This is the last of the Saint of Steel trilogy, which legitimately makes me sad. While I’ve also read Kingfisher/Vernon’s horror work, I really enjoy these fantasy-mystery-romance novels. This final one in the series wraps things up nicely and I did have a lovely time reading it, but I wish there was another follow-up trilogy (what can I say, I’m greedy). Something about the sad paladins having to learn how to love and be loved through their fears while also solving mysteries hits the sweet spot for me. Paladin’s Hope is also the shortest in the series, and I wish it was longer, but again, that’s just a personal complaint because I like them so much.
Paladin’s Hope follows my favorite paladin of the series, Galen, as he has to help the bone-doctor (fantasy forensic pathologist) Piper solve a murder mystery. There’s also a well done theme here of dealing with racism, as one of the city guard is a gnole, a sort of badger like race. The relations between humans and gnoles is rocky, as they’re viewed by many people as less than human. Earstripe is the first gnole in the guard, as an attempt to improve relations between their cultures, and Kingfisher makes good points here about the cost to be paid for being the first minority in a role and how hard it is to deal with entrenched systemic racism. The overarching plot of the book is about Galen and Piper falling in love during the mystery solving portion of the book and then having to learn how to communicate with each other and stop assuming the other one is better off without them. Galen in particular has a lot to work through because of how much self-loathing he has, and while I sometimes found myself irritated with him because I wanted him to open his eyes to how much Piper was into him, it did feel realistic in terms of sifting through trauma and self-esteem issues.
Overall, another great entry to the series and I recommend these to anyone who likes a good mix of fantasy, mystery, and romance. The LGBT+ representation here is nicely done and I always love a fantasy world with gay couples galore and a society with non-binary people. Representation does matter and warms my heart. Reading a book where you feel seen and included is a treat!
Warnings for: body horror, PTSD, violence, racism, trauma, sex scenes