Published: April 7th 2016 by Jo Fletcher Books
Format: Hardcover, 576 pages
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How do you kill a Saint?
Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they've started with a friend.
The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumours are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors - a move that could turn the country into a theocracy. The only way Falcio can put a stop to it is by finding the murderer. He has only one clue: a terrifying iron mask which makes the Saints vulnerable by driving them mad. But even if he can find the killer, he'll still have to face him in battle.
And that may be a duel that no swordsman, no matter how skilled, can hope to win.
In Saint’s Blood, the third instalment of the Greatcoats series, our heroes Falcio, Kest and Brasti struggle to save their country from an ever-growing threat. Their enemies are smarter and stronger, the world is darker, and the stakes have never been higher. While enjoyable, this book felt repetitive and confused, and like the main characters, I mostly felt tired while reading it.
The world-building, previously one of my favourite aspects of the series, was confused in this instalment. Not only was there a new enemy — the relentless God’s Needles — the book introduced an entirely new theological element absent from the first two books. The sudden appearance of the Church, organised clergy and Inquisitors (enforcers) felt rushed and artificial. These elements were hastily thrown together with no thought to logic — surely the Inquisitors should’ve at least been mentioned earlier, if not actually shown up when Kest became a Saint.
To top it off, mysteries introduced in the previous books continue to linger — how are the Trattari, Badratti, Dashini and now Cogneri related? What were Kest and Brasti’s secret missions from the King? And although we now have a name for the Tailor and her kind, her role in the narrative (aside from being the magic solution to every problem) remains unclear.
And where, exactly, is Trin? Did she really sit back and watch everything happen without taking advantage of the chaos?
Saint’s Blood lends truth to the quip that sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. Falcio and his friends, broken and beaten, spent this book running from one threat to another. Instead of being exhilarating, I found it tiresome — I wanted them to stop and think before they acted rashly. Falcio, in particular, spent much of the book fixing problems he’d created either through hubris or inaction. This is not a new character trait but I feel that, three books in, he should’ve learned his lesson and exhibited some character growth.
The witty banter and ill-timed humour between the trio was one of the best aspects of the book, but where they were previously an unstoppable team, they seemed off-kilter in this book, as if something was missing. I also liked that the roles of the female characters like Valiana, Aline and Ethalia was expanded.
The romantic plot was the weakest element of this book. The insta-love between Falcio and Ethalia had never made sense to me but in this book, their romance was a source of endless and unnecessary dramatics. It felt forced, the tension and angst were more suited to some high school cafeteria than to the situations in this book, and it made no sense. Brigid didn’t have the same issues Ethalia did! Added to this was the lingering spectre of Falcio’s first wife, which was disappointing because I thought the entire thrust of Falcio’s character growth in Knight’s Shadow was that he’d learned to let go of the past.
Overall, Saint’s Blood wasn’t as strong as the previous books in the series, which I fear is losing its charm. I hope the fourth and final book, Tyrant’s Throne, delivers on the great world-building, interesting magic, and amazing camaraderie promised in de Castell’s debut.