Review: The Armored Saint

“Fear is a deadly thing, Heloise. It can drain a person of all their strength, make them weak before their enemies.” ~ Myke Cole, The Armored Saint

The Armored Saint by Myke Cole
203 pages
Tor.com, 2018
Genre: Fantasy
Re-readability: There just wasn’t enough there for me to want to revisit this one.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars


Reviewed by Pete

Spoiler-free review

Set in a dark, medieval world in which the ubiquitous Order protects the public from magic users—who could open portals to hell—The Armored Saint is bleak and bloody, but with occasional glimpses of hope.

Heloise is a young woman and the daughter of a scribe, Samson. She and her father try to keep their heads down an do what the order tells them (or forces them) to do, but before too long, they begin to see the evil of the Order’s ways.

I was very excited for this one—a mini yet epic fantasy trilogy is an exciting idea. Unfortunately, I felt the same way about this as I did about Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (another Tor.com novella). It had too little story stretched over too many pages.

Heloise has an interesting and complicated relationship with her best friend, Basina, who is betrothed and about to be stolen from Heloise by the duties of a wife. This relationship, unfortunately, is not explored in depth—nor is Heloise’s relationship with her father.

Heloise is a frustrating protagonist. She is either too passive or too bold, and she makes few good decisions (I hesitated to pluralized “decision”). She is constantly referred to as “a woman grown,” a strange phrase that pops up once every 20 pages as if to remind the reader that she is nearing adulthood. I don’t know what the relevance of this is. At no point are adult responsibilities put in front of Heloise. She bumbles around, coddled by everyone. What steps is she taking in preparing for adulthood? None that I found.

The novella’s main flaw was its repetition. We are shown the same scene at least three times: The Order arrives in the village and threatens Heloise or her father, and each time, the Order leaves them with a warning. The first time this happened, I was prepared for Samson’s death and Heloise’s call to action. Instead, the scene repeats itself, spaced apart by a few chapters, and no changes occur as a result.

This novel can be boiled down to four or five key events, and I feel that it would have worked better as a short story. The characters were plain and the dialogue was awkward and sometimes cutesy, and all of the main relationships were simple and unchanging. The end of the story saw some changes, but not many. This book felt like the first two chapters of a much longer piece.

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