Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Paladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Paladin's Strength by T. Kingfisher

Paladin’s Strength is the second book in T. Kingfisher’s (Ursula Vernon) Saints of Steel romantic fantasy series. It’s part of her World of the White Rat series, but with different characters and setting, though I haven’t given up hope that some of the earlier characters will make an appearance in subsequent books.

Istvhan is a former paladin of the Saint of Steel. Former, because his god is dead. It hasn’t taken as great a toll on him as his fellows, but it had left him without purpose until the efficient people of the White Rat god gave him a job as a mercenary. He’s on a mission to escort a merchant across the land, a cover for his true mission to follow the rumours that the Smooth men, the clay-headed creatures of the first book, have been spotted again.

Clara is a lay nun of St Ursa, an order with a great secret (or not so great if you understand even smidgen of Latin, or have sharp eyes to study the cover). There has been a raid against her convent, and all the nuns have been captured, but she was thought dead and left behind. She’s on a mission to rescue her sisters when she comes across Istvhan and his men.

Since their paths align, she joins the group to hunt down her sisters and the Smooth men. Eventually, both paths lead to same place, a weird coast town ruled by sea lords. There’s a lot of action and mayhem before the nuns are freed and the Smooth men dealt with. So much so, that Istvhan and Clara have a really hard time to find a peaceful moment to act on their mutual attraction.

I love fantasy romances, a perfect romantic combination of fantasy setting and romance plot, and this one didn’t disappoint. It is heavy on action, and the romance is slow to build, but once it gets there, it’s very solid.

Clara and Istvhan are both a bit older than romantic couples in romances usually are (36 and 40), but it suits this genre well. It also means that they’ve been around the romance block a few times and they both know what they want and have fears based on their earlier experiences. Clara especially has her secret, which she just knows will drive Istvhan away when he finds out. Only it doesn’t.

They are both great characters. Istvhan has his paladin core that doesn’t allow him to abandon a woman in need, no matter that she’s almost his size and has the strength to match. Clara has had to keep her secret for all her life, and it’s difficult for her to trust outsiders with it, but he’s worth her trust. They are a great match and together they can handle pretty much anything. The book is told in both their points of view, so the reader gets a good understanding of them. Other characters remain a bit more distant, but they are great and well-drawn too.

If I have any complaints, it’s that the book could’ve used an epilogue. The impact of the final romantic moment was sort of lost when it came so soon after the final battle. A few pages of where the two end up at would’ve gone a long way to satisfy this reader. But all in all, a great book, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next one.


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