The Armored Saint by Myke Cole
Publisher: Tot Books
Publication date: 07 March 2018
Page count: 208 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
This is a spoiler-free review.
The novella is really evolving into a fantastic medium for storytelling, especially in fantasy. No longer are novellas simply a way to tide readers over until the next book in a series — they are becoming a force to be reckoned with. Myke Cole’s The Armored Saint is the perfect example of this. It is a beautifully composed and fully-realised story of oppression and those who stand up against it, told in just over 200 pages.
In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order ensures that no wizard will live to summon devils, and will kill as many innocent people as they must to prevent that greater horror. After witnessing a horrendous slaughter, the village girl Heloise opposes the Order, and risks bringing their wrath down on herself, her family, and her village.
Oh man, what a great book. Despite the fact that it is just over 200 pages long, The Armored Saint packs in so much fantastic world building, thoughtful and complex characters and motivations, as well as incredibly cool magic. In a way, it feels like it could have been ripped from the pages of our own history with its Inquisition-inspired religious order. The Armored Saint is a slow burn story that deserves to be savoured, but don’t be fooled — it is ruthless, heartbreaking tale of cruelty and oppression, but also hope and the fierceness of the human spirit.
Heloise, our main character, is a teenage girl living in poverty under the thumb of this terrifying order. I absolutely adored Heloise — she’s complex and angry, but still very much a teenager with a lot to learn about the world. In fact, I really liked the fact that on top of all the issues Heloise deals with, she’s also struggling with her sexuality. Cole writes her, and the other LGBTQ characters, with such delicacy and realism that I think many readers will appreciate. Cole has gone right up to the top of my list of authors currently writing the best women in fantasy.
I cannot recommend The Armored Saint more highly, especially if you’re looking for LGBTQ representation, a gritty fantasy world with an interesting magic system, or just strong characters rising up against oppression. I loved The Armored Saint so much, in fact, that I’ve already picked up the sequel, The Queen of Crows, and am eagerly awaiting the publication of the final book in the trilogy later this year.
CW: Homophobia, gore
Want to give The Armored Saint a try? You can find it at the following sites (affiliate links):