This was my treat to myself for getting a bunch of work things done, and it was totally worth the hard work I did to earn it.
Paladin’s Grace, by T. Kingfisher (also known as Ursula Vernon) is set in the Clocktaur Wars universe, in a land filled with gods and magic, but not in the cast-spells zap-your-enemies way. It is, as the author puts it, a “fluffy romance” filled with sexual tension, protagonists who love, well, everybody really but believe that nobody can love them, “helpful” friends, spies, intrigue, and a body count.
There are those of us who argue that “body count” isn’t normally a requirement for a fluffy romance, but that group of us obviously hasn’t read T. Kingfisher’s books. In fact, I was a bit worried about this one at first because the first confirmed dead body was so late in the book compared to some of the others….
Anyway, you will laugh, you will get sniffly, you will facepalm at the misunderstandings, you will demand a line of gingerbread-scented cologne, and you will sigh when everything ends as pragmatically happily ever after as possible.
Oh plus there’s a civet. Can’t have a book about a perfumer without a civet!
I probably should have known Swordheart by T. Kingfisher was the beginning of a trilogy when the bird slipped through a plot hole there at the end and didn’t amount to anything. Screaming birds generally aren’t put in the plot for no reason and this bird is way too much a Chekhov’s Bird to just be sitting there.
Anyway, this book is fantastic, and I’m now hungry for the next two.
This book is the story of Sarkis, a man whose spirit has been placed in a sword, and Halla, a 36 year old widow who was planning to kill herself with the sword until a warrior appareted into her bedroom when she tried to do the deed.
And then from there it gets weird.
It gets weird in the ways of the Clockwork Boys stories, with strange creatures on a road that disappears and reappears, bandits, murderers, ruthless priests, not-ruthless lawyer priests, a gnoll that drives the ox, an ox named Prettyfoot, hands-down the nastiest aunt I’ve found in a book in quite some time, and a clammy-handed man who nobody should marry.
And then somehow everything works out and the people who need to be dead are dead and the people who you were kind of hoping would be dead are banged up at least, and the people who should be in love are in love.
I’m pretty sure that although Ursula Vernon insists she writes “fluffy romance” on Twitter that this doesn’t qualify as “fluffy” unless you ask Halla what she thinks of her own weight. But romance it is, and relatable romance so much as it can be without traitorous relatives and a ensorcelled sword.
This is good, in short. Read it.
Okay so the first thing you need to know, because I tip my biases, is I’ve essentially loved everything that Ursula Vernon / T. Kingfisher has written since Digger was just another webcomic in the list of 100 I hit daily.
That being said, most of the works of hers I’ve read have been in the form of either modern retellings of old fairy tales (of which Bryony and Roses is probably my favorite) or Dragonbreath chapter books (because you’re never too old for good chapter books).
The Clocktaur Wars aren’t like that. Way way not like that.
My understanding is that Ursula Vernon got annoyed about how poorly other people told the “tortured Paladin rejected by his god” trope, and decided to fix it. And fix it she did.
This book has supernatural dealings. It has a pantheon of gods. It has tattoos that bite. It has a very talented forger who I want to be when I grow up. It has a tortured paladin. It has dead demons and live ones. It has romance and tension and cute talking animals and not-cute-at-all terrifying monsters and an ending that had me both going “wait what the FUCK just happened?” and “well of course because that’s the only logical thing that can happen no wait WHAT THE FUCK.”
Oh, yeah, this one is certainly not a chapter book for the kiddies. (Although frankly 12-year-old me would’ve loved it as much as I do now.)
So read Clockwork Boys and love it and then read The Wonder Engine because after the first one you’re not just going to hang on that cliff forever.