Part One Score: 94/100
Part Two Score: 90/100
Part Three Score: 93/100
Overall Score: 92/100
Let's just get this out of the way: this trilogy is SOLID AS A DIAMOND!
Why hast thou done this, David V. Mammina? Why dost thou torment thine other competitors with thy compelling characters and more-than-halfway-decent writing thou hast wrought in thy mercy?
These books are not the knockout hit that “The Angels of Resistance” was, but they do the job. Like the aforementioned novel, “Redeem the Knight” parts one, two, and three exemplify the fantasy genre with their great characters, high stakes, and big set-piece battles. And this is a top-heavy story. Remember how the first 100 pages of "The Angels of Resistance" were kinda generic and boring but then it picked up? This story starts off with all the bombs dropping, then dips, then recovers.
It's actually unfortunate that we have to compare this to Mammina's other work (along with the others in the competition). Everything in “Redeem the Knight” can be almost directly compared to “The Angels of Resistance,” and usually not favorably. For example, the main protagonists in both stories—Arl Baelin and Michael Miuriell—are very similar. In fact, they're almost identical. It's hard to tell them apart aside from just the fact that Michael was more of a wizard and Baelin is more of a warrior (a paladin more specifically). However, that's not entirely a bad thing. We'll go into why. The stakes are also very similar, and the villains (the Reapers) behave a lot like the Demon Plague, all the way down to how they keep and torture people who require rescuing. They are despicable, but oddly not to the degree that the Demon Plague was despicable. We don't really hate them to the same degree that we hated the Demon Plague, we're actually more annoyed with them and want them to die because of that.
The main villain, Kirik Cainum, is actually menacing, trumping many of the other villains we've read about in this competition. However, he gets old really quick in a way that Sattka never did. He lacks the charisma and intangibles that Sattka was just oozing. In a sense, we just kinda got tired of hearing about Kirik Cainum. There's supposed to be a very personal protagonist-antagonist relationship between Baelin and Cainum; yes, it's there, but it stops being interesting after a while. Maybe it was just too long to be chasing the same villain the whole time? Yes, revenge plots are interesting, but not when they drag. There are only so many “you almost had him!” moments before the audience calls BS.
It almost felt like he could've died in part 2 and we would've been fine with it. Maybe he could've had an evil overlord evil-overlording over him the whole time, or even more interesting is if he was betrayed by his lieutenant who then became the new main villain. Or maybe there could've been a splinter group from the Reapers that had Baelin's number for whatever reason and menaced both sides.
The battles are action-packed and detailed. Still, they're not nearly as interesting or tense as the ones in “Angels of Resistance.” They're definitely some of the best though.
The author just gets it. He gets the very simple, tried and true formula. There's a likeable protagonist, a despicable villain, and people needing to be saved who deserve saving. None of the characters suffering under the Reapers deserve or signed up for what's happening to them. Most of them are women, children, and the elderly. That dynamic makes this book very compelling. There are also times when major characters are in legitimate peril and need to escape it somehow. It gets really tense.
The hero, Baelin, is a very good man and a very noble/honorable person who shows compassion to those in need of saving. That was something that also made Michael great. Neither is someone who leaves people behind or relishes in the suffering of the innocent. Baelin is also seemingly a classic Christian paladin who still tries to do the things that he believes Christ would want him to do. However, we encounter a similar problem to “Angels of Resistance” in that we're not sure if this is really a “Christian” fiction book or not. Like in “Angels of Resistance,” some of the theology just doesn't seem to fit very well. There's also a character in here who is constantly cursing—you could argue that he's using the Lord's name in vain depending on how you view the third commandment (some view it as meaning not to do evil in God's name while others believe it means not to pretend to speak on behalf of God). However, there's no way a typical Christian is going to hear this character cursing like that and say, “Yes, this needs to be on my Sunday school shelf.”
But Baelin is a great role-model in so many ways, and he's not obnoxious either. Unlike Michael Miuriell or Gilraen (from “Gilraen and the Prophecy”) he's not ridiculously overpowered and untouchable. He can get knocked down and bleed like any mortal man. He's just a good fighter with a fierce fighting spirit. There's no restart button, resurrection-powers, or insta-healing to be found with Baelin. If he dies, he stays dead. If he loses a limb, he loses a limb permanently.
There's also a dog in this book.
Anyway, what really makes this book amazing is the character dynamic between Baelin—a paladin—and Gideon—a witch. Gideon isn't just any witch, she's the infamous “Witch of Swamp Hill.” She has a very strained relationship with Baelin, with whom she has a child, but the two come together for the common purpose of rescuing their son. Baelin and Gideon are a terrific odd couple. We were pulling for them to set aside their differences.
Did we mention there's also a dog in this book? We almost conflated the son and the dog and thought they were the same character at some point because they're both named Alec. One of us thought that Baelin and Gideon were doing all this to save their dog. Baelin goes full John Wick over the dog, and it's hilarious to think about.
Check out this trilogy on Amazon!