Be prepared, this is a Lengthy review!
The Paladin of Panama has such promise, though I hoped for more action! It is good in seeing the different abilities coming to life in the characters, I can’t wait to meet the rest, and I enjoyed the educational side of what the church and what the associated community can bring. This book is overflowing with good intentions and messages, one’s many of the youth today could benefit from. I would say this series would be particularly good for those gearing up to head to the priesthood, or nunnery, as it touches on many of the struggles and ways to get past those issues. Michael Chrobak has done a wonderful job of incorporating fantastical elements without them being deemed “magical”, rather they are God given gifts and abilities, and not to be confused with any other power. I also have to give praise to making sure that all the characters have strengths and weaknesses, each their own struggles. These individuals, for the most part, are not all weak with only one strong, but lift each other up in various ways. Now, that has a flip side (see below).
I did find some pieces to be more “preachy” in a way that was telling rather than showing, where the author’s intention came out more bluntly than I think intended. Almost a bit like having a father telling their child what they will experience in detail, little lessons they will learn as they go rather than letting them learn and experience firsthand. Which, for me, took some of the sizzle out of the book, some of the mystery, and rather dragged along a few pieces. There were stereotypes cast that I felt were trite, utilized to reinforce the religious and moral ideals, but I felt that a disservice. There were a few places I found the descriptions of the characters (all young, mind you) to be condescending, which shocked me a bit. It was a little bitter, and that pushed me away as a reader. Beyond that, I found pretty much all the female characters to be pretty much one dimensional, with defining characteristics only coming to light at the end of the book. I stand by that Thomas is written to be far too wise beyond his years, and while I expect the main character to have more strength than the others, I found Thomas, and the side characters, to be either written beyond their years, or at times painfully immature.
I found the book slow for the first three quarters, and it didn’t “pick up” until the last quarter, making it a difficult read overall for me. It was like a first book, an introductory, which in some ways it is-meeting more characters, learning abilities, etc., but I felt there were pieces of detail/description that lent nothing to the story. I know I have had a bad habit of getting caught up in describing too many details, and that’s what this felt like. Additionally, having read and reviewed the first I will reiterate here: having been raised Catholic, I have personal beliefs that strike deep within me, things I do not agree with the church on. So deep are my beliefs that I have walked away from the Catholic Church, as much as there are plenty of things I love and appreciate, I completely disagree with them on others. These books look to reinforce some of those those beliefs I disagree with, so it was more a struggle for me than I would have liked. That’s not to be confused, I’m not calling it bad – quite the opposite, the passion that this is written with, the firm belief and follow through is impressive and not to be dismissed. It just did not inspire me, personally, to love this book entirely.
I will read the next book in this series, this one ended on such a cliff hanger it was almost insulting! Michael, how could you leave me hangin’ like that, man?! Teasing aside, the last quarter is the best of this book, and so very well written out! I Loved it for that especially, but can’t say anything so as not to ruin it for other readers! This rating was more like 3.5/3.75, but the ending helped close that gap to a 4.