REVIEW: Paladin’s Hope by T. Kingfisher
Piper is a lich-doctor, a physician who works among the dead, determining causes of death for the city guard’s investigations. It’s a peaceful, if solitary profession…until the day when he’s called to the river to examine the latest in a series of mysterious bodies, mangled by some unknown force.
Galen is a paladin of a dead god, lost to holiness and no longer entirely sane. He has long since given up on any hope of love. But when the two men and a brave gnole constable are drawn into the web of the mysterious killer, it’s Galen’s job to protect Piper from the traps that await them.
He’s just not sure if he can protect Piper from the most dangerous threat of all…
Dear Ms. Kingfisher,
I jumped all over getting the next book in “The Saint of Steel” series and dove into it as soon as I was able. I enjoyed revisiting the last remaining Paladins of the dead saint, being introduced to Piper the lich-doctor, as well as seeing several characters from past novels (though none were there for the sole purpose of selling their own books) but sadly I admit to not being thrilled with this book. There, I’ve said it.
As with the past two “Paladin” novels, there is a lot of grisly death in this story. Piper’s job centers on being a coroner/forensic pathologist while the Paladins and guards of Archenhold are there to see to justice. Of course justice doesn’t always happen. In the opening part of the book, a recent way that the Bishop of the Temple of the White Rat implemented changes to how arrested prisoners are booked into jail has set backs up and riled the guards who have lost a source of graft. The position of gnoles in this society is also precarious; there is a long history of them enduring prejudice and discrimination from humans.
When horribly mangled bodies begin appearing in the river bordering the city, Piper is brought to examine one thus introducing him to Galen, Stephen, the guard Captain, and a guard gnole known as Earstripe. Politics muck things up enough that the investigation of the second body found ends up with Earstripe being fired. But he’s not one to be dissuaded from continuing an investigation so soon he plus Galen and Piper are out on their own seeking information. What happens after that is the first issue I have with this book.
Granted I haven’t read “Swordheart” or either of the “Clocktaur” books so perhaps I wouldn’t have had the problems I did understanding the “death maze” section but I shouldn’t have had to stumble through it (no pun intended). I read the first two “Saint” books just fine but suddenly there’s a bunch of machines, and “ancients” and stuff dumped into this one. Frankly I finally just ended up plowing on and hoping for an explanation or even more than the scanty backstory I got on it. This never happened and the book ended with this being as much a mystery as when it started. I did amuse myself by thinking of jokes about “don’t go in the basement!” or “kissing like the plane is going down while in a life or death situation.”
That second bit leads to the next issue which is Galen and Piper’s growing relationship. Or should I say their mutual determination to prove themselves the most unworthy of being in a relationship. These two have both got martyrdom down pat. “I’m not worthy, no one would want to be with me!” no “I’m the one who is broken and unable to be in a relationship!” “No, me!” “Nuh-uh, me!” Earstripe and I were both tired of them nobly and selflessly denying how they felt. Just fuck already if you aren’t ready to kiss and explore your feelings. Except maybe you should first escape the death maze at some point.
So here’s Galen with maybe a bit of overkill on his sense of guilt. Earstripe the Gnole – a gnole knows. A hot doctor with a weird ability that makes him a (mostly) vegetarian. A bit of Stephen and his knitting again. And lots of clocktaur stuff that I have no idea what they’re talking about which makes the maze even more confusing and which is the first time I’ve felt this way in this series. I also found it hard to visualize some of the details of those scenes which didn’t help any and made them drag.
The humor that I’ve come to expect was great and a big part of this grade being higher than it would otherwise have been. Getting to see this world and these characters again was fabulous. The final epilogue scene was both satisfying in regard to the Paladins as well as intriguing. But the fact that I felt lost for much of the book because of a paucity of explanation as well as the majority of the romantic relationship being maudlin, guilt ridden martyrdom let me down. C+