Paladin by Sally Slater
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Lady Samantha of Haywood has always been a tomboy, but after a demon kills her mother, she decides to become a Paladin--a demon-slaying warrior. There are no female paladins, however, so Sam practices in secret for two years, then runs away from home, chops off her hair, disguises herself as a boy, and invents a new heritage in order to begin her training. She is assigned both a mentor and a roommate. The first is her hero and the man who saved her life. The second is a half demon/half human whom the other students taunt and fear. After the trio save the training fortress from a demon attack--the first in its history--they are sent on a quest to learn more about a new fighting force rising in the East, the Uriel. Their orders are to capture the leader of the Uriel and bring him to meet their High Commander, but all is not as it seems, and new information shifts allegiances.
I'm so glad this is the first in a new YA fantasy series! I absolutely loved it and stayed up way past my bedtime because I couldn't put it down. Sally Slater did an outstanding job building the relationships between Sam, Tristan, and Braeden, and I can't wait to read the next book.
There were a few puzzling things here and there, such as how Sam managed to keep her sword practice truly a secret in a castle full of servants, why she thought her father didn't care about her in the slightest, and how she could hope to maintain her masquerade while traveling when her companions would know she never had to shave and did have to (presumably, unless on this world reproduction is different) deal with menstrual cycles which are never mentioned, but these were minor in comparison with the overall arc of the story.
For readers' advisors: Most YA fiction has story as the primary doorway, but this book was more about character development and world-building, although plot was also strong. There was a small amount of swearing (mostly "shite"), and a some sexual innuendo (primarily during the scene when Tristan decides Sam needs to "become a man" and drags both trainees to a brothel...which doesn't go so well). Otherwise it's a pretty "clean read." This would be an excellent read-alike for fans of Tamora Pierce, particularly her Alanna the Lioness series.
Many many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read a free Advance Reader Copy in exchange for my honest review.
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