Paladin by Sally Slater

(Pub: Perfect Analogy Publishing, 2015)

Paladin by Sally Slater is another Wattpad success story.  It currently sits at…wait for it…11.4 million reads and 258K votes and has now been published. It has over 840 ratings on Goodreads – not bad for a book that was published in May this year.
Lady Samantha Heywood, daughter of the Duke of Hayward is a young woman whose life is laid out before her – duty and marriage.  Samantha knows she wants more in life, but isn’t sure what “more” is.  After witnessing the murder of her mother by a demon and narrowly escaping the same fate, Samantha decides to change the course of her life.  After training in secret, Sam Heywood joins the Paladins, an order of knights whose role is to protect the kingdom from demons and other threats – of course they don’t allow women in their ranks. 

This is a familiar story line, but you forget that and simply enjoy it, as it’s well executed. Slater manages to create engaging characters with emotional depth. Sam is fallible and her character evolves throughout the course of the novel, as do those of the two main male characters.

Here we have a teen who feels trapped and rails against her future, yet doesn’t initially know what she wants – this might be a fantasy novel, but right there in the first few pages is something many in the YA core readership will relate to.  (We know almost immediately what is at stake for our heroine.  Structure 101- I wish I read more manuscripts that got this right so quickly.)
I like the fact that Slater’s heroine has to work hard for what she wants, is not perfect and confronts and often overcomes sexism. On the adventure side of the story, she also faces human and demon adversaries;  there are some excellent battles.  None of her trials are without cost.  There is an emotional cost in terms of her life choices and family as well as a physical cost to her battles. She does not magically defeat her enemies as if she were invincible – she is battered, bruised and nearly killed but doesn’t give up.
What I dislike supremely in fantasy novels is romance dominating the plot entirely (geez people when this happens – just call it a romance, please) and Slater does a very good job of balancing the romance aspect of this story with the action.  The reader is presented with the golden haired stereotypical hero and the dark “bad boy” as Sam’s potential love interests, however what I liked is that the relationship that Sam finally chooses has been based on a friendship that has developed into something more.  It is also a relationship based on mutual respect.  There are all the requisite “sparks” and “sizzle” but not at first sight – thank goodness. 

Slater has written an excellent, fast paced, YA fantasy novel.  To her credit she has provided her readers with a heroine who succeeds in following her dreams, despite many difficulties, and who finds romance without having to compromise her own ideals or career choice – bravo.

This is a rollicking adventure and a great weekend’s escapism – I  thoroughly recommend it.
Four Stars.