Book review: Paladin’s Sword

The weekly book reviews continue! This week I’m reviewing Fiona Grey’s debut book, Paladin’s Sword, the first in the Professor Porter series. We are introduced to Dr. June Porter, newly minted PhD in folklore and military history, on her way to her first full-time position at Paladin University in New Hampshire. In addition to her new PhD, June is also in possession of magic which, unlike the PhD, she would like to put behind her. But the universe is a fickle thing, and it has other plans for her.

Here’s the blurb:

Dr. June Porter is headed for New Hampshire as a professor, brand-new PhD in hand. The last thing she wants in her new life is more magic, so of course that’s exactly what she finds. Magic, and a mysterious Irishman with emerald eyes. But there’s little time for dalliance when historical artifacts begin taking a life of their own and threaten the campus. Can June reclaim her magic, protect her students – and keep her job?

We meet June as she is struggling with the multiple complexities of moving across country, the mountains of paperwork needed to begin a new job, and a cute new neighbor. On top of that she’s got a, shall we say, less than supportive dean, with a vicious administrative assistant.

June is an introvert who nevertheless loves talking about her research whenever possible and struggles to keep her magic hidden. One person who is as interested as she is in her research is her new neighbor Peter Ridire, IT specialist and diplomat, and it turns out he’s sitting in on one of her classes. He seems to want to help her which is useful as June needs all the allies she can get. The dean has dumped responsibility for an upcoming conference in her lap and expects her to fail, thus providing him with an excuse to fire her.

Her pesky magic not only refuses to go away but turns out to be quite useful when the artifacts for part of the conference take on a life of their own…and a very threatening life at that. Reclaiming and reconciling herself with her magic is one thing June must do.

Grey’s description of the labyrinth facing new faculty hires is spot on. To do x you need an ID. Where do I get an ID? Over there. You need proof of employment to get the ID that says you’re faculty. Where do I get that? Where is my office located relative to any classrooms? How does this even qualify as an office? And, once you figure all that out, there’s the first day of classes. No matter how well-prepared one feels, it is never enough. Grey does an excellent job capturing the feeling of walking into a classroom, in a new university, for the first time, gazing over a sea of faces and praying you don’t screw up too badly. On top of that, there’s always that one student…

The action in Paladin’s Sword is fast paced, but not overwhelmingly so and there are plenty of twists. The characters are well thought out and fully realized. The intermingling of university politics, the confusion of the new hire, and the chaos of an on-campus conference are true to form and provide a multi-faceted background for the main action. This book is the first of a planned series and I am looking forward to the next installment. In the meantime, I’ve been reading some short vignettes on Grey’s blog, and she’s also just released Glitter a short story with Peter and June.

Grey gives a great insider’s view of life in academia (okay, so I’ve never had to deal with malevolent armor, but the rest is accurate) and the machinations and interactions of students, faculty, and staff topped off with magic. If you want to read more of Fiona Grey’s work, I recommend heading over to her blog where you can find more adventures with June and Peter.