Sebastien de Castell – Saint’s Blood

How do you kill a Saint?

Falcio, Kest and Brasti are about to find out, because even Tristia’s most powerful Saints are turning up dead and the entire country is convinced it’s a sign that the Gods themselves oppose Aline’s ascension to the throne.

Now the Dukes are using the murders as an excuse to weasel out of their agreement to reinstate the Greatcoats, providing a golden opportunity for the Inquisitors — the Church’s own duelling magistrates — to take up the burden of enforcing justice … their own much harsher form of justice.

If he’s going to stop the Inquisitors, Falcio has to find the Saint-killer.

The only clue is the terrifying iron mask encasing the head of the dying Saint of Mercy — but even if it does lead him to the murderer, Falcio will still have to face him in battle.

And this may be one duel that no swordsman, no matter how skilled, can ever hope to win.

After I finished the second book in The Greatcoats series, Knight’s Shadow, I couldn’t wait to dive into Saint’s Blood, because I needed to know what happened next. This third instalment in the series was just as exciting as the previous two and even more gut-wrenching emotionally. Falcio and friends are back and have to face yet more foes bent on keeping Aline from the throne. 

In Saint’s Blood we learn yet more about Tristia’s history and the different orders that used to keep it safe, such as the Cogneri or the Inquisitors. I really liked the way that they were introduced and how we are shown both the best and the worst of them. The very best of them is Quentis, who shows the purest motivations and goals of the Cogneri, instead of the corruption and fear mongering the Inquisitors have come to embody. They are also seen as the greatest threats to the Saints, which is why Falcio quickly suspects them of being culpable in the disappearance of the various Saints.

The Saints are another element of Tristian history that we learn more about. We learn about how the Saints first appeared and how their powers are transferred or not. And we even discover that new Saints can still be born. The Saints are fascinating both because of what they represent and the way they are contrasted to Tristia’s gods. The Saints represent the best of humanity and they reinforce the concept they embody. They are also more visible and tangible than the Gods, because unlike the Gods they walk amongst humanity and seemingly are more responsive. The murder of the Saints is the core mystery in the book and is dark, but De Castell also uses it to create some levity by having a running joke throughout the novel with Brasti invoking more and more obscure or made-up Saints because he doesn’t know which Saints are still alive or how the new Saints are called.

The Saints are as much supernatural as religious entities, but they are not the only ones we learn about. We’d previously met the Tailor and learned about her supernatural powers, but we learn that she isn’t the only one of her kind and what exactly her ‘kind’ is. Her counterpart (or one of them at least) is the Blacksmith, who is incredibly creepy. He is the leader of a group called God’s Needles, who are absolutely terrifying. Their religious fervour and blind obedience to the Blacksmith was frightening and made for compelling adversaries for the Greatcoats, especially given their supernatural enhancements.

Aside from the deaths of numerous Saints, there are a number of other high impact deaths in this novel. In fact, no one seems to be safe and at least one of them made me cry. The death of the Saint of Mercy means that Ethalia has to take up the mantle for which she has been groomed, but this has far-reaching effects, but for her and for Falcio. At first the fact that Ethalia’s Sainthood comes between her and Falcio made me a bit weary, because it seemed as if it was just a good excuse to have Falcio keep pining after both his first wife and Ethalia. But De Castell took it a very different way and I really liked how he developed their relationship. What I really loved about Ethalia’s arc though was how her Sainthood changes her own views and determinations about the nature of Mercy and how she picks her own path.

For Falcio losing Ethalia means losing another support pillar that he needed to prop himself up in his struggle with dealing with the aftermath of the Lament. He’s suffering from PTSD; I’d argue he’s been suffering from PTSD for the entire series, but he’s reached the point that he cannot hide it from the rest of the world anymore. He has terror attacks that make him freeze up and he has a hard time controlling his reactions. The exploration of Falcio’s trauma also allows us to learn more about how he’s dealt with previous traumatic experiences in his past. I think it’s no spoiler to say he did so badly.

Saint’s Blood is an exploration of trauma wrapped in a murder mystery covered in a rich sauce of swashbuckling goodness. The book ends on a high note after we witness Aline’s test at the final battle and her courage and grace. But the final pages also see the delivery of ominous news that lets the reader know that the adventure is not yet over. Saint’s Blood is a fabulous continuation of one of my favourite series of the past few years.

This book was provided for review by the publisher.