Who doesn’t love a “girl poses as boy to join a male-only-elite-group” story?
Paladin* by Sally Slater is the story of Samantha, sixteen year old daughter of the Duke of Hayward, who has been trained in to use a sword by her father – at her mother’s insistence. After her mother is killed by a demon and Samantha is rescued at the last moment, the prospect of being married off is too much for her to bear. She runs away to become a trainee Paladin, sworn to protect the people of the land from demons.
Fate has a surprise in store. Her Paladin trainer and mentor is Tristan Lyons, First of the Sword, the youngest ever to hold that title and the man who saved her from the demon that killed her mother. Tristan is also given another trainee, Braeden, as another Paladin has refused to teach him because he’s half-demon. Soon the trio set off on a journey of discovery, about the Paladins, their enemies, and themselves.
Samantha – Sam, when she’s a trainee – is good-hearted and makes an interesting heroine. Though her faults are obvious, they’re not belaboured. I found Braeden the most interesting character, and his internal struggles and personal arc dealing with his demonic nature was well written and satisfying.
I would have liked to know more about the Paladins, to put the three main characters in a clearer context; how military were they, what were their oaths, were they sworn to live morally as the connotations of the name suggest? In a similar vein, the way Sam often treats Tristan, her mentor, didn’t sit well. In spite of his insistence that his trainees must respect and obey him, her disrespect without censure or consequences doesn’t seem consistent with the practices of a disciplined fighting force.
Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable story with some surprising twists and turns, and the romance is sweet and not overplayed. Many will identify in this YA fantasy with Sam’s struggle against her role in society and the discrimination and internal battles Braeden endures. I’ll be looking for the books that continue the story.
* I was provided with a e-copy of this book to review via Netgalley
Links: Sally Slater’s website