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Paladin's Strength: 03/26/21
Paladin's Strength by T. Kingfisher is a follow-up, companion piece to Paladin's Grace. On the romance front, paladin Istvhan meets his match in nun Clara.
Clara is accidentally rescued by Istvhan. He is leading a party to find and stop the source of the smooth men golems. Clara needs to rescue her sisters who were kidnapped. Both have secrets. Both feel an instant zing. Both are too polite to act on it for two thirds of their journey.
Clara in a couple dozen pages earned her place as one of my favorite T. Kingfisher/Ursula Vernon characters. She's big, strong, sexy and knows what she wants. Yet she respects personal boundaries even when it's clear the other party is also interested. She's also deliciously blunt after she gets to know a person.
The mystery of the smooth men comes to a satisfying conclusion. Their source isn't anything I would have expected. Their progenitor ended up reminding me of a fantasy world's version of George E. Ohr. Paladin's Strength like most of Kingfisher/Vernon's books, sits on the road narrative spectrum.
Istvhan and Clara are a scarecrow / minotaur pair of travelers (99). Both are protectors (scarecrows) and both because of personal secrets/history see themselves as minotaurs (monsters).
Their destination is the wildlands (99). Specifically it's the source of the smooth men and the location of the missing nuns. The location is off the beaten path.
Their route is the maze (CC). Sometimes its literal for them — especially in the rescue of the nuns, once they've been found. Throughout, though, their journey is full of blind alleys, misdirection, and life threatening dangers.
Summarized Paladin's Strength is thematically about scarecrow/minotaur travelers going through and to the wildlands via the maze (9999CC).