Saint’s Blood is the third book in The Greatcoats quartet by Sebastien de Castell. I have written about both of his previous two novels, Traitor’s Blade and Knight’s Shadow, and ranked them among some of my all-time favorites. They earned this distinction because they are two of the funniest books I have ever read featuring a lovable cast, exciting plot, heart-touching writing and inventive world. De Castell’s books are written in the style of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers, and to quote myself, “are a story about a group of magistrates called greatcoats who are tasked with traveling the land, hearing the pleas of the people (great and small) and making sure the law is upheld. They are sort of like duelist lawyers if you will.” This third novel in the series continues to build upon this world and takes previously unexplored ideas and characters from the first novel and paints us a brand new picture.
The plot of Saint’s Blood is hard to talk about without spoilers, but know it picks up a little time after the conclusion of Knight’s Shadow as our band of heroes do their best to hold together what is left of the government. As the greatcoats are trying to establish that they are still relevant in the world, a mysterious figure begins a religious crusade to murder the living saints of the world and throwing everything into chaos. With this, de Castell continues to impress me with his ability to expand on small aspects of his world established in previous novels. For example, previously, the only real thing we knew about the saints, or the religion of this world is that there are occasionally individual saints who function as living personifications of an abstract concept; such as the saint of mercy, Birgid-who-weeps-rivers. Much like he did in Knight’s Shadow, de Castell expands these seemingly minor details from previous books into an entire new background for his world that feels natural and well-planned. The religion in the story feels fresh and interesting, as well as being reminiscent of the Templar order that everyone knows. The addition of these details, and a focus on expanding the circle of characters in the story, makes Saint’s Blood feel like it increased the scope and complexity of The Greatcoats universe and gave the story more life.
While there is plenty of new content to sink your teeth into, Saint’s Blood still has at its core all the things that made the previous novels great. The writing is still unbelievably funny and playful, making it just fun to read. De Castell has an author’s voice that makes his prose fun, witty, and unique. On top of this, the story and characters really hit home. With the number of books I’ve read for this blog, I find myself a little jaded when it comes to scenes that are supposed to be emotionally moving. Saint’s Blood was having none of that, and broke through my cynical shell with some of its beautiful and poignant moments. Finally, one thing I really want to give de Castell credit for, both in Saint’s Blood and its predecessors, is his ability to make the mundane incredible. It is impressive to make a warrior cool, but it is even more so to make things like lawyers and craftsmen badass. De Castell treatment of the greatcoats, and their villains, makes the books feel innovative and helps them stand out among his other talented contemporaries.
However, the book was not perfect. There were times when the pacing suffered a little as action ebbed and flowed with little to no warning. Additionally, the writing at times was slightly unclear, and I found myself having to reread the occasional passage to make sure I understood what was happening in a scene. There was one passage in particular where an antagonist seemed to have just fallen out of the scene completely and I could not locate them no matter how hard I looked. Despite these complaints, their impact on my enjoyment of the book was minor and I really only noticed them in hindsight after I have finished the book and put it down.
When I read City of Blades a few weeks ago, I thought it would be unlikely that a book could compete with it for my top book spot for this year. It turns out that those thoughts were premature, and I am going to have to spend a long time considering what books were best when I make my top ten list this year. Saint’s Blood is a powerful addition to The Greatcoats series that made me lament that there is only one book left in the quartet. Do not hold off on picking up this sequel, and if you have not yet read Traitor’s Blade, I highly recommend checking it out.
I was provided an ARC by Netgalley.com in exchange for an unbiased review.