So, to whit: these books are like Tamora Pierce, but for adults (i.e., starring adults, with adult scenes–as an adult who still reads Tamora Pierce novels and considers the Circle of Magic series one of her favorites). It’s something of the vibe that T. Kingfisher has going on throughout her books–knights and magic, of course, but also a homey sort of rhythm. There’s real Magic, of course, impressive and with big swords and horses and stuff, but there’s also small magics that are expressed in everyday actions. Everything moves a bit slower–it takes time to cover distances, and people have to make decisions based on incomplete information. And the main heart of all stories is the connection between people, and how they use that connection to face down all manner of demons (both literal and metaphorical).
If you’re not already into these books, you really should be!
So to whit, the plot: in a pre-book shocker that is never quite explained (which makes it all the better), the God of the Saint of Steel…dies. That is, the god is dead. There is no more god. This was an ex-god etc etc. Stephen, the paladin who is our protagonist, goes from being a good beserker (a paladin overcome with godly battle rage/super powers/unbeatable-ism) to a beserker liability (potentially going into battle rage with no ability to come out of it). Much like our Dreaming God paladin of olde, he awakens having done some terrible nonsense and finds that his former temple is a charred husk with only seven paladins left. With no other place to go, they end up at–the Temple of the Rat! Whose job it is to solve problems, including paladins with irritating senses of honor and no god to serve.
Unlike other trilogies, these books more or less stand alone the way that romance novel series stand alone–same world, same characters, previous novel’s events are referenced, but there’s no overarching mystery or story to it. Which is nice! It’s like no requirement to keep reading, only do so if you want. Which is kind, sort of like the characters in this book. And the world. It’s a kind one, even though our main characters cannot understand that they deserve kindness.
Each of these novels also focuses on a different sort of internal struggle that needs to be overcome, and they’re such quotidian adult struggles that it makes my little heart sing. Here, we have our female lead (yes, there is a strong romance component, there always is in these books, either you like that or you don’t) who has had a traumatic past and wants to just be left in peace but with company. Stephen is committed to taking care of the remaining Saint of Steel paladins until the rest of his days. hOw eVeR wIlL tHeSe tWo mAkE iT wOrK??? Spoiler they do, and it’s hilarious while they get there.