Note: I tried my very best to not have any spoilers in here. But in order to review this book...it's hard!
I've literally been waiting to read this book for...three years? Maybe even four. Myke Cole was talking about working on it at Boskone one year, and his excitement about the story was contagious. I could tell it would be a book that meant something. And boy, it was worth the wait.
The front cover of The Armored Saint bears a quote from epic fantasy author Robin Hobb:
"Ruthless and heart-wrenching."
To be honest, a book has never been summed up so succinctly. This book is brutal. Author Myke Cole has pulled no punches. This is a book about people making decisions and choices, and then having to take the consequences for them. And sometimes, those consequences aren't good. But what makes this book stand out is that the main character TAKES responsibility for those consequences. And when that character is a sixteen year old girl, who starts the story acting like any sixteen year old and then becomes a hero, it makes a reader think. Especially in these days of political and social strife in our country, maybe we could do more. Maybe instead of avoiding things, we can face them head on, like Heloise does in this book.
This is one of those books where nothing is as it seems. Who is the enemy? By the end, I still was reeling with some of the twists. Who is right? Who is wrong? We learn who is wrong in the book, and by the end, I still wasn't sure who was right. This makes me want to read the sequel all the more.
This is a story of right and wrong, of love and family, of the blossoming of young love and rejection, of loss and sacrifice. Is it grimdark? Well... in much of the grimdark I've read, the main character has a skewed sense of right and wrong, at least in some way. That's not the case with this book--Heloise IS a sympathetic heroine who is on the righteous path. But descriptions in this book are graphic and not for the faint of heart. While the heroine is sixteen, I wouldn't classify this as a young adult book in general, though mature teens might be fine with it. My fifteen year old son wouldn't be ready to read it, but when I was his age, I would have been. It really just depends on the teen.
The story isn't all grim, though. There are funny moments, and heart-warming moments. There is an enchanted mouse, and a caring family. There are friends, and villagers that mostly support one another. Myke Cole uses these to make a fine balance, and while your heart hurts because you care about the characters, you go on reading and hoping for them because he's made you care.
One theme of the book, the one I found most interesting and fresh, was the questioning of authority. Power corrupts, but a corrupt leadership isn't always wrong in all ways. This book left a LOT of unanswered questions in this regard, but it's interesting to explore some of the ideas presented.
All in all, I highly recommend this book. It's short and is a pretty quick read, but leaves a long lasting impression and gives you a lot to think about. I feel like I've only just stepped into the world of this story, and very much want to read more. When is book two coming out?
About The Armored Saint:
"Cole weaves a fantasy world that feels comfortably familiar, then goes to places you’d never expect. You won’t stop turning pages until the stunning finish." ―Peter V. Brett
Myke Cole, star of CBS's Hunted and author of the Shadow Ops series, debuts the Sacred Throne epic fantasy trilogy with The Armored Saint, a story of religious tyrants, arcane war-machines, and underground resistance that will enthrall epic fantasy readers of all ages.
In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.
Melanie R. Meadors is the author of fantasy stories where heroes don't always carry swords and knights in shining armor often lose to nerds who study their weaknesses. She’s been known to befriend wandering garden gnomes, do battle with metal-eating squirrels, and has been called a superhero on more than one occasion. Her fiction has appeared in Circle Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, and in the anthology Champions of Aetaltis. She studied astronomy and physics at Northern Arizona University and has published some non-fiction in the field of astronomy and library sciences. She's the co-editor of the anthology MECH: Age of Steel and editor of Hath No Fury, and she is a blogger and general b*tch monkey at The Once and Future Podcast.