Sunday, July 24, 2022

Paladin's Strength (The Saint of Steel #2), by T. Kingfisher (author), Joel Richards (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781666135046, November 2021 (original publication February 2021)

Istvhan and Galen, two of the surviving Paladins of the Saint of Steel, are trailing the supernatural killers, the Smooth Men. 

Clara is a sister of the mysterious Order of St. Ursa, tracking the raiders who burned her convent and kidnapped her sisters. 

When they cross paths, neither is telling the whole truth. Istvhan and Galen are presenting themselves as simple mercenaries leading a small unit escorting a shipment of expensive whiskey barrels. Clara isn't telling them why the convent was burned and her sisters kidnapped, or why the Order of St. Ursa exists. They're traveling in the same general direction, though, so it makes sense to join up, especially as Clara's skills include good fighting skills and superior wilderness skills.

They can only travel together so long, of course, before the nature of Clara's order is revealed, along with the fact that Istvhan and Galen are Paladins--though it's mainly Istvhan who has been agonizing over the deception. It's important to note here that neither Clara nor Istvhan is bound by vows of celibacy, and their reasons for not wanting to act on their attraction, or even believe that the other returns that attraction, are rather more complicated.

Kingfisher's characters are always wonderful, and as is often the case in her books, these two are adults in their thirties, with history, and with scars both physical and emotional. Along the way we meet other excellent characters, including Doc Mason, Master Distiller Brant, and the gnole managing their team of mules. The secret of the Smooth Men turns out to be more horrible even than Istvhan already knew, and yet the source of is in a sense quite tragically innocent.

It's an engaging, scary, ultimately very satisfying story.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.

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