The Armored Saint by Myke Cole

The Armored SaintThe Armored Saint

by Myke Cole
Series: The Sacred Throne, #1

Hardcover, 203 pg.
Tor Books, 2018

Read: February 28, 2018

“My strength is the Emperor and His Holy Writ.”

“Aren’t you pious for one who is so green at the sight of the Order?”

“The Emperor is divine. The Order are just men. You don’t fault a whole faith just because some of its agents take to brigandage. My faith kept me through the war, and it hasn’t failed me after.”

I’ve tossed out a couple of drafts of a paragraph of synopsis, and am tired of trying, so I’m just going to cite the jacket copy:

In a world where any act of magic could open a portal to hell, the Order insures 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.

Lord Acton famously wrote to Bishop Creighton, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This idea drips from almost every page of this book. Not that there was a whole lot of absolute power funning around — one member of The Order was close, and one other liked to act like it. But there’s a lot of people with enough power (of various kinds) that their tendency to corruption is problematic for everyone around them. It’s not the prettiest of worlds, but it’s a good setting for a conflict-filled read.

In the midst of this is a nation(?) ruled by a religion — including a scripture that may or may not be correctly interpreted by the religious authorities (who have plenty of civic and martial authority), although there’s no doubt that their application could use some work. They rule (and protect, if you use the term generously) this region through fear and intimidation. But you have to admit, what they’re doing works. Which doesn’t excuse the terror they inflict, but it suggests that somewhere there is an orthodoxy at work.

There are no really likeable characters here, everyone is flawed, but you cannot help but hope for the best for some of them — because they are unlikable, flawed people. Most of them are just trying to make it the best that they can for themselves and their family — and their neighbors, if possible. There are plenty of characters that you never want the best for (aside from repentance), and a couple of characters who jump from “hope for the best” to “hope they die horribly” column. This includes the protagonist — honestly, the more time we spent with her, the less I was that interested in her survival. Really, I liked her about as much as you can like Anakin in Attack of the Clones — thankfully, I like her friends and family.

Whether the Military Fantasy that we’re used to from him or this traditional Fantasy, Myke Cole knows how to write fight scenes (and other scenes of violence). This is seen particularly in the final climactic battle — it was so exciting that I found myself racing through it and having to pause and go back to make sure I understood what happened and hadn’t missed any details. Visceral is really the only word to use there.

I don’t understand how in the middle of this pretty generic Middle-Ages Europe-y fantasy we get war machines. They’re like what Tony Stark would’ve come up with a couple hundred years ago. They absolutely don’t belong to the setting — but neither does magic, so if the reader can buy one, you might as well buy both. Especially when the exosuits are so cool.

Still, at the end of the day, I was underwhelmed. It’s a rich world with characters that a reader can really sink their teeth into. But you just don’t get enough. Two hundred pages isn’t enough — The Armored Saint almost seems more like a 200 page set-up and/or advertisement for the sequel. Am I planning on reading The Queen of Crows and (most likely) The Killing Light? Yeah, I think I’ve even ordered the second one. But I’m not as excited for them as I should’ve been.

I expect my opinion to be in the minority here, so fill up that comment section with all the ways I’m wrong about Cole’s latest (or at least some of the ways).


3 Stars

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole

Gemini CellGemini Cell

by Myke Cole

Nook, 384 pg.
Ace, 2015
Read: February 4 – 9, 2015He started off strong three novels back, but Myke Cole is one of those authors who gets discernibly better with each book (I assume that will stop at some point — not that I’m in a rush for it), and this one seems like a major step beyond Breach Zone. So when I say this is a well-written book, I mean really well-written. But man, I really didn’t enjoy this book. It’s not his fault, well, let me rephrase it: it’s not Cole’s abilities or voice this time. I don’t know what it is. I guess I just don’t like the story or the characters all that much, as skillfully as they’re delivered to us?

Early on in the Great Reawakening, years before (possibly many) the Supernatural Operations Corps is in full swing, the U. S. Government has begun to use magic resources for its own ends (and, presumably, other nations are doing the same). One of these resources is a magician who can take the recently killed and unite their body and mind (slash soul?) with the mind (slash soul? again) of a long-dead warrior to create a Firestorm-like entity to use as the ultimate special-forces operator. Because somehow, this union gives them super-strength and abilities, while not feeling any pain or bleeding. As they’re technically dead, they can use them for anything, and if things don’t go right on the mission — oh well, what’s one more corpse? It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’ll do for now.

So, we have Jim Schweitzer, loving husband, doting father, and SEAL. His professional artist wife, Sarah, doesn’t fit in with the other Navy wives, and is really tired of not knowing where he is, when he’ll be called upon for a mission, and so on — puts her foot down. Family or Team. Just as he’s about to choose, a hit squad of people who shouldn’t know who he was, somehow find out and invade their home, wounding Sarah and their son and killing Jim. Giving the magician a fresh subject. Jim turns out to be one of the best (if not the best) of this reanimated soldier project, partially because he holds on to his humanity and memories better than most.

Sarah and Jim’s team member Steven, grieve his death (unaware that he’s not totally dead) and support each other in this time — while trying to figure out just what happened to his body, which is mysteriously not available for burial.

There’s one character we spend far too much time with given what happens to him/her by the end of the novel. One character who might as well be twirling a mustache in a couple of scenes. Mostly, everyone is this mix of motives, morality and action which are probably intended to depict the gray-ish nature of us all, but frequently come across as the products of an indecisive narrator. Jim battling his new soul-mate for control is just the most obvious example of the good vs. bad in all of us.

Cole explores similar themes to his past work — how honorable people/soldiers can function in inherently less-than-honorable conditions and systems. Who, ultimately, do soldiers fight — and why they do so. Cole’s said that this is to be a not at all subtle metaphor for PTSD, and I can see that — I’m just not sure it’s a helpful one (yet).

While I said Cole’s at the top of his writerly game, this isn’t a perfect book. At least once, he repeated a metaphor within a couple of pages (I don’t normally get that picky, but that one really took me out of the moment). And his sex scenes? Not good. They’re not Tom Wolfe bad, don’t get me wrong. But they read like . . . exactly like a sex scene written by a guy who’s better suited for describing Special Operations forces eliminating high-value enemy targets.

My major beef with this book is the magic. We’re four novels into this world by now, and the previous three have established some pretty clear rules for magic — at least the types of magic usually displayed in the U.S. But it’s clear that there might be variations throughout the world. So, it’s believable that we’d find another type of magic here. Also, this takes place quite a while before the Shadow Ops series, so changes may have occurred between now and then — if magic can appear and reappear, it can evolve, right? But it still feels too different (realizing I might have misunderstood this book, or the three others) — particularly the different (deeper?) magic that comes into prominence in the final chapters. I’m not saying there’s not a decent explanation for this, there very well may be — but given what we know about the universe this just doesn’t work. Which shouldn’t take away from the really strong and effective way that Cole used this bending/breaking of his own rules, because the last couple of chapters were great.

See what I mean? I can’t decide what I think about Gemini Cell — and I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of weeks, started writing this three days ago (you probably can’t tell that a lot of effort was put into this, but trust me). At this point, the only thing I’m sure of is that I’ll be back for the sequel, Javelin Rain, and hopefully that’ll wash all this away.


Rating: I’m still not sure — somewhere between 2.5 – 4.5, I think.

Review Catch Up: Beautiful Redemption; Breach Zone; Chasing the Prophecy; Fiddlehead

I’ve got a backlog of 40-plus reviews I’ve been meaning to write — some of them, I just have to admit aren’t going to get done. But I’m going to try my level best. The four books I’ve decided to tackle in one fell swoop are the concluding novels from series I enjoy, and yet I’ve had trouble reviewing them. On the whole, there’s no reason for it — I should’ve had at least a few paragraphs of material on these, but I can’t seem to muster it (especially given how much time has gone by).

But I do want to clear these off my to-do list, so, without further ado, a few words on these series finales:

Beautiful RedemptionBeautiful Redemption

by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Paperback, 451 pg.
Penguin Books, 2012
Read: November 19 – 20, 2013

On the one hand, this was not at all like the rest of the series — and yet it was a very fitting conclusion. Garcia and Stohl wrapped up everything that needed wrapped up, answered every lingering question (not always as I expected), and generally, did so in an emotionally satisfying way. I wouldn’t have thought that this book would lead to a spin-off series, but it fits.

If you’re into Paranormal YA, this was a very satisfying conclusion, and probably the best of that genre I’ve read.
4 Stars

Breach ZoneBreach Zone

by Myke Cole

eBook, 384 pg.
Ace, 2014
Read: January 31 – February 04, 2014

I really, really liked all of Myke Cole’s Shadow Ops series — a gritty, believable mix of Contemporary Military and Fantasy, and yet, I’ve never reviewed one of his books. Don’t ask me why.

This, the conclusion to the trilogy, is just outstanding. You know how at the end of (pretty much) every fantasy novel, there’s this big, epic battle that takes up most of the last ¼ – ⅓ of the novel? That’s pretty much this entire book. Okay, not really — there’s plenty of backstory, character development and wrapping up the trilogy. But while reading, it sure felt like it was an epic fantasy battle on the streets and in the waters of New York. Somewhere in there, Cole looks gain at questions of patriotism, duty, ethics and morality — and how people of integrity can try to harmonize them all (and, more often, how those with integrity can’t harmonize them all). Seriously, awesome stuff.
4 Stars

Chasing the ProphecyChasing the Prophecy

by Brandon Mull

Hardcover, 512 pg.
Aladdi, 2013
Read: December 2 – 5, 2013

Wow — Mull concluded his Beyonder’s trilogy in a fantastic fashion. Given the target audience, I couldn’t believe how many deaths there were in this book. But, not in a gory or exploitative way. Just a huge body count. But, the core of this book remained the same: these two Beyonders, Rachel and Jason, risking everything for the sake of Lyrian. There’s sacrifice, honor, loyalty, and courage — all the necessary elements of a tale full of heroes — natives and Beyonders, warriors and children, those with many lives and those with only one to lose. Which is not to say it’s not fun — there’s a lot of fun to be had by the characters and the readers. Great way to go out.
4 Stars


by Cherie Priest

Paperback, 368 pg.
Tom Doherty Associates, 2013
Read: November 12 – 14, 2013

Nice looking book — love the cover, the layout and the graphics are great. I miss the brown ink — what gives, Tor? Sure, the content is the important thing, it’s just nice when the package it’s wrapped in is nice to look at. Speaking of content — this (like the rest of this group) is a fitting — and thrilling — conclusion to the series. Lincoln (wheelchair-bound following the unsuccessful assassination attempt at Ford’s Theater) and President Grant working together near the end of the Civil War to protect a freeman scientist who built an early computer — the eponymous Fiddlehead. Fiddlehead is the best chance to end the War without making everything worse. The presidents, with the assistance of Pinkerton agent Maria Boyd and intelligence from — well, everywhere else this series has focused — in order to begin to deal with the Rotters. I think it’s possible that Boyd is my favorite character in the series — in the Top 3, anyway.

I just didn’t want this series to end, I understand it needed to, but man…just didn’t want that.
4 1/2 Stars