The second book in the humorous romantic the Saint of Steel fantasy series.

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Publication year: 2021

Format: Audio

Running time: 15 hours, 38 minutes
Narrator: Joel Richards

Clara is a lay sister of the Order of St. Ursa. She’s been through a terrible time. Her sisterhood of nuns was kidnapped and she was thrown out of the cage they were kept in and left as dead. She was rescued and nursed back to health, but ended up as a house slave, er, a servant who can’t leave. Now, she’s a battle forfeit to a mercenary. She was planning on escaping and looking for her sisters, but fortunately the mercenary group is going in the right direction. The captain also seems to respect nuns, although Clara is just a lay sister, as she repeatedly says. So, Clara joins the mercenary company as a guide. Just for the convenience of traveling with armed men, of course. The mercenary captain is attractive, but Clara has secrets and no man will want her after they find out what she is. So, he’s strictly a traveling companion until Clara finds her sisters and must try to free them, alone.

The Temple of the White Rat hired Istvhan, Galen, and a group of mercenaries to escort a man and his wagon, and also find the mysterious killers who appeared in the first book. Istvhan and Galen are former paladins. Their god, the Saint of Steel, is dead and they’re struggling to find meaning in their lives. Serving the White Rat is good enough. They are berserkers and their god kept them from hurting the innocent, so they don’t really advertise their paladinhood. So, Istvhan is content to let others think that he’s a mercenary captain. He’s not happy that he must allow Clara to join the group, because of local customs, but he also must help a nun. Clara is a very tall and strong woman, much like Istvhan is a tall and strong man, and he can’t help, but be attracted to her. But she’s a nun.

Istvhan pretty much stole the spotlight in the previous book, Paladin’s Grace, and I was really looking forward to the book where he’s the main character. Unfortunately, Kingfisher had to find a way for the couple not to get together until the very end, so Istvhan’s very practical and straightforward manner changed. Sadly, in this book he’s hesitant much in the same way as Stephen was in the first book. In fact, this Istvhan could have used a practical Istvhan-type character to give him advice! So I ended up being rather frustrated with the first half of the book where both Clara and Istvhan make up excuses not to speak their minds. Now, Clara has her secret which made her doubt feel more real, but Istvhan… not so much. He’s struggling with his attraction toward a nun, but she tells him repeatedly that she’s a lay sister and neither of them is in a celibate order so it felt really contrived to me.

Also, what’s wrong with letting them pair up early and continue the quests together as a couple??

Fortunately, the second half made up for that. Once the plot started rolling it, I enjoyed the story much more. The book also had some wonderful and mysterious (perhaps even horrific) moments that the writer does so well. The world-building was expanded and we get to see more of one of the secondary characters from Swordheart, which I loved. The book has its share of dark moments, but thankfully the nuns being raped wasn’t one of them.

Clara is a wonderful character. She’s tall and strong, especially for a woman, and is in her late thirties. It’s wonderful to have a romance with older characters who aren’t conventionally attractive. I also loved a pair of characters they run into about halfway through the book and I loved how Istvhan and Clara flirted by comparing the aches in their bodies. Hilarious!