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  • Writer's pictureGeoff H.

Outstanding debut novel.

The Paladin’s Path by Jessica M. Dawn is the first book in a new fantasy series featuring a wonderful group of characters and setting. Nameless has fled his small village to arrive at the capital with grave news. His friend Aneilu was recently killed and now Nameless must tell Aneilu’s parents of his death. Nameless doesn’t expect any more than to convey this tragic news, but suddenly finds himself being asked by Aneilu’s parents to stay with them. Not only to stay, but to take on a task that Aneilu’s father says has been given to him when he prayed to the god Malaa for guidance. Aneilu’s death was the result of the brutal crackdown by the Queen’s guard – the Wardens – on rebels upset with the Queen’s rule. Malaa’s wisdom is that Nameless should seek revenge against the Queen by joining the Paladins – the guards sworn to protect the crown prince and other royal heirs – then rise through the ranks and become a Warden to get close to the Queen so that she can be assassinated. It all seems too much for Nameless, who reluctantly agrees to this plan. But as Nameless joins the ranks of the Paladins he finds that there is more going on, that not everybody is who they seem to be, and that the choices he must make will require him to open himself to others and embrace who he really is.

The Paladin’s Path is a great book in a new series. Jessica has done an amazing job of giving us wonderfully complex characters and a plot that twists and turns, keeping you wondering what will happen next. On the surface this is a heroic fantasy story, but once you dive into it there is so much more going on. The setting – the capital of Kierwater, the Lanivi countryside, and the smaller towns and villages – all had me thinking of Full Metal Alchemist with the mix of fantasy and technology. Add to that a stark divide between the haves and have nots, and Jessica has created a great canvas onto which to explore her world.

But for me what makes the story shine were the characters. Starting with Nameless – a character who literally starts out with no name – to Cheka, Kres, Aon-Je, and Jest, everybody has so many layers and depths to them. While this may be a fantasy story, in reality it is a story about identity and knowing who you are, knowing your true self, and accepting who you are. (Many of the characters are LGBTQ, and seeing their own exploration of who they are, and how other characters react to them really made their experiences and growth stand out.) It seems that everybody has a secret to hide, and as these secrets are revealed you are drawn deeper into their lives. The transformation that Nameless makes in the story may be the most impactful, but I found the journey and discovery revealed for the other characters to be just as exciting. My only disappointment was that the kiss you want to happen with Nameless and {SPOILERS} doesn’t happen! Maybe in the next book?

If you are looking for a fantasy set in a fantastic new world with complex and real characters, then look no further than The Paladin’s Path. Jessica M. Dawn gives an outstanding performance for this debut book. I can’t wait to see what happens next and how her characters continue to grow and develop.

The Paladin's Path will be released on November 11, 2019. You can pre-order it today for Apple, Nook, Kobo, and other ereaders.

You can follow Jessica on Twitter.

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