Serena’s Review: “Paladin’s Grace”

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Book: “Paladin’s Grace” by T. Kingfisher

Publishing Info:  Argyll Production, February 2020

Where Did I Get this Book: from the library

Where Can You Get this Book: Amazon | IndieBound | WorldCat

Book Description: Stephen’s god died on the longest day of the year…

Three years later, Stephen is a broken paladin, living only for the chance to be useful before he dies. But all that changes when he encounters a fugitive named Grace in an alley and witnesses an assassination attempt gone wrong. Now the pair must navigate a web of treachery, beset on all sides by spies and poisoners, while a cryptic killer stalks one step behind…

Review: That’s right, it’s time for another T. Kingfisher book review! I felt that enough time had passed since the last one that I could allow myself to read another. I’m reaaaaally trying to spread out her back catalog and not just binge read them all at once. But I have to tell you, it’s a tough ask. This is the first book in a trilogy, none the less, which will make it all the harder to try out the time between finishing this one and picking up the next. We’ll see how long I can make it, I guess.

After his god died a few years ago, Stephen lost the central core of his existence. His entire life had been built around serving the god as a holy berserker, trusting in his god’s power to keep him from harming innocents while caught up in one of his brutal rages. Without this fail safe, he and his fellow paladins have been eking out a quiet existence serving the White Rat and trying to avoid any trigger that may send them back into a berserking rage. So when he meets a perfumer who starts to stir deeper emotions within him, Stephen is fearful that allowing himself to feel anything for this woman will only lead to more tragedy. For her part, Grace is running from her own past and has only now felt as if she’s re-created a life for herself. But when she’s accused of murder, she can see it all crashing around her once again.

It will come as no surprise that I really enjoyed this book. It has all of the components I’ve come to expect from T. Kingfisher: witty writing, sympathetic main characters, a lovely romance, and, of course, funny animal companions. For the latter, this time we get an adorable weasel/cat hybrid that sounds perfectly cuddly, and I want one now, please and thank you. For the rest, this book is set in the same world as a few of Kingfisher’s previous books, so certain elements of the world will be more familiar to fans who have read those. I don’t think any of them are necessary to read before picking this one up, but there are definitely references to things that took place in other books that are nice to stumble upon as a reader in the know. There’s even the return of a favorite character of mine who we spent a lot of time with in “Swordheart.”

Also per the usual, I really liked both Stephen and Grace. T. Kingfisher does this great thing where she routinely writes characters and romances featuring adults in their 30s and 40s. Now that I am in that age group, I can’t say how refreshing it is to read a romance that features characters who have lived a life up to that point and all that comes with it. Here, Grace has already experienced an ugly romance in her first marriage and is going through the tedious process of starting up her life again later in life. Stephen, too, is grappling with the fact that the life he had drawn out for himself originally is not the one he is currently living. And yet, they find new love and new pathways before them in one another. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the typical 20-something romances I read as well, but it’s nice counterbalance to find romances like this that grapple with second loves and the lives and joys that can be found after initial disappointments. In particular, a weird little thing, I liked how this book briefly discussed how people are very different in what they enjoy or feel is romantic. It was just a small thing, but I think it touched on a greater theme to be found across love stories where all individuals are depicted as enjoying such and such thing, while that may not be the case for many people.

I do think the stakes in this book were a bit lower than they were in other stories by this author. I never felt much concern for Grace as she dealt with her murder accusation. And, rightfully, Kingfisher didn’t prioritize this aspect of the story overly much. Instead, the novel focused much more heavily on Grace and Stephen confronting their pasts and then grappling with how they chose to move forward with their lives. There was also a creepy background story that dealt with a “Ripper-esque” murderer going on a decapitation rampage. This subplot took some really surprising turns, and it’s clear by the way this book ended that Kingfisher is setting this plotline up as one that will carry over through this “Paladin” trilogy.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. There are books by this author I liked more, but I have yet to hit upon one by her that I didn’t like at all. Indeed, other than being able to list one or two absolute favorites, I’m not sure I could rank the rest at all: I simply enjoyed the heck out of them! This book will definitely appeal to fans of this author or for those looking for a solid fantasy romance that isn’t explicit.

Rating 8: Sweet and sympathetic, a fantasy romance that speak to the lives we can rebuild from the ashes of hopes and dreams that may have faltered originally.

Reader’s Advisory:

“Paladin’s Grace” isn’t on any Goodreads lists, but it should be on Fantasy Romance.

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