A medieval society where the clergy has taken it upon itself to drive out wizardry by force to protect the people from the demons this will eventually draw out. They take to this task with gusto and indiscrimination, much like the Inquisition did in the middle ages, revelling in their self-righteous power and asserting their dominance every chance they get.
In this context we meet Heloise, a
12 16 year old girl woman that lives in poverty together with her father, helping him apply his trade as a writer. One day when they are travelling to the next village, they meet the Order (a bunch of religious pricks that keep the people down under their iron boots, by divine right – and the power of their weapons) on the road and everything seems to go downhill from there.
All in all the story is quite simple and doesn’t really need me to write much about it lest I spoil the experience.
The Armored Saint has a relatively small cast, with Heloise as our main protagonist. The story is written entirely from her point of view, a thing that isn’t always best and in this case it actually bothered me quite a lot. If I had known that this was a YA novel before I started, I probably never would have picked it up. As I didn’t know, I did, and I am now reminded why I don’t read YA.
Heloise is a 16 year old woman (a woman grown even, the book goes to great lenghts to remind us of this fact multiple times using that exact same wording EVERY. DAMN. TIME.) who I would have pegged as an 11 year old girl after meeting her (and now knowing her age). The way she thinks and acts does not match her age. A fact that is demonstrated from the get-go as in the opening scene we see her do one stupid thing after another, showing a staggering lack of self-control or any common sense. It got me sighing and eye-rolling almost instantly.
In fact, it’s this erratic behavior of hers that’s actually driving the plot throughout the entire book, because if she would have behaved sensibly right there and then, nothing would have happened. In fact, there’s numerous points in the story which could have ended the story immediately if only she would think before she acts. There’s a lot of “I couldn’t control myself even while knowing it was a stupid thing to do”, but that’s just what self-control is. Her not being able to control herself is more consistent with an 11-year old child than with a 16 year old adolescent. I’ve come up with a name for this kind of thing. There’s books that are character driven, or story driven, well this one is stupidity driven. There wouldn’t be a story if she acted smarter.
The other characters are all more interesting than Heloise, but since we only get to see them through her eyes, there isn’t much to be learned there. She idolizes her father, has a major crush on her best friend, pities her mother and adores the travelling merchant. Her crush on her best friend, who happens to be another woman grown, takes up about 25% of the story and is so incredibly cringeworthy like only a YA novel can be. Mind you, it would be just as cringeworthy if her crush would have been a boy grown. More eyerolling ensued.
Despite my ranting in the previous bit, I’m glad to finally turn to something more positive. Myke Cole paints a world that, despite not being very original, feels very real and very grim. The Order rules by Divine right and is all-powerful. Their job is to root out wizards, because they carry within them a portal to hell, through which demons would come to enslave mankind. So all in all, a noble cause. Sadly, they’re also a bunch of power-hungry asshats who use their power and status to keep the population controlled and serving their every whim. Yet this does match up with human nature, sadly, and it’s all executed very believeable.
The steampunk asset was also a nice touch, although I did find that there was very little of this used in the everyday lives of the villagers. We see early on that the tinkerer (steampunk-blacksmith) has a device that helps animals in pulling heavy loads, but other than that, we don’t get much evidence of steampunk stuff being used to help with chores or anything, without there being any explanation on why this is so scarce. Still, A+ worldbuilding.
Another thing that I enjoyed, was the writing. Myke Cole has a very fluid way of describing scenes and progressing the narrative. Only downside here was the fixed first person POV.
Storywise, this wasn’t a bad book. The worldbuilding and writing are on point, but sadly the protagonist is an idiot, which completely ruined my experience. Then again, for people who like YA and are used to this kind of character, this probably is a great book. So take my rating for what it is, my personal experience with it, and not indicative of what yours will be.
2 stars, because it mostly hit all the required checkboxes for a good book despite not entertaining me.