The Fourth Paladin
By Maria Mercurio
More than anything, Maya wants to experience the life of a normal teenage girl, instead, she’s forced to live by a strict code of ethics and purity. Her family’s bloodline makes her one of very few candidates eligible to become a Paladin; a woman capable of splitting her soul to bring forth and join with a being of immense power. Being picked to become a Paladin is rare, yet she must follow her family’s strict rules until her twentieth birthday when she will finally be free of the burden. As her freshmen year of college is coming to an end the possibility of first dates, parties, and being able to act her age is within reach.
That is, of course, when the call comes.
The literal man of her dreams is ripped from her soul to become flesh and blood. Maya believes her fantasy of eternal love will be made into reality, and being a Paladin is frightening but has major heart palpitating benefits. Sadly, Chay is all business. Smoking hot on the outside, but no warmth on the inside. The world needs saving, and he is hell bent on doing the job, no matter how battered and bruised they get, inside and out.
The worst part for Maya isn’t having to fend off demon attacks or even accepting her death will most probably be a violent one. Nope! The worst part is, she’s falling in love with Chay, even though he expressly told her not to.
The Fourth Paladin was not what I was expecting, so I am struggling to write this review. There is a small dose of religion occurring within its pages. I am not completely surprised by this, after all we have Paladins and demons. What I was not expecting was the addition of two main characters Samson and Delilah. Sound familiar?
In older biblical tales we would learn that Samson was a man of tremendous strength. He soon met and fell in love with Delilah who was ultimately his undoing. She betrayed his secrets to the Philistines in exchange for payment. Very condensed version. To my surprise The Fourth Paladin was somewhat of a retelling of Samson and Delilah. And I do say surprise because there is nothing in the blurb that would have led me to this conclusion. The pleasant part of this surprise is that the author managed to reimagine this in a truly unique and refreshing way.
This is actually two stories the eventually merge to form one. We are introduced to Maya who has spent her life sheltered in attempts to remain “pure” due to her inherited bloodline that makes her a candidate for being chosen as a Paladin. In order to become a Paladin, the chosen one must be pure of mind and body and offer themselves as a sacrifice. They must give a part of their soul to another being, conjuring them forth to share their life with battling the demonic invasion that is occurring on Earth. They will be bonded together for life as part of one another. However, Paladins must be selected before their twentieth birthday. So Maya lives each day awaiting the big 2-0 so that she can finally proceed with a normal life.
Much to her disbelief and dismay, Delilah arrives one night to take Maya from the only life and family she has ever known. She has been chosen and must decided whether she is prepared to sacrifice and fight. Maya soon discovers that Delilah made the very same sacrifice many years ago and gave part of her own soul to bring forth her life partner Samson. Together they will guide and train Maya.
The plot was a love/hate relationship for me. I struggled continually with just exactly how I felt about the events unfolding. I am not a fan of the “chosen” scenario. It has been done more times than one could ever possibly count. But I also am unable to write it off as some very amazing stories have started with being “chosen”. And while perhaps it is a trope that is over utilized, it always has potential for great character development. When we take a protagonist who has been forced into a situation and handed the unexpected, the possibilities are endless. There is unlimited growth and emotional development that can occur.
So why did I struggle with this plot? For one simple reason, it was full of original ideas but I only enjoyed one side of a two-sided story. To understand, we have to look at the narration. The Fourth Paladin as mentioned is not only Maya’s story, but Delilah’s. Each story is told in alternating point of view broken down easily by paragraph. Maya’s story unfolds in current time and Delilah’s begins in 1100 BC. The author has done a wonderful job of tackling these transitions in an effortless manner that assures the entire timeline ultimately merges with ease.
Delilah’s tale fascinated me. I anticipated each chapter that revealed more of this history as seen through her very eyes. Her growth and development was rewarding to follow. As a female protagonist, I appreciated seeing her weakness and strengths revealed and overcome with the passing of time. Samson was infuriating at times. He was new to being a human and did not fully understand how to appropriately act on the desire he held for Delilah after being joined with part of her soul. She was relentless though, always questioning and pushing back to establish her place and find her way in a time where the roles of women was significantly different. She was full of depth and added tremendous value to the book.
I struggled with Maya however. While clearly overwhelmed and confused by her new life, she just lacked any credible emotion. I expected some young angst and heartache. I wanted to see the raw core of her. Her entire life was stripped away and yet she felt devoid of so much. She was also too strong too soon. I found myself lacking any connection with her character. I was continually rushing to read more about Delilah. Maya was lost on me.
While this was technically the story of two women, Maya’s almost felt unwarranted. Aside from the brief introduction into how she becomes a Paladin, the remainder of her tale consist of nothing more than training and her complicated feelings for her new partner. At times I felt as though I were reading two different stories entirely. While the author managed to eventually connect the two lives in a way that made sense, the character development and world building that took place within Delilah’s tale far outweighed what we were provided in Maya’s.
There were some unique elements that are not to be overlooked. The connections that were shared between the Paladins as a result of their sacrifice to summon their partners was original and full of promise. We are also provided with some rich and well-developed history that I thoroughly enjoyed. The strengths and weakness of the Paladins along with their healing abilities and other properties all fit very well.
While I feel that the story could have benefited from the omission of Maya entirely, all was not lost. This was a fun and fast paced read that still managed to entertain. The narration is fluid and the author managed to uphold the time transitions through dialogue and accurate descriptions and world construction. I really enjoyed her smooth style of writing. While, the conclusion was a bit vague and opened ended, there is still a large amount of promise and possible potential to be built upon.
*I would like to thank the author for providing me with this copy. The above review is my own, unbiased opinion.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐