And finally, one of my white whale books falls! This book has been hanging around my Kindle for literal eons (sort of like a knight trapped in a sword, if we were being cute).
So, the plot. Halla is being trapped in what is rightly her house after the death of her great-uncle, whom she cared for out of the goodness of her own heart because she is a good person and her great-uncle’s family is not. She’s being pressured to give up the inheritance, or marry her horrid cousin (and then promptly pass away from a tragic fall, undoubtedly), or stay put in her locked room until she conveniently passes away. None of these are appealing to Halla, as you might guess. Imagine her surprise when a rusty sword that she unsheaths comes with its very own entrapped swordsman (Sarkis) who is required to serve her and cannot hurt her!
So begins this journey through the world that Kingfisher began laying out in the Clocktaur War series. Those events are well in the past by the time of this book (sad face…would like some confirmation that our favorite possessed particularly good looking paladin and his prickly rosemary sensing ninja thief are doing well) but the world hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. There are some annoying new religions that think they are on the planet to make everyone else more pious (HUGE EYE ROLL), but all the old friends are still around (the Dreaming God is still around, his paladins are still annoyingly good looking and upright) and there’s been some progress on the status of others as well (gnoles are no longer seen as interlopers but are being woven into society in a slow, two steps forward one step back type way).
While this book ostensibly stands alone, it’s clear that there’s enough set up for a series (e.g., there are two other sword soldiers, comrades of Sarkis, out there somewhere. As it were, Kingfisher meant to write a sequel (or two) to this novel but it’s been a bit rough going to get the story out, so she wrote other books in this universe.
Are these books a bit…predictable? Yes. There is a lot of romance for what are ostensibly sword-and-magic action books, which might throw you at first. But one lovely thing about all of the books so far (and, as far as I’ve read, all the others too) is that the main characters are adults (30+ adults, that is, not “22” the way adult is sometimes coded) with requisite adult concerns and creaky joints. There are still a number of laugh out loud lines in this book, and it’s a real joy getting to learn more about the Temple of the Rat which continues to be my favorite religion of all (they believe in being helpful and solving problems, because rats are ingenious).