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The Saint of Steel #3

Paladin's Hope

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Piper is a lich-doctor, a physician who works among the dead, determining causes of death for the city guard's investigations. It's a peaceful, if solitary profession…until the day when he's called to the river to examine the latest in a series of mysterious bodies, mangled by some unknown force.

Galen is a paladin of a dead god, lost to holiness and no longer entirely sane. He has long since given up on any hope of love. But when the two men and a brave gnole constable are drawn into the web of the mysterious killer, it's Galen's job to protect Piper from the traps that await them.

He's just not sure if he can protect Piper from the most dangerous threat of all…

300 pages, ebook

First published October 9, 2021

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About the author

T. Kingfisher

44 books9,462 followers
T. Kingfisher is the vaguely absurd pen-name of Ursula Vernon. In another life, she writes children's books and weird comics, and has won the Hugo, Sequoyah, and Ursa Major awards, as well as a half-dozen Junior Library Guild selections.

This is the name she uses when writing things for grown-ups.

When she is not writing, she is probably out in the garden, trying to make eye contact with butterflies.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 846 reviews
Profile Image for Beverly.
247 reviews53 followers
October 10, 2021
I’m going to be thinking of that last line for MONTHS
Profile Image for K.J. Charles.
Author 59 books8,633 followers
November 1, 2021
I'm delighted to learn there will be more in this world, and that we may find out how the god died! A joy as ever. Sweet romance, lovely CSI-type set-up with Piper the adorable lich doctor and much pining, and as ever, the gnoles effortlessly steal the show. Definitely the best thing that happened to me all week.
Profile Image for Tasha Robinson.
591 reviews126 followers
November 10, 2021
I'm guessing every single person who makes it to the last line of this book is going to have the same question I had: "Aaaah, is this story going to continue, and WHEN?" This Twitter thread from the author is immensely helpful: She's thinking probably seven books total, with the one after this not solving the mystery being teased at, but dropping "some clues," and maybe significantly more about that plot in the fifth book, depending on the order they come out in. This one's Galen's story, and she's saying book 4 will be Shane and Marguerite, and books 5 and 6 will be Marcus and Wren, respectively, but she isn't sure in what order. And here I thought it was just a trilogy! Very excited to think that the central mystery of this series is actually one that is maybe meant to be solved, and not just a compelling and horrifying background for love stories. Even if many of them are very engaging love stories.

But getting into this one in particular: Very late into this book, one character accuses another of dithering. I feel like this entire trilogy (and the related Clocktaur duology set in the same world) could just be labeled The Dithering instead of The Saint Of Steel. I love a good slow-burn romance, but I'm afraid the ones in this series have become kinda samey for me, because this world's particular brand of paladins is so strongly built around a very specific brand of noble self-sacrifice and self-denial and guilt, with the added bonus for the Saint of Steel's paladins of feeling broken and damaged and useless and extra-unworthy.

And the one featured in this book, Galen, fits the same pattern, but this particular book is so short that he doesn't get much characterization apart from that. We know a little about him and his reckless sense of humor and tomcatting around from previous books, but there wasn't much focus on his particular personality quirks here, just on the brokenness and longing and self-denial all the others have gone through as well. Apart from being gay, Galen just didn't stand out for me that much from Steven and Ishtvan in the previous books, or Sir Caliban in the Clockwork Boys series. He thinks he's a monster and that he doesn't deserve love, and that when he finds it, the noble thing to do it is to deny it. And he doesn't want to. So he dithers. And so does the object of his lust/love, who also doesn't think he's good enough for romance. Which is all fine, except that was the pattern of so many of Kingfisher's previous books as well.

The third member of their party on their adventure — which I don't want to get into at all because the discovery process is so much fun — is a gnole, and that was really the heart of the book for me, because the author's gnole characters are always a solid delight, and everything new we learn about their society is a gift. And the gnole characters aren't about dithering at all. In fact, the gnole character here is enjoyably dismissive about the human characters' dithering, and how they need to get over it and move on — which is very much how I'm feeling at this point, over yet another couple that both start burning with lust within seconds of meeting each other, but also spend nearly the whole book trying to deny it for various reasons, mostly based in misunderstandings and self-hatred. I'm burning for stories in this world told from gnole viewpoints, if only because while there are definite hints in this volume that gnoles can also experience fraught romantic longing, it sounds like theirs is of an entirely different flavor, and the series could use the variety.

The non-romance part of the plot this time around (which again, I'm not going to get into) is pretty fascinating, especially given how it openly ties into a small unresolved mystery introduced in this book, a big issue around human/gnole relations, a new facet of the gnole caste system, and the Big Mystery hanging over this entire series. But I wish there'd been a little more focus and detail around those things, and a little less on Galen and Piper's "I want to but I shouldn't" romance.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,869 reviews5,035 followers
February 8, 2022
Spongiform Erectile Tissue: A Romance
(with dismemberment)
Profile Image for Danny_reads.
231 reviews87 followers
April 11, 2023
Gosh, I adored this!

This trilogy just got better with each book. Although, I liked Clara and Istvhan, I absolutely LOVED Piper and Galen! They were so cute and I was so invested in their romance. Earstripe, however, must be protected at all cost! I adored him and the friendship between the three of them. I'm super glad that Kingfisher decided to focus a bit more on the gnoles in this book - they are so freaking precious!!!

While the first two books in the series directly build on each other, this one feels a bit more separate in terms of the mystery. It also referenced Clockwork Boys and The Wonder Engine quite a bit more than the other books in this series, so I found the lore a bit hard to follow. I think I'd very much like to reread this book after reading that duology, though.

Overall, this book brought back the atmosphere, humor and tension I adore from all other T. Kingfisher novels.
Author 9 books3 followers
October 9, 2021
THIS WAS SO SO GOOD. All of the books in this series is good but ESPECIALLY THIS ONE and the ending sentence made me YELL.

Read this book! Read the entire series, but definitely read this book!!!
Profile Image for Elena Rodríguez.
683 reviews308 followers
June 20, 2023
« Well, if you want my professional opinion, this great goddamm hole in his chest is probably what killed him. »

Señora, Kingfisher, me rindo. Me rindo ante usted y su forma de escribir historias tan bonitas y llevaderas con personajes carismáticos. Ahora bien ¿Qué peca de falta de información del mundo y necesito más respuestas? Sí. ¿Qué los personajes les faltan un poco de desarrollo sobre todo en su relación frente a otros personajes? También, pero, siempre hay un, pero desde que supe quien era el protagonista de esta historia no dudé ni un segundo en empezarlo. Amé ese personaje desde su pequeña aparición en el primer libro y ha sido una gozarla leerlo.

«The dead didn’t say thinks like “Are you sure he’s dead?”when the man’s head was half off or, “Dear god, what happened?” when it was bloody obvious that someone had shoved a sword through him. The dead just laid there and got on with being dead. »

Quizá el argumento es el que menos me ha gustado, pero siento que con ese final la autora dará pie a una a otra historia, o eso espero. Siento que ha sido uno de los descubrimientos de este año y no puedo estar más contenta.

«But we can still love someone and be loved. Even as broken as we are ».

PD: Me he enterado que hay unos libros anteriores a esta saga sobre el mismo mundo. No puedo estar más feliz. Tengo enganche para un poco más.

«It’s what the Rat does. They solve problems ».
Profile Image for Tijana.
767 reviews207 followers
October 17, 2021
Sad shvatam da nisam ništa zabeležila ni o prve dve knjige u serijalu... a u suštini, sve tri knjige uz vrlo malo promene variraju jedno te isto: laganu i paperjastu ljubavnu priču za koju od početka znamo da će se završiti hepiendom čim se njih dvoje dozovu pameti, i već neki fentezi zaplet. Nije da se T. Kingfišer/Ursula Vernon ne potrudi pošteno svaki put, ali ovo su prosto ljubići kalibrirani za sredovečne čitaoce fantastike koji bi malo da se opuste od stresa i tu nikakvom specijalnom učitavanju nema mesta. Ali jesu krajnje prijatni i opuštajući i nekako nepatvoreno dobronamerni romani i mnogo hvala Ursuli što ih piše jer je život, pa, stresna pojava.
Profile Image for Hannah.
595 reviews1,055 followers
June 22, 2022
In parts absolutely brilliant and it is my favourite of the series but the pacing is a bit wonky. That last sentence though!
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,586 reviews66 followers
August 27, 2022
Ok here’s the final? of this series I’ve seriously loved. It’s Galin the Paladin of the Saint of Steel (and once again I ask how does a god die?) Dr Piper, (be still Galin’s beating heart) and Earstripe the gnole who encouraged them on his quest beyond the city to find out where the headless bodies were coming from. We learn a whole,lot more about gnoles and “snicker, snicker” spongiform erectile tissue! Some very funny moments, awkward moments and sad moments.
Profile Image for Robin (Bridge Four).
1,644 reviews1,512 followers
May 30, 2022
This review was originally posted on Books of My Heart

Review copy was received from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Paladin's Hope is the third book in the Saint's of Steel series following a cast of broken characters who went a little insane when their god died.  Not many made it back from that and those that did are shells of what they used to be but the Order of the White Rat has found uses for them and now we follow the stories of those who are mending just enough to find love, while solving a mystery of course.

T Kingfisher has built a fantastic world here.  The Saint's of Steel series is set in the same world as both Swordheart and the Clocktaur War series.  I will say that it was Swordheart that initially made me fall in love with T. Kingfisher's writing style and I've been working my way through her catalog since.  In the World of the White Rat there are many different gods/saints and the Paladin's or nuns in their service.  Not all are good mind you, some are downright creepy but the Saint of Steel was one that protected people by calling Berserkers into his service.  When he died, they all went berserk as Berserkers do, but with no hand to guide them they did horrible things that many cannot forgive themselves for, in true Paladin fashion.  T. Kingfisher likes to make a bit of fun of the over the top nobility of Paladins and their need to take responsibility for everything.
Maybe a hero is just what we call someone who doesn’t have the sense to stop before they destroy themselves.

Galen is one of the recovering Paladins in the White Rat's service.  He is helping Earstripe, the only Gnole (badger looking creatures that walk and talk and can smell much better than a human) in the guard, in the investigation of murders.  Piper enters the story when they task him to help them determine the cause of death.  Piper is great at his job, as a wonderworker his talent is to be about to touch a body and see the last moments before death.  Very useful as a lich-doctor is basically a coroner used to determine cause of death.  Not many know Piper's secrets as some are distrustful of the magic he can do.

Galen, Earstripe and Piper all head off on a quest to find the source of the bodies showing up in the river.  My favorite gnole from previous books, Brindle, makes an appearance to help get them to where they are going.  I don't want to give too much away because their adventure was harrowing and pressed into so much danger in such a short time Galen is able to get out of his own way a little so he can fall in love.  Piper and Galen seem like a odd couple at first glance but they are both odd in their own ways and are very understanding of each other's afflictions.  It was easy to see why they would fall in love.

I enjoyed this story thoroughly.  Piper is a great character and I'm incredibly interested to see what the next book covers as we might get a few answers on how a Saint could die.  T. Kingfisher has another win with this story full of great characters, a journey into mostly certain death and a world I love spending time in.

Joel Richards is fantastic at narrating a self flatulating Paladin, an insecure but brilliant doctor and some gnoles who are really smarter than all the humans around them.  I have enjoyed his portrayal of the entire series and all the characters within it.  Really a winning combination for this story.  I was able to listen to Paladin's Hope at my usual 1.5x speed.

Listen to a clip:  HERE
Profile Image for Fiona.
1,270 reviews232 followers
December 29, 2022
Days later, Piper was wrist-deep in a corpse.
This wasn't an unusual situation for him. He spent a lot of time with his hands in corpses. He didn't like it. He didn't dislike it. It was just what he did. He enjoyed putting the mental pieces together about why someone had died, and he liked being able to provide certainty to families, but mostly what he liked was being good at his job.
And Piper was, for reasons he kept to himself, very, very good at his job.

Finally it looks like I'll actually finish my book goal this year - cut it close! - and what a great way to wind it down. This series is phenomenal, as is the author; as usual, you can definitely read this as a standalone, but you'll get the little references if you read the books in order, and you get more T. Kingfisher writing that way, too.

I didn't entirely dislike the last book I read in the series, but I definitely thought it dragged. Paladin's Hope definitely doesn't - it's a little shorter, but it's also tighter, the action feeling much more propelled, but still readable. Galen is a sweetheart, though some of the angsting about being relationship ready or not did treat old ground - it might just be that I read this much closer to my last from the series than usual, though.

But most importantly, this hits that sweet spot that T. Kingfisher invented and then wrote a bunch in - funny, imaginative fantasy with a hefty skew to horror in all the right places, and some sweet (and occasionally steamy) romance to round it all out. Oh, and gnolls, who I'm happy to report get a lot more page time in this one (when we get a gnoll protagonist with a mostly gnoll cast is when there's enough of them, that's when). All round a great entry in the series, and I'm SO hanging out for the next to be released!
Profile Image for Stephanie.
Author 71 books1,002 followers
October 12, 2021
Well, this was just wonderful. :) I mean, I'm not surprised - I've loved this series so much - but still. I am beaming at the end of it! Fabulous banter among great, quirky characters, sweet romance, creepy magic, and exciting adventure. Total joy all 'round! And after that ending, I CANNOT WAIT for the next book in this series.

As usual with this series, you probably could read this one as a standalone, but why would you want to? The first two are fabulous, and there's so much pleasure in seeing how the recurring characters have developed.
Profile Image for Scratch.
969 reviews36 followers
June 10, 2022
Still 5 stars, but I'm not as enamored as I would like to be. T. Kingfisher books are pretty much automatic 5 stars. And I am thrilled that this was a male same-sex couple, where always before T. Kingfisher books have featured heterosexual couples. But, I dunno...

This is set in the same wondrous, impossible world I'm getting used to. There are still "wonder workers" capable of performing a single magical trick. One of the two male leads in this installment is a wonder worker. He's a "liche doctor" (forensic pathologist) who can touch a corpse and experience its last few moments before death. Then there are still these paladins dedicated to a dead god. Where the last two books in this "Saint of Steel" series were about two different heterosexual ex-paladins, this one is about a gay male ex-paladin. All the ex-paladins share the same superpower, in that they're berserkers capable of super strength. But because the god they served is inexplicably dead, they are all struggling with depression, and difficulty coming down from their berserker rage after it's activated.

Where the last couple books in this series focused upon a magical mystery, this one has less meat to work with. Previously, the other ex-paladins solved a mystery about who was creating these half-golem/half-zombie monstrosities, killing random civilians for body parts. That was pretty satisfying.

This book, however, has less of a mystery. There is a murderer, and once again the story starts out with decapitated corpses that need to be investigated. But the mystery doesn't last as long and isn't as satisfying. Then, without going into spoilers, the story turned into a medieval version of the "Cube" film franchise.

There was a lot of attention on the same-sex romance. As usual for T. Kingfisher novels, the protagonists are middle-aged or close to middle age. There usually isn't teenage nonsense in these novels, but in this installment, the emotional reactions were a little distressingly melodramatic. Maybe the author just thinks all gay men are like that. But, I shouldn't criticize too much. The author did not indulge any real stereotypes.

One gay man was a warrior, dealing with depression, berserker rages, and nighttime PTSD. The other gay man was a skinny forensic pathologist, a full-fledged medical doctor struggling with his own emotional problems and poor bedside manner. Neither of them engaged in interior decorating or hair styling, for which I am grateful. No character expressed shock at the idea of a gay man being a warrior, for which I am emphatically grateful.
Profile Image for Timothy Boyd.
6,654 reviews35 followers
April 17, 2023
Great last book in the Trilogy. Fantastic world the writer has created with some very interesting ideas. While the story line wraps up there are still some interesting background items left open for future books. I look for ward to trying more of this writer;s work. Very recommended
Profile Image for Oliver.
236 reviews35 followers
May 23, 2023
Had a bit of a difficult time connecting to the romance again, although it was a better than the previous entry. I would also add that I believe T. Kingfisher is a good writer overall. For the most part I feel like the other elements of the story are always well done and my hang-ups are very personal and I'm just very specific in what I like to see in a love story.
Profile Image for Rachel - raguelunicorn.
305 reviews4 followers
October 19, 2021
4.5 rounded up. Hooo boy this was good. I loved the wonder-gauntlet death maze as an alternative to a road trip. I loved the crisp editing. I loved Earstripe and I would die for him. I loved Piper's relentless goodness and commitment to help anyone and everyone. And I LOVED Piper and Stephen's dressing down of Mallory, and Piper's artful takedown of the case against Earstripe. Magnificent and absolutely ruthless.

A few gripes:

In previous books, we are told that Galen has a wicked/inappropriate sense of humor, and that he's a bit of a player. We don't really see that here. He doesn't make any bad jokes, and his pursuit of Piper was not remotely rogue-ish. I wish Galen had been more cheeky and sarcastic with Piper.

Piper should have made it even harder for Galen to redeem himself at the end. Yes, Piper takes Galen at his word when Galen says he no longer wants to see Piper, and Piper certainly doesn’t make it easy for Galen to redeem himself, which I liked. But I think Galen needed to do even more groveling.

A few more random things I loved:

Galen's proposal in the epilogue. It's so cute that he's so dead set on begging for Piper's hand in marriage that he doesn't realize Piper has said yes a few times already.

Piper's ability letting him know how the Saint of Steel died! WHAT THE FUCK is that about. The entire book we know about Piper's ability, and not once did it occur to me that it could be used to somehow discover how the Saint of Steel died. What a way to end the book.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Sarahcophagus.
331 reviews18 followers
October 16, 2021
There’s some questionable goofy decision making by the characters in this but it allowed for some really great moments that I ended up getting over it fairly quickly. It’s a total page turner. It manages to take the best qualities of the previous books in this series and mash them together! I think Piper might be my favorite kingfisher romantic lead and Earstripe my favorite gnole/side character. I highlighted this book to death because literally every passage was THAT good. Keep these guilty paladins coming, T Kingfisher!!
Profile Image for Sophia.
94 reviews45 followers
August 2, 2023

This was one horny, father-effing book. I loved Galen and Piper and thankfully this had a bit more of the humor that I was missing in the second book! I still think I enjoyed the first book best but the plot line here was my favorite of all three. Fun, easy to read. I hope T. Kingfisher keeps up with the series 🖤
Profile Image for Vee.
1,213 reviews95 followers
January 3, 2022

I can always rely on T. Kingfisher to pick me up, which is why I chose to start the year with one of their books. The books in this series are so comforting, they make me laugh and they're super quick reads. I like that Kingfisher can create a really vivid fantasy world with fewer words than a lot of other fantasy series. I think it's because Kingfisher is really married to expanding the world through their characters rather than focusing on the world detail outside of their characters.

I really enjoyed the underground death maze, it sort of reminded me of the 90s horror movie Cube, and whilst the death traps were no less deadly it had a whimsy about it that I've come to expect from Kingfisher. I think a lot of that was owing to the set-up of the death maze with the eventual antagonist. The death maze also allowed for more insight into the Clocktaurs and Wonder Engines. I really need to get on with reading that first series because every time it's brought up in this series I am so enamoured with it.

Earstripe, the gnole, got a lot of laughs out of me and I loved learning more about gnole customs. I enjoyed both Galen and Piper and I liked their romance but I did feel that it was slightly underdeveloped in comparison to the previous two relationships in both Paladin's Grace and Paladin's Strength. I think that stemmed from the majority of the book being spent in peril in the death maze, which was my favourite part of the book but I think it was kind of detrimental to the pacing of the love story. I did really like how Galen and Piper individually explored their feelings for each other beyond lust and attraction. It was made really clear what each of them liked about the other person and why they were a good fit as a couple, which is something that I appreciate when the actual trajectory from like to love seems a bit too quick - it made me invested in their romance despite having issues with the pacing.

I really, truly, hope we are going to get more stories in this world because that last line is something that I've been wanting to know for three books now. I'm desperate to find out what happened!
Profile Image for L.
432 reviews
October 11, 2021
Paladin Galen joins coroner Piper (and Earstripe the gnole) in tracking down the source of mysteriously maimed bodies washed up from the river.

Profile Image for Žarko.
81 reviews3 followers
October 12, 2021
Kratak, pitak i vrlo slešast predah do sledećeg dela KAD ĆE SLEDEĆI DEO?!?!
Profile Image for asdfghl.
169 reviews1 follower
October 9, 2021
that ending???

I just would like two words with the author, being like ‘stunning’ and ‘what do you mean with the last line???’ The second is not a word but you get the spirit. I absolutely love this world, and I’m delighted that so many characters from previous books show up because it’s becoming quite the stunning series! I mean it already was, this author could sell buns to a baker, but again, you catch my drift. Just read it! I feel like this is a hella setup for the rest of the series!!!
Profile Image for Iona Sharma.
Author 9 books117 followers
October 10, 2021
I love this series and this instalment is just as much fun as the others. Slightly more in the way of horror tropes than I was expecting!
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,053 reviews215 followers
May 29, 2023
It took me a while to get to this third book but it’s always such a joy and so easy to find myself lost in a T. Kingfisher book.

I was actually planning to read this one through the audio just like I did the first two but I found myself suddenly impatient and continued with the kindle ebook, devouring the whole thing in just a couple of hours because it was such a delight to read. The writing is breezy despite the murder investigation and a huge part of the book being about surviving an ancient obstacle course of life and death, and even when the stakes are so high, the author manages to keep the proceedings emotional and personal.

Shane is a berserker like his brothers in arms and doesn’t think he deserves love or companion in his life because of his nightmares, but he is a Paladin full of honor and sense of duty, and it’s just so easy to like him. Piper on the other hand is kind of a medical examiner who might prefer working on dead humans instead of dealing with living ones and their emotions, but he is also equally all about helping people and believes in equality and Justice. It’s obvious right from the get go that they are perfect for each other and the author creates some very dangerous and close proximal situations which help them see the other for who they are and develop feelings.

The trio is completed by the absolutely sincere gnole Earstripe who may be discriminated everyday in his position as guard because of his not being human, but that doesn’t stop him from being extremely proud of his job and takes it seriously even when no one wants to listen to them. If this book is a love story of Piper and Shane on one hand, it’s also the story of Earstripe’s belief in getting to the truth as well as the overall perspective of gnoles in this world dominated by humans.

It’s a perfectly blended story of love, friendship, and justice, and only T. Kingfisher can make both dark themes and joyful moments seem like they belong in the same book. I was initially worried that this series would only be a trilogy but the author recently confirmed that she is working currently on the fourth book and I’m delighted that we won’t have to leave this world yet. In the meantime, I’m already eager to get to the author’s upcoming novella.
October 25, 2021
4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 here. My favorite thus far in the series! I felt the pacing improved over the last couple books and the story felt tighter overall, so I zoomed through the book. There is a fun amount of spookiness halfway through the book, but I'm a scaredy cat and held up just fine. I loved the way Kingfisher handled the ultimate conflict in the book and the way it was about Piper's ingenuity rather than fighting out of a tense situation.

The wit, characterization, and creativity were all on par with what I would expect from Kingfisher. Piper in particular was a delight for me and I really adored Earstripe. Kingfisher does such a great job incorporating humor throughout the story, so this one had me giggling at multiple points.

Overall, this one was a delight. Already looking forward to book four!
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
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