Saturday, December 30, 2023

Paladin’s Faith by T. Kingfisher: review

3/5 stars on Goodreads

Paladin's Faith by T. Kingfisher

Paladin’s Faith is a fourth book in The Saint of Steel fantasy romance series by T. Kingfisher. It follows the paladins of a dead god who try to find their place in a world where they are no longer needed, set in the same world as the Clocktaur War duology, though a few decades later.

Shane is a paladin abandoned by two gods, which has given him a huge inferiority complex and a fear of getting everyone around him killed. He’s ordered to protect Marguerite Florian, a spy who is trying to locate an artificer who has created a device that’ll potentially disrupt the economy of the entire world. She’s a resourceful woman with few compunctions about her work and how she gets it done, which doesn’t always sit well with Shane. Naturally, a romance ensues, albeit slowly, as one of them fears he’s not good enough and the other doesn’t really have a need for a romance.

Despite the interesting premise, this is by far the weakest book in the series. The entire first half of the rather long book is basically filler events, with a token attempt made to locate the artificer. The romance doesn’t go anywhere. Things pick up on the latter half, but what was supposed to be the driving force of the plot takes a back seat when a new storyline appears, and is all but forgotten. It’s Shane’s story, and it’s a good one, but it doesn’t really mesh with the romance. That the pair ends up together in the end is because this is a romance, and the book would’ve been fine without.

On top of the weak story, this lacks the charm and delightful whimsy of the earlier books. Marguerite doesn’t make a very interesting romantic heroine and while Shane has his moments, he’s not much of a romantic hero either. Side characters exist to fill the pages, but I suspect their story will come later. And not a single gnol made an appearance. The epilogue promises an interesting story to come though, and even though this was a disappointment, I’ll definitely read on.

Friday, December 08, 2023

The Husky and His White Cat Shizun Vol. 4 by Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou: review

5/5 stars on Goodreads

The Husky & His White Cat Shizun vol 4 by Rou Bao Bu Chi Rou

The series has advanced to its fourth volume and I believe this is the best one yet (which I said of the previous volume too). The previous one left Chu Wanning to recover from being dead for five years, so the reader could expect a time jump in this one.

The volume starts with briefly telling what Mo Ran did during those five years. He’s taken to heart to become a man worthy of his Shizun and has spent the years travelling, cultivating, and helping people where he can. He’s built a heroic reputation for himself, not that he cares, and grown up quite a bit.

Chu Wanning wakes up in a good bodily and mental health, and he remembers everything that happened in the underworld when Mo Ran saved him. He’s also ready to admit his feelings for Mo Ran, but only to himself. He’s struggling with lust for the first time in his life too, having practiced cultivation method that forbids sex. The strange dreams that are flashbacks of a life he never lived don’t help. And as always, he never speaks of any of this to anyone, and definitely not to Mo Ran.

Mo Ran is having the exact same problems, made worse by his memories from the previous life. But he knows he isn’t worthy of his Shizun and tries to keep his hands to himself, tormented by his memories of how he behaved before.

But the story keeps throwing the two together in various ways. Mo Ran grows to realise that it’s love he feels for his Shizun, not having really experienced the emotion before. And Chu Wanning starts to give in to his needs and coming to terms with it.

It’s a story of two tormented people who simply refuse to communicate with each other, which would make things much simpler. While the author deliberately drags it on, it still manages to be interesting and entertaining throughout, with one of the best sex scenes so far. There wasn’t much of a plot beyond the romance—not a single monster attacked or ghost needed vanishing, and the mastermind after Mo Ran didn’t make a move—but it didn’t need more. The end wasn’t a cliffhanger as such, but it promises conflict to come in the next volume. It’ll be an agony to wait again.

Friday, December 01, 2023

Heaven Official's Blessing vol. 8 by Mò Xiāng Tóng Xiù: review

4/5 stars on Goodreads

Heaven Official's Blessing by MoXiang Tong Xiu

It’s the end of the Heaven Official’s Blessing, and it didn’t go out with a bang. It was like a wistful thought that left the reader longing for more.

The volume has the last eight chapters, which take about 45% of the book, and several short stories from various points in the lives of Xie Lian and Hua Cheng. There’s the final battle with White No-Face, which dominates the narrative, and the aftermath. There are some emotional scenes and most storylines are wrapped up.

There’s the happily ever after too, but the romance didn’t quite deliver the emotions I hoped for after following it this long. Xie Lian and Hua Cheng keep their thoughts so tightly guarded that the reader is barely allowed a glimpse even at the end. The extra stories help a little, but without them, the ending would’ve been a slight disappointment.

That said, I’ve enjoyed the journey. After everything that has happened, Xie Lian was much like he was at the beginning, only happier and more powerful. And the reader can be sure that his love story with Hua Cheng will last the eternity.