Review: “The Paladin Caper” by Patrick Weekes
(I received a copy of “The Paladin Caper” by Patrick Weekes in exchange for my unbiased review. The novel will be published Oct. 27.)
SPOILER ALERT: There are some spoilers for “The Paladin Caper,” as well as earlier books in the series. You have been warned.
Let’s just get this out of the way first: God damn it, Patrick.
Fans of Patrick Weekes’ work won’t be surprised by that sentiment, but I cursed him out a lot while reading “The Paladin Caper”; in fact, towards the end of the book, my notes just devolve into characters’ names in all caps, a lot of question marks, and “GDI PATRICK” over and over again.
Despite this (or maybe because of it), I like this book—a lot. It’s the most genuine and just plain fun book I’ve read in a long time.
“The Paladin Caper” by Patrick Weekes is the third installment of the “Rogues of the Republic” series. It starts a few months after the end of “The Prophecy Con.” Though you’ll certainly get more out of the novel if you’ve read “The Palace Job” and “The Prophecy Con” beforehand, it is absolutely not necessary. (I would still recommend reading all three because they are hilarious and moving and rage-inducing in the best possible way.) Weekes explains enough of the back story in an engaging way, getting new readers up to speed without putting off those who have already read the first two novels. Longtime fans will get the pleasure of seeing things that happened in the previous two books come to fruition in third in a fairly satisfying way.
“The Paladin Caper” drops you right into the action and features the witty repartee and fast-paced fight scenes that characterizes the series. The gang is back together and up to their old tricks; this time, Loch, Kail, Desidora, Tern, Hessler, Icy, and Ululenia need to foil a plot to prevent the ancients from coming back into the world. The ancients’ plan doesn’t mean anything good for the current inhabitants of Heaven’s Spire, the Empire, the Elflands, and the Republic—but this isn’t surprising given that the ancients view them in much the same way we view dogs or cattle. Add in a kidnapping, a blood-thirsty ax, and a unicorn slowly discovering her sexy side, and you’ve got a recipe for hijinks, hilarity, and Loch’s biggest con yet. Loch, a former scout and the protagonist, lives by a surprisingly ethical code for a thief: Fight the enemy, not their people. But the ancients—including Arikayurichi the ax and Ghylspwr the warhammer—don’t play by the same rules, going after their enemies’ loved ones. This ends about as well as you might expect.
One thing I love about Weekes’ writing is how great he is at subverting expectations, both with his characters and with the plot. There are people of color. There are female characters of all kinds. There are queer characters. There are characters with different body types. There are characters with disabilities. They all have one thing in common: They’re all just people. Loch isn’t a Strong Black Woman or even a Strong Female Character; she’s a black woman who absolutely kicks ass, but she’s also loyal and funny and great at tactics, and she makes mistakes and tries to fix them. Tern is different than Desidora is different than Ululenia. Weekes’ characters are vibrant and feel real instead of a Potemkin village of diversity bingo.
The same holds true with the plot. The structure of the novel shifts, following the perspectives of different characters before weaving together to create the whole plot. Here, too, Weekes is great at playing with readers’ assumptions, allowing them to believe one thing—say, a main character dying, just as an example—before turning it on its head. I fell for this over and over again, even though I knew Weekes was doing it and that Loch is too smart to get herself into a situation she can’t get out of. In hindsight, everything comes together, but I found myself on the edge of my seat more times than I’d like to admit.
There are several interesting subplots going on, but the one I found the most engaging and somewhat disturbing was Ululenia’s. The unicorn struggles with self-acceptance after doing something necessary but antithetical to her nature: killing another fairy creature. Her friends notice something off about her but keep putting their misgivings aside until some undefined later. But the more she kills—at first only to protect her friends—the more she wants to kill until eventually it all comes to a head. Her descent is charted in various ways but most directly in her physical form. She also goes from innocent looking iterations of herself—a blond woman in a simple dress, a dove, a unicorn—to something more dangerous: a seductress in a tight dress and tousled curls, a creature with fangs and claws. It parallels well with Desidora’s struggles in the previous novels in balancing two disparate roles: being a love priestess and also a death priestess. The scenes between Diz and Ululenia are poignant and touching, an overall lovely depiction of female friendship.
“The Paladin Caper” has it all: great fight scenes, excellent writing, romance, magical creatures, multi-faceted villains, betrayal, humor, and so much more. You’ll definitely want to pick this one up. But do yourself a favor and pick up a paper copy; if you’re like me, you’ll end up throwing it across the room at least twice, and books are cheaper to replace than iPhones.