The Armored Saint: Review
I have long been a fan of the fantasy and science fiction novels that Tor Books takes risks in and the premise of The Armored Saint by Myke Cole piqued my interest. Cole has a military and intelligence services background, which lent itself nicely to his career in "hard-edged military novels," as he calls them in his acknowledgements. So, how does this translate to a medieval fantasy book? Read on for my review!
*Note, I received an advanced reader's copy of this book from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*
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.
The Goodreads summary above does not do the breadth of Cole's debut fantasy novel any justice. At its core, this is a book about religious fanaticism, oppression, and prejudice. Our protagonist, 16-year-old Heloise Factor, knows little beyond her life in a small medieval town, except that the Emperor's Writs are immovable laws and the Pilgrims of the Order who enforce them are not to be trifled with.
There is a belief that the use of magic opens up a portal to Hell, and in order to protect the Empire, all instances of wizardry must be wiped clean before a devil even has the opportunity to cross over. This way of thinking lends itself to a cleansing of wizardry and paranoia- not so dissimilar to the Salem Witch Hunt. But there's even more one can do to offend the Order! Being a ranger and roaming about the land without subscribing to a particular profession in the Emperor's service is grounds for murder. Loving someone of the same sex is heresy and the Order will not hesitate to kill these people. There's a lot that one can and cannot do, as dictated by these prescribed Writs of the Emperor.
The themes explored in this book are complex and are what had me flipping page after page- finishing this 205-page book in just two hours. I wanted to learn more about the Order and how they came to rule the empire with such strict control. We get very little context about the governing and religious structures outside of how Heloise grapples with how to make sense of the laws suddenly imposed on her and her friends. The prose of this book is similar to that of Robin Hobb's- which is to say that it's very verbose but in a way that is authentic to the medieval setting in which it takes place. I had a difficult time getting through Hobb's books, but The Armored Saint is more digestible. It's much shorter and has a clear and concise plot. There are definitely some gruesome scenes, but not overly done to glorify murder and death.
However, I took tremendous issue with our protagonist, Heloise. Frankly put, she made some pretty stupid decisions throughout this book that put everyone around in her jeopardy. She flip flops from acting like a child to declaring her maturity in a matter of pages. Her character does not truly develop by the end of this book and I found that I cared more for some of the secondary characters than for her.
I rate The Armored Saint 3/5 stars. The Armored Saint releases on February 20th, 2018 from Tor Books.