Monthly Mini Review
Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher – A One of my Twitter friends who gives excellent book recommendations, recently put me onto this author and I’m so grateful (thank you Aarya!). I listened to the first book in the series, Paladin’s Grace which was also fantastic, which I reviewed for AudioGals. And then I bought the ebook of this one because I wanted more.
There is a story arc over the two books about people’s heads getting chopped off but the main characters are different and there’s a romantic HEA for a different couple in each book. Still, I do recommend reading (or listening – the narrator is wonderful) to the first book first to get the most out of this book.
Istvhan is a Paladin for the Saint of Steel (who is a god but something got lost in translation regarding the name use for him) who died some 3-4 years earlier. This obviously sent everyone who served the Saint into a tailspin and left the Paladin’s bereft – those who survived at any rate. Paladins for the Saint of Steel are berserkers and it was only the god’s influence which stopped them from killing innocents. There are only 7 Paladin’s left now and they’ve been taken in by the Temple of the White Rat – a church which is all about serving people and not so much about telling them how to live their lives and making restrictive rules.
Clara is a lay sister in the Order of St. Ursa. All of the Sisters of St. Ursa have a particular ability which leads them to the order (there’s a hint in the name and on the cover too). Her convent has been burned down and her remaining Sisters have been kidnapped. She’s on a mission to find them and rescue them if she can.
Istvhan is trying to find more information about the head-chopper which wasn’t fully resolved in the first book (I’m being deliberately vague) and their paths cross on page 1 which yay! because they’re basically together for the whole book and I love that. They continue, for reasons, on together and in the process complete their quests as best they are able and fall in love, having various adventures along the way.
The writing is full of humour – the kind I like the best, wry and dry and the characters are delightful. There’s violence and murder and mayhem of course – it is a fantasy book where people use swords and things – but I didn’t find it too much and there was no sexual violence either and I was very happy about that.
I just about wore out my highlighter function on my reader there were so many sections which made me laugh. It’s not all humour though – there are some particularly poignant sections too, especially when Clara is reflecting on what happened to her Sisters or when Istvhan is contemplating the death of his god as here:
Istvhan grunted. Galen wasn’t wrong exactly, and yet Istvhan remembered waking up from the terrible collapse after the Saint had died. Those first few weeks, they had all been shaky and vague and lost. Well, our souls had been torn in half, that’ll happen. And then one of the Rat priests, their whiskered god bless them for it, had left a deck of cards, and Istvhan and Stephen and Shane had sat and played cards and Istvhan had made jokes. Terrible, stupid jokes, most of them. And then the other paladins had crept in and even though they didn’t play, they sat back and they listened to the conversation and it had helped.
There had still been a giant raw wound across all their hearts. Nothing would heal that but time. There was no counting the number of times when someone sat at the card table with tears streaming down their cheeks, or got up and walked away for an hour because everything was too much. But they always came back, because if you were making stupid jokes and paying attention to the cards, for a few seconds at a time there would be a little clear space where you weren’t thinking about how broken you were.
One day, Wren sat down and said, “deal me in,” and they made room at the table and nobody said anything. Galen sat in the corner for a week and then one evening Istvhan had made another stupid joke and Galen had made a much better one and everyone had chuckled, even Shane, who was always blazingly serious about everything. And then Marcus sat down—Marcus, like Galen, had been at Hallowbind where the paladins had run mad and torn men to pieces with their bare hands—and Stephen had gotten up and fetched another pack of cards and they doubled the deck and for a couple seconds at a time, nobody had to be broken.
The humour made those sadder sections more powerful and the kept the book from getting too dark despite some of its themes.
“How many of them do you think you could take, boss? A dozen, maybe?”
“Galen, I’ve never tested how many rabbits I could fight off at a time. It just hasn’t come up.”
Both Istvhan and Clara are well into their 30s and tall, broad and strong. I loved them both and they were perfect for each other.
…while there were plenty of men who wanted young women in their beds, he wasn’t one of them. It goes along fine for a bit and then, just when you’re feeling like a particularly virile stallion of a man, they say something about what year they were born or mention some ancient history that you actually lived through and suddenly you feel your bones turn to dust and your hip spontaneously breaks in three places.
“Yes, you do seem to have very dainty fingers.”
She made a noise somewhere between outrage and amusement. “Dainty! I was hiding behind the door when they passed out daintiness.”
“Compared to me, Domina, everyone is dainty.”
She turned around to face him and held up a hand. He held his up to meet it and grinned wickedly as her eyes widened. Clara was a woman built to heroic scale, but his hands were still nearly half-again as large as hers. “Well,” she muttered. “Be damned.”
She kissed him.
She wasn’t gentle. Istvhan felt his spine hit the wall and while he was used to letting women take the lead because he didn’t want to alarm them, he was not used to having a woman take the lead who was the same size he was and could possibly break him in half. It was both slightly worrisome and terrifyingly erotic. She claimed his mouth like a conquering army and he was entirely willing to surrender.
I loved the book to pieces and I sincerely hope there are more Saint of Steel stories in the future because I’d really love to read about the other Paladins getting their HEA and the world of the White Rat.
Coming Soon on Audio
Reviews of these books will be up soon at AudioGals.
Here’s what you may have missed:
The Home They Built by Shannon Stacey, narrated by Tatiana Sokolov
Roommate by Sarina Bowen, narrated by Teddy Hamilton & Stephen Dexter
Lord of the Fading Lands by CL Wilson, narrated by Abby Craden
Wild Wind by Kristen Ashley, narrated by John Hartley & Stella Bloom
at Dear Author
Nothing this month – Bad Kaetrin!!