Paladin’s Strength (The Saint of Steel, #2)
by T. Kingfisher

Istvhan the berserker, ex-Paladin (his god, the Saint of Steel, who used to focus his berserker anger at the evil died, so now he’s just a dangerous warrior) gets his story in this second book of the series. Istvhan and Galen have been sent on a quest to trace the source of the strange, pottery-headed monsters who were biting off people’s heads in the first book.

Their journey takes them on the road where he encounters a nun, or lay sister as she keeps insisting, of the order of St. Ursa. Her sisters have all been kidnapped and she’s on a quest to track them down and get them back.

Istvhan and Clara find commonality in each other both in their protectiveness and their strengths. This book is far more action-oriented and rooted in multiple political parties than the first book, showing a stronger sense of the world, but also getting a tad confusing/bogged down in the details sometimes.

However, our paladins are quippy and earnest as ever, and Clara satisfyingly active as well. She’s not about to give up her quest, nor martyr herself because of her secret, but she convincingly opens herself to the possiblity of love (although the fraught moment when Istvhan confesses his love and she answers “that’s nice” is a hoot).

I got a little confused about necromancers and the clay headed guys. It seems that Galen gets sent off at the end to look further into something I thought they’d resolved–but I was confused (thus the minus of a star, or probably half a star).

I continue to be in love with the Temple of the Rat. Here we get to see an overwhelmed temple in a busy city that echoes the woes of modern day life. We also get to see Istvhan battle as a gladiator as well as confront his fear of water.

I do hope Kingfisher does write Galen’s story as this series is such a comforting, alternate fantasy read with really engaging characters (even if all the paladins are a bit similar in my book) with some imaginative bad guys.