).
Kel’s entire series is something of an exercise in competency porn (actually, all of Pierce’s protagonists are hypercompetent in what they specialize in, but Kel in particular stands out to me because she rises to the top without any magic or favor of the gods to help her along). Every single thing Kel earns (her shield, the respect and love of her comrades and commanders and refugees) is through hard work. And all of those traits combined - the tact and understanding of people, the fact that she takes no shit when there’s work to be done, her practicality, her cool head, the way she commands respect by being disciplined and never holding herself above anyone else - all of those things shape her up to be one hell of a commander. And I love her for it.