T. Kingfisher aka Ursula Vernon

Books: Fantasy | Romance | Queer | YA | Comics

Clocktaur War: Clockwork Boys (2017), The Wonder Engine (2018)

The Saint of Steel: Paladin's Grace (2020), Paladin's Strength (2021), Paladin's Hope (2021), Paladin's Faith (2023)

Swordheart (2018), Minor Mage (2019), A Wizard's Guide To Defensive Baking (2020)



Clocktaur War

Clockwork Boys, Audio Book (2017/2019) narrated by Khristine Hvam

Clockwork BoysA paladin, an assassin, a forger, a scholar. Three of whom have been sentenced to a suicide mission as repayment for their crimes.

The have to get into Anuket City, find a scholar's lost journal, and discover a way to stop the monstrous Clockwork Boys, who are waging war upon everyone.

So, I finished Swordheart and still didn't know what else I wanted to listen to, so I decided to start Clockwork Boys, which I actually haven't read before. (This almost never happens with fiction.)

Imagine my shock when the story starts and I recognize the narrator. It's Khristine Hvam who narrates Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock and Soulwood series.

To be honest, this is slightly distracting, only because Learned Edward and a couple of other random characters sound exactly like Alex Younger.


As far as the story, I immediately started listening to the next book.

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

December 2023 | Rating: 8.5/10

The Wonder Engine, Audio Book (2018/2019) narrated by Khristine Hvam

The Wonder EngineThis book picks up where the previous book left off.

The group has made it to Anuket City, but have to find Brother Amadai, avoid the crime lord who wants Slate dead, and somehow stop the Clockwork Boys.

I'll be honest, I'd guessed one of the big surprises that happened, but that in no way changed my enjoyment of the story. (And there was some foreshadowing of part of it.)

As noted with the previous book, I almost never listen to audio books I've never read, and this was another exception. I was tempted a couple times to switch to the ebook, but I had things I needed to get done, so having an audiobook I really wanted to finish was extremely helpful with that.

This was another excellent story, although I did find the gnoles a little less developed than they are in later books.

Just another reminder of why I should just read all of T. Kingfisher's fantasy books.

Publisher: Brilliance Audio

December 2023 | Rating: 8.5/10

The Saint of Steel

Paladin's Grace (2020)

Paladin's GraceStephen was a paladin for the Saint of Steel until that god died, and all his paladins went mad.

The remaining seven paladins now serve the Rat, in gratitude for taking them in and giving them some purpose.

The Rat's priests fixed things that could be fixed, and when things were broken past all mending, they helped people pick up the pieces.

But their god is still dead, and the berserker tide is still within them.

Grace is a perfume. She arrived in the city with nothing, and built up a business, and now she has been requested to create a perfume for the visiting prince.

Leather, metal, gingerbread. Soap. Warm skin. It had been a good scent. And there was just no way to reproduce it. You couldn't distill skin.

Well, maybe you could, but the authorities would frown on it.

First and foremost, I adore Stephen.

He wished that he could break out his knitting, but for some reason, people didn't take you seriously as a warrior when you were knitting. He'd never figured out why. Making socks required four or five double-ended bone needles.

Stephen and all the other paladins.

"Istvhan, you ever kill someone with an ice swan?" he whispered.

"I clubbed someone unconscious with a frozen goose once. That's similar?"

The Bishop suffered a mysterious coughing fit.

"No, you had to use the goose as a bludgeon, didn't you? For the swan, I figure you'd snap the head off and try to stab with the neck."

"Hmmm…" Istvhan eyed the ice sculpture speculatively. "It's pretty big. And not well balanced."

"I figure you'd have to go two-handed with it."

"I think I'd grab one of the candelabras instead. Some of those are nice and heavy."

"Far too unwieldy. I could take you apart with the ice swan while you were still trying to get the candelabra off the ground."

How could I not love that?

I adored the world building: the paladins, Beartongue the bishop, the perfumery, and the paladins.

Stephen sighed and took refuge in ritual. "Shrive me, brother, for my heart is heavy."

There is a romance here, between Grace and Stephen, but I found that the least interesting part of the story.

I definitely wanted more time with the paladins. And Beartongue. And Zale, solicitor-sacrosanct from the Temple of the Rat.

Publisher: Red Wombat Studio

April 2021 | Rating: 8.5/10

Paladin's Strength (2021)

Paladin's StrengthIstvhan is a Paladin of a dead god. When the Saint of Steel died, every paladin went mad, sub-coming to battle rage, and only a few survived the madness. Those who were left went on to work for the Temple of the White Rat, assisting as they can.

She narrowed her eyes, studying him thoughtfully. "No, no, I see what it is. You see a hurt you think you can heal. It's like paladin catnip, isn't it?"

That blow was so precise that Istvhan was surprised he wasn't bleeding,

Clara was kidnapped with her sisters, and is now seeking out any nuns who might have survived. She ends up with Istvhan after an incident with the group that nursed her back to health.

She had spoken so blithely about escaping her captors and traveling by night. His first thought had been that such things were a great deal more difficult than civilians thought.

Each has a secret they are desperate to keep, for fear of what will happen when if that secret gets out.

What is best about these two characters is how they snipe at each other…

"Do you have a name?" he asked.

"I do. Do you?"

His lips twitched. "Yes?"

"Excellent. We are both named beings."

…and how they try to remain honest while keeping their secrets.

"Would it be okay with you if we just agree that we're both sorry and then skip to the bit where we've forgiven each other and stopped feeling awkward about it?"

Also, there are some delightful characters who appear and then disappear. Such as this little old lady who feels she needs to look out for Clara.

"You will treat her well."

"Yes, ma'am."

"You will not beat her."

"No! Certainly not!"

"You will not make her carry things that are too heavy."

"Ah… no, ma'am."

Another poke with the cane. "You will let her sleep afterward!"

"Ma'am, I… ah…" Istvhan looked helplessly over at Clara.

Publisher: Red Wombat Studios

Paladin's Hope (2021)

Paladin's HopeThe third book in the Saint of Steel series.

Piper is the lich-doctor (think coroner) for the White Rat. He'd worked with several of the paladins of the Saint of Steel in solving the a series of murders. Now it looks like there is another murderer about.

It was this fifth man who nudged the corpse with the toe of his boot and said, "Well, if you want my professional opinion, this great goddamn hole in his chest is probably what killed him."

Galen was a paladin of the Saint of Steel, who now works for the Temple of the White Rat. When their god died, all the paladins went into berserker rages. Galen was one of the unlucky ones who didn't have anyone to stop him.

The one advantage police had over paladins was that guards had no problem believing that someone would randomly shove pointy logs into other people. Paladins generally took a little longer to get there. Piper suspected that their sense of innocence and moral outrage kept regrowing, possibly through divine means.

One of the things I really love about this book is that we are told that Piper and Galen find each other attractive, but we don't get details about their looks–we rather get what each finds attractive about the other.

Piper gave him a brief smile. He really was very good-looking. Cheekbones you could slice cheese on.

It's lovely to not have to read about endless physical perfection. Because: whatever.

We also get to spend a fair amount of time with a new gnole. The gnoles are really quite fascinating, and I very much liked Earstripe.

Humans don't have whiskers." Earstripe's voice dropped on the last word, as if he were bringing up a terrible deformity.

And I love the worldbuilding around them.

"I'm not a priest," said Piper, bemused.

Earstripe flicked his ears. "No, a priest."

Piper looked at Galen for explanation.

"Priests and healers are the same caste among gnoles," said Galen.

Although I enjoyed the story, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the earlier stories. First, Galen's story arc was similar enough to Stephen and Istvhan's that it wasn't quite as interesting, and I get frustrated by the whole "I'm not good enough for my love" bit. It mostly felt as if Galen was creating his own barriers, which is a thing people do, but it's not my favorite thing to read.

But Piper was a delight.

"Why on earth did I never ask Earstripe what his resting heartrate was?"

"It's not the sort of thing that comes up in casual conversation."

My other problem was I really didn't get the ivory rooms. There were explanations, but they didn't make a lot of sense to me. So that kind of gnawed at me.

But overall, it was delightful.

Publisher: Red Wombat Studio

Paladin's Faith (2023)

Paladin's FaithMarguerite Florian left town in a hurry after helping her friend Grace led her to trouble (Paladin's Grace). Which wasn't necessarily unexpected, since Marguerite is a spy.

So she turns to the White Rat.

Apparently one of the problems they had solved was bribery. You couldn't bribe a Rat-priest. (Well, you probably could, but only by offering to donate the money to the poor.)

Bishop Beartongue of the White Rat agrees to Marguerite's plan as it will not only cause problems for the Red Sail (the group after Marguerite) it will also help those members of the populace who were not part of the wealthy ruling class.

So Marguerite gets two paladins as bodyguards and they set off in search of a genius artificer.

Unfortunately, although berserker paladins make good bodyguards, they aren't the best at subterfuge.

She eyed Wren thoughtfully. "You, uh, should probably avoid (the communal baths), though."

"I should?" Wren covered her breasts self-consciously with her hands.

"It's not how you look," said Marguerite. "Or rather it is, but not bad." She shook her head. "It's the scars."

Wren looked down at herself, apparently surprised.

"People are going to wonder about those," said Marguerite gently, pointing to a particularly wicked slash mark across the paladin's left arm.

Or social graces.

"Shane," she said, turning to look at the paladin, "when a woman is lamenting that she doesn't feel attractive, you're supposed to tell her she's beautiful. Not that you're honored to kill people with her."

He looked at her blankly, then said, "Oh."

I'll be honest, of the two paladins I found Wren the more interesting.

(T)he cook put anise in things that did not in any way require anise. Wren liked anise as much as the next person, but there were limits. A little fennel would work much better here, without turning everything into a weird licorice-flavored endurance test.

Oh, well. Much as Wren might like to break into the fortress kitchens and demand to know what personal trauma the cook was excising through spices, their mission would probably suffer.

I also really liked Davith, who is a scoundrel, but not necessarily an unethical one.

The ending was such that there is probably going to be another book, although there wasn't a cliffhanger. Just more unanswered questions.

Publisher: Red Wombat Studio

December 2023 | Rating: 8/10

Swordheart (2018)



Halla is a housekeeper who has suddenly inherited her great-uncle's estate… and, unfortunately, his relatives. Sarkis is an immortal swordsman trapped in a prison of enchanted steel. When Halla draws the sword that imprisons him, Sarkis finds himself attempting to defend his new wielder.

"Begin asking unexpected questions until everyone in the conversation starts doubting their senses. It's a talent. Like some strange form of diplomacy that goes so far in the wrong direction that it comes out the other side."

One of the grimmer realizations of Sarkis's youth had been the discovery that knowing you were being an ass did not actually stop you from continuing to be an ass.

Publisher: Red Wombat Studio

April 2021 | Rating: 8/10 

Swordheart, Audio Book (2018/2021) narrated by Jesse Vilinsky

I'd been playing this as background for a couple of months–not especially paying attention, but wanting voices talking.

Then I finished Michael Prichard's narration of the Spenser series (I absolutely cannot stand listening to David Duke's narration) and while floundering trying to figure out what to listen to next, decided to start this, so I could keep on with the cleaning project I was doing.

I quickly became engaged.

Halla has inherited from her great-uncle, and her great-uncle's family is extremely unhappy about this.

So they lock her in her room to force her to marry cousin Alver.

Which is how she meets Sarkis.

"I am the servant of the sword," he said. "I obey the will of the—great god, woman, put on some clothes!"

I adore Halla.

Sarkis grunted. "At any rate," he said, "if anyone asks, I trust you'll simply do that thing you do."

"What thing?"

"You know." He waved his hand irritably. "Begin asking unexpected questions until everyone in the conversation starts doubting their senses. It's a talent. Like some strange form of diplomacy that goes so far in the wrong direction that it comes out the other side."

The story is delightfully funny, when you're not expecting it.

"Well," she admitted, looking at the pile of potatoes, "you're good at that."

"I have a great deal of experience skinning my enemies," he said, deadpan.

"Do you have many enemies among the potatoes?"

"Not any longer."

The woman in front of them looked over her shoulder and said "You can go ahead of me."

Halla blinked.


"Sir…ma'am…I'm here because my youngest needs to get out of the house and learn a trade. You two appear to be either enchanted or desperately insane. And in either case, I'd rather you weren't standing behind me."

I ended up enjoying it so much I started listening to The Clockwork Boys.

Which I have not yet read.

(There is still a lot of cleaning and organizing to do.)

Publisher: Tantor Audio

December 2023 | Rating: 8/10

Minor Mage (2019)

Minor MageOliver is a minor mage. He might become more powerful, because he's only twelve, but right now he only has three spells.

Unfortunately, the town has decided that he must go to the mountains to fetch the rain, before the drought ruins everyone.

Of course, the townspeople waited until Oliver's mother–the retired mercenary–was out of town to tell him he needed to go.

There is something about a group of people that is less than the sum of its parts. Few individuals in the crowd would have dreamed of putting a kid— even a kid who was also a mage— onto the road and telling him to bring back rain. And yet when they were all together, somehow the conversation had gotten more and more heated and more and more stern and what had been a vague idea became an order, and suddenly something slightly less than a mob but rather more than a friendly gathering of neighbors had arrived at the doorstep of Oliver's house.

So Oliver takes his familiar and sets off, meeting interesting people along the way.

"Why would she want to wander around it, anyway?" asked Oliver.

"Song doesn't say," said Trebastion. "But I figure she's mad at getting burned alive."

"Or at having married an arsonist," said the armadillo dryly.

Oliver is sweet and lovely and I love that he's at that awkward age where he might be sometimes able to think like an adult but is still very much a kid. Which allowed her to point out some things that often happen in fantasy books but are just glossed over.

Oh god what have I done oh god I brought the ghuls on them they're dying some of them are dead I didn't mean for this I knew it would happen, but I didn't know what it would be like

It's fascinating, really, how easily so much violence is glossed over in fantasy.

Also, there is lots of the wit I'd expected.

"Oh, herbs," said the bandit, in the dismissive tone used by people who don't know anything about herbs.

(This is generally not a very wise thing to say, because people who do know about herbs may take offense, and you will then find your socks stuffed full of stinging nettles and your tea full of cascara, which is no less potent a laxative for being tree bark.)

All in all, a lovely escape.

Publisher: Red Wombat Studio

August 2021 | Rating: 8/10

A Wizard's Guide To Defensive Baking (2020)

A Wizards Guide To Defensive BakingMona isn't an impressive wizard. Her power is is with baked goods, which is very specific, and (as far as she can tell) not much good unless you're a baker. Which she is.

But someone is killing wizards, and it seems like Mona isn't quite as minor as she thinks she is.

She is, as I said, wizard that controls baked goods.

Bob popped several bubbles, which is his version of an enthusiastic greeting. Bob is my sourdough starter.

He's the first big magic I ever really did, and I didn't know what I was doing, so I overdid it.

You're feeling really dry, I suggested to the bread. Really stale. Hard as a rock. Usually I have to be touching something in order to make it do anything really impressive, but for just going stale, as long as I can see it, I can work with it. It wants to go stale. Bread is very accommodating that way.

I have no idea what I thought this story was going to be, but it wasn't at all what I was expecting.

Which is perfectly fine, because it was a fun story.

Generally you have to be careful when you add water and flour to a sourdough starter, to make sure that you've got the right proportions and all, but in Bob's case, it was easy. I stuck both hands into the soup tureen and tried to convince him that what the world needed was a whole lot more Bob. As this coincided with what Bob himself had always believed, pretty soon I had commandeered a horse trough and had footmen dumping fifty pound sacks of flour into it.

Although this isn't quite a kid's book, it would definitely be fine for older kids. It's just a little dark, and there are some themes that younger kids might not get. But there's nothing in it not ok for kids.

Publisher: Red Wombat Studio

September 2020 | Rating: 7.5/10