I started The Armored Saint with zero knowledge about the book; I didn’t know what it was about, and I had never even heard of the name Myke Cole. What captured my attention was Robin Hobb’s blurb and its stunning cover art by Tommy Arnold. Luckily, I’m pleased to say that the book’s tone totally matched Hobb’s blurb (“Ruthless and heart-wrenching”) and the quality of the book itself exceeded the quality of the gorgeous cover. I guess you can say that judging a book by its cover worked wonderfully this time.
The Armored Saint, the first book in The Sacred Throne trilogy, is in fact only the second time a short book or a novella made it to my “favorites of all time” shelf, the first one being The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson. Cole has truly created something special here; right from the first chapter, the story pulled me in and never let go until the end. Told solely from Heloise’s perspective, I found the plot highly engaging up to the incredible action-packed climax sequences. It’s immersive and it dealt with a lot of intriguing topics that fit our current societies, such as faith, familial and LGBT love, but most of all, injustice and persecution.
“..while your thoughts are your own, the words you let past your lips belong to the world, and the world will not always take the meaning you intended.”
The story direction is not plot-driven; I don’t think it was ever meant to be written that way, and was instead a heavily character-driven story. Because the author used this storytelling direction with an exceptionally well-written main character, I was never bored while reading this book. The main character, Heloise Factor, has become one of the best female protagonists I’ve ever read in any book.
“Heloise Factor is my favorite kind of hero, the one who makes mistakes and suffers for them, and comes out swinging anyway. I can’t wait for you to meet her.” –Myke Cole
And I’m delighted to have met her. Her raw emotions, her innocence, her struggle with love and her identity can be felt through each word. In fact, by the middle of the first chapter, I was already worried about her fate. This, of course, doesn’t apply to Heloise only; the side characters, especially Samson, Clodio and Basina are all equally well written despite the book being told solely from Heloise's POV in third person narrative.
All of these were achievable due to Cole’s prose that felt incredibly vivid and totally brought the raw emotions of the characters to life. Believe me, I wish I can share all the quotes that I highlighted and tell you what a wonderful experience I had reading Cole’s prose, but it’s better for you to find out by yourself. Surprisingly, the discussion about love in this book moved me the most. There was also stunning world-building that was introduced meticulously: dark medieval setting, violent fanatical religious group, a portal to hell through an eye, magic with repercussions, and War-Machines. With all of these aspects combined, I couldn’t possibly ask for a better start to a trilogy in a short book.
Remember, all of this happened within the scope of fewer than 200 pages; what many authors usually require 400 pages or more to do, Cole did exceptionally well in half the number of pages. This deserves high praise from me and trust me, I’m quite petty when it comes to giving praises. It actually shocked me to learn that this is Cole’s first grimdark fantasy; he captured all the essence of grimdark fantasy magnificently without showing any gore or unnecessary violent scenes; he instead emphasized more how brutal and harsh reality can be. However, in the midst of all the injustice, he never forgets to remind us that love and kindness remain two of the greatest gifts that humanity can bestow upon one another.
“That love is worth it. It is worth any hardship, it is worth illness. It is worth injury. It is worth isolation. It is even worth death. For life without love is only a shadow of life.”
I read through the ARC edition of this book within three hours; on that front, I guess I’m screwed because there are still five months left until the official release date of this book, which means my wait for the second book will be even more painful. However, I’ll wait patiently; if the rest of the trilogy maintains this quality, I have no doubt that The Sacred Throne will be one of the best trilogies I’ve ever read. Cole is truly a long-awaited addition to grimdark fantasy and I’m sure fans of the genre—or just great fantasy in general—will be damn pleased to welcome him aboard once this book appears on the market.
P.S: Although Tor categorized this book as a novella, I should let you know that its length is almost 200 pages, which easily fits the criteria of a short book instead of a novella.
Release date: February 20th, 2018. You can pre-order the book HERE