“Her father was lying, not just to her, but to himself. Worst of all, he expected her to repeat the lies, to act as though up was down of her own free will. It was a stupid, wicked way to live, and the smoke still smudging the darkening sky showed her how it ended.”
So…wow. This book is just a hair over 200 pages long and it hit me hard.
The people in Heloise’s world live under constant fear of wizards, who they have been told just by doing the smallest bit of magic can inadvertently tear open a portal to hell. Because of this, their Empire quickly strikes wherever there is even the barest whisper of magic and they do so in a horrific manner.
You know the beginning to pretty much every epic fantasy story where you are introduced to a MC that lives in a quiet little village but then a Big Thing happens that sends him off on a grand adventure? This book is basically solely that beginning section. Instead of rushing the MC off onto a grand adventure, The Armored Saint lingers there and concentrates on the emotions of a person’s small world being ripped apart.
Also, the MC is a she. And I feel like for this particular story, that is important.
Heloise is a teenager that begins the story somewhat like Ariel from The Little Mermaid with constant insistence that she is a grown up now but still likes to sneak off to giggle with her best friend and make impulsive decisions.
But in this short 200 pages, her character goes through so much and grows so freakin’ much that the Heloise at page 205 is nothing like the Heloise at page 1. I don’t know if I have ever seen so much character growth in the giant tomes with pages number in the 4 digits and Myke Cole manages that growth wonderfully.
Though the book is short and so much happens in it, nothing ever feels forced. I honestly don’t know that I have seen such great character development in series that take place over thousands of pages as I have in this single book.
Okay, Dani, so Heloise is great. What else?
There is also some great commentary on society in general, I think. Heloise’s father is very quick to say that other an neighboring village should cast out a man that has caused trouble but when the tables are turned is very quick to beg for the same mercy he said should be denied to another person. This was not something that a lot of time was spent on in the book but I really was drawn to this statement that it is really easy to say how other people should be handling a situation when you have never been there yourself.
I also loved that Heloise is in love with another teenage girl. Fantasy and sci fi for sure need more LGBT characters in them but in many cases I feel like when they are there, their story is kind of forced or doesn’t flow well with what else is going on in the story. Here though, her struggle to come to terms with her love for another girl in a world that violently opposes it I felt worked perfectly in tandem with the rest of the story.
Beyond that, this is a story about bravery, loss, and growth. It is about zealotry and doing something because “that’s the way its always been done.”
The story leaves off very open-ended for the next one but I was so immensely satisfied by this book and its ending that I think it stands perfectly well on its own. It’s only January so I don’t want to start naming my 2018 favorites but I am finding that the more I think about this book, the more I love it. So this one just may make the list.