Genre: science fantasy
Pairings: f/f, m/m
Queer Representation: cis lesbian, cis gay, cis bisexual
Warnings: wonky feelings on skin tone and aliens
Over two hundred years ago, a colony ship from Earth was knocked off course and forced to settle an undeveloped new world. Those that were asleep when the disaster struck became colonists. Those that were awake and shepherding the ship became gods with superhuman abilities. But the native life of the planet has had enough, and supernatural abilities or not, humanity’s dominion over the planet is about to be called into question.
This had the bones of a good story. Supernatural humans ruling over normal humans, some in-betweens, a hint of space lesbian romance, what’s not to like? The worldbuilding was strong without being overbearing, and the interpersonal interactions generally resonated. The dynamics of the ‘gods’ on the ship, especially, were very engaging. Some great one and two-liners cropped up, too, such as this gem:
As she watched them, Cordelia thought of how humans would have called the scene love at first sight or soul mates or some other crap. Leave it to the less technologically advanced species to reduce it to chemistry.
Unfortunately, it was very had to really sink into the novel. There were innumerable POV characters that swapped out mid-chapter and sub plots that always seemed to hint but never deliver. Relationships, both friend and otherwise, settled in at a lukewarm pace and never had time to become fully realized. A number of very exciting conflicts were set up, but then the characters seemed at times to be paraded through them instead of being allowed to move organically. Much of the dialogue came across as stilted approximations of witty banter, lacking emotional depth.
The best relationship was between Cordelia (a main POV character) and her solider/drinking buddy/general screwup Liam (a minor POV character…I think? I think he had a few paragraphs?). The damsel-in-distress pick up scene on pages 12-13 (paperback), in particular, was fantastically well done and one of the main reasons I kept giving this book a chance. The banter throughout those pages was exceedingly well done and it was very easy to empathize with all parties. That it lead to a stock bar scene on a secondary Earth didn’t matter. It was relevant, and it spoke to experience, and it was everything I was hoping for from PALADINS OF THE STORM LORD.
Dillon (god, main POV character) and Lazlo’s (god, minor POV character) relationship was the most complex of the book, skating around toxic relationship issues with solid POV moments from both characters. There were plenty of times, however, where I wanted to really stay and explore their dynamic, just to be pulled from them after only a few paragraphs. As the book progressed this became more and more problematic, until these otherwise three dimensional characters felt as flat as cardboard.
Skin tons on aliens
There was a lot of description of the aliens and their brown skin, and much less of the humans. Human characters were routinely introduced with hair or eye color, not skin tone (although that was occasionally dropped in later) but the aliens were almost uniformly presented as ‘skin tone.’ It was… othering, although it’s possible the author was trying to add social commentary via this channel (the publisher’s website does have the book tagged under POC) but personally, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t know if it would for everyone.
The action scenes were decent and tension sustained at a moderate level throughout the book. Fans of military sci fi that has the bones of fantasy, as well as those looking for more queer inclusion outside of straight romance, will likely enjoy PALADINS OF THE STORM LORD. You can purchase the book here in ebook and here in paperback.