By: Myke Cole
Release Date: February 20, 2018
Publisher: Tor Books
Series: The Sacred Throne #1
Received From: Publisher
(All reviews are our own, honest opinions.)
I’ve never read a Myke Cole novel before, but it is a name that’s somewhat familiar due, I assume, to my mother’s habit of devouring all action/adventure military novels she can get her hands on. The Armored Saint by Myke Cole is a compelling dark fantasy which follows a young woman named Heloise as she stands up for what she believes is right at the expense of her family and communities safety.
Heloise lives in a world where using magic will open a portal to hell. The Order protects the people, prepared to kill whomever they must to ensure no wizard will ever live to summon a devil again. But the Order’s methods are brutal. They will kill as many innocent people as they must in order to protect the kingdom. Now the Order is here, a horrible slaughter has occurred, and Heloise, unable to stay quiet after all she has witnessed, opposes the Order and their actions, at the cost of her family and her village’s safety.
The Armored Saint is very atmospheric. The story takes place in a small village in a large, powerful kingdom. What we see is a microcosm. The townspeople have known one another their entire lives. Nearby villages are still a day’s ride away. There is no one to rescue them when trouble comes. There is nowhere to run.
This story is a bit dark. It doesn’t shy away from the gruesome, the horrible, or the darker side of human nature. The horrors of war and battle are represented starkly. If you don’t like reading dark fantasy or about detailed battles and the like, do be forewarned.
Heloise is probably one of the most realistically crafted teenage protagonists I’ve ever read. This is achieved not only through Heloise’s own actions, but how those around her treat her as well. She is strong, but human. When angry she lashes out, realizing only later that she shouldn’t have done so and that she’s made mistakes. Yet, she never digs her heels in out of stubbornness. There is real regret here, real fear. This might frustrate some readers, and I can understand why. At the same time, this also makes Heloise feel extraordinarily human. She is also attempting to sort through her feelings about her best friend, a girl she realizes she’s in love with.
At sixteen, Heloise is at crossroads of childhood and adulthood. This is something which pops up again and again. She is at once expected to know better because she is a nearly a grown woman, but on the other hand she is told she cannot do certain things or must do certain things because she’s just a child. This infuriating catch 22 situation is something that I very much felt when I was the same age, yet it’s something that isn’t often brought out in quite the same way it is here. This also speaks volumes about the adults that surround her, their opinions, and how those opinions change depending on circumstances and Heloise’s actions.
Many of the characters speak in contradictions, something that becomes more apparent as the book continues. The characters are largely aware of this. They know that what they say aloud doesn’t always agree with what they think. They know that what their current actions wouldn’t always support their actions in the past. These are characters that are afraid, doing whatever they must to protect their families, sometimes at the cost of their core beliefs. Heloise, despite not always being positive of what her core beliefs are yet, doesn’t stay quiet, for better or for worse.
One of the best passages in the book is between Heloise and Clodio. What he says about love is probably one of my favorite passages on the subject in literature. Honestly, I didn’t expect this to come from a fantasy novella, nor a dark fantasy novella at that. And that is why this book is so very memorable. It’s more than the sum of its parts. This is a story of magic and powerful armies abusing power, but it’s also a story of first love, family, and community.
If you like RPGs, I think this book would be a great place to dive into literature. I’m not entirely sure why, but parts of this book really feel like the scenario of a video game. I also think that this would be a good place for those who normally read YA speculative fiction to check out some adult speculative fiction. Of course, this does come with a caveat as The Armored Saint can get quite a bit darker and much more gruesome than many typical YA novels.
I would highly recommend The Armored Saint by Myke Cole. This was a great read, and I am very much looking forward to the next book in the series, which is being released in October of 2018.