My second book of 2005 – Paladins by Joel Rosenberg – was finished while I was sick. It has an interesting premise with King Authur being a tyrant and having been overthrown by Morgred.
While that premise is interesting, it basically has nothing to do with the story. As a matter of fact I felt confused through most of the book by it. I kept expecting it to matter, but it never did. If I’d just gone in thinking, the Paladins are British knights, I would have been better off.
The main plot revolves around a group of Paladins, knights sworn into religious service to the King. Some Paladins are given with the soul of a person fused into them. If the person was a good person and a willing participant the sword is White. If they were evil or an unwilling participant, the sword is Red. Both are carried by the good knights, because they can be controlled by those that wield them, and they have incredible power. But using them is draining and not easy, so the Paladins carry a mundane sword as well.
The plot is driven by the appearance of a new Red sword and the quest to find the other new swords and those who is creating them.
First and foremost the book is a mellui story, taking you on a tour of the northern Mediterranean. You see the interaction between British empire and the Dar/Islamic one. There are pirates and a great deal of discussion of sailing ships. Really too much detail. A sailor might be able to follow all of it, but I just glazed across most of it. I did find the medieval marine’s life interesting.
There are a number of interesting characters in the book. All the major and most of the minor ones are richly drawn and have unique personalities and quirks.
Cully the reluctant former Paladin, shows a real understanding of people and what you would hope Paladins are really like.
Niko, the fisherboy made into a Paladin, gives you the outsider’s view.
Grey, the tortured soul. He carries the Red sword with the soul of the Khan in it, and is sure he’s destined for hell.
Bear, a Paladin who carries the White nameless, and is one of the few truly and actively good characters I’ve seen written in a while.
Admiral DuPrey, a land bound seaman, was a delightful curmudgeon.
All in all a interesting book, and I’ll probably read the coming sequel.