Paladin’s Grace (The Saint of Steel, #1)
by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon)

This is one of the most pleasing books I’ve read in a long time. (Not the most original, not the best written, but so, so comforting and fun) It’s the story of some characters with truly awful pasts who are learning they deserve happiness.

Okay, let me try again.

It’s the story of a paladin whose god is ripped away and just tries to get the energy to get up every day to pay back the Temple of the Rat who took in himself and his other brother berserkers…and who knits. (what else is guard going to do when most of his life is spent standing around). And its also the story of an orphan with a nasty master who nevertheless honed her natural ability to smell and discern scents into a master perfumer level talent…just in time for an egotistical man to marry her, use, her, and convince her she’s unlovable.

There’s also some court intrigue and a serial killer hanging around the less savory parts of the town cutting off heads.

And a weasel-cat that eats pillows. And a Bishop named Beartongue who is a formidable and clever lady of advanced years.

But mostly its Stephen suffering in his noble way trading humorous and self-deprecating banter with his berserker besties and Grace the perfumer being obsessed with scents and ingredients and slowly realizing she’s actually quite awesome. There are some steamy bits, but mostly its self-aware and tinged with humor (our couple meets as they pretend to be having a tryst against a brick wall to hide Grace from nasty priests of the Hanged Mother and Stephen mainly thinks about how his chain mail is pinching his waist).

Basically, it was just a lot of fun hanging out with all the characters, and extremely comforting to read about the Temple of the Rat, who are called to be lawyers and clerks and public defenders and organize bread lines when people get flooded out of their homes. It was so comforting, after this year of acrimonious USA political rhetoric and corona disasters to spend time with people intent on doing their broken best for each other.

More organized religion needs to be like the Temple of the Rat.

Anyway, this is a lovely romance with intriguing world building and quite a lot of humor to disguise the deep brokenness of the characters. They are all quite loveable and now I think one of the most romantic gestures of all times is to knit someone socks during the cold rainy season, and to truly, truly listen when someone tells you their preferences about where to touch them during physical intimacy.

Definitely going on to the rest of the series.