Futility of Defense: A Paladin’s Journey is an epic sequel; Bryan Cole enchants readers with a seamless blend of character development and breath-taking storytelling, leading them on a riveting journey teeming with magic and danger.
Cole’s sophomore outing of the Paladin’s Journey series picks up more or less where Beginning of Arrogance left off, following Krell, a paladin of ReckNor, the god of the seas and skies, as he defends a small town from an onslaught of sea devils, a race of monstrous shark-like creatures with an appetite for destruction. In a characteristic effort to do better than the paladins before him, Krell decides to stick around to help the village rebuild and further ensure their safety. He soon learns that the sea devils are the least of his worries, as a dangerous enemy returns to claim vengeance. Throughout his journey, Krell faces enemies both human and divine, as well as the weight of his own past choices. He must decide what he is willing to sacrifice for his god and his people, and whether his defense is futile or not.

Bryan Cole offers a follow-up that is beyond satisfying. Cole skilfully balances action, dialogue, and description, keeping the pace fast and the tension high. This marks one of the book’s standout qualities; Cole decides to go all in on the spellbinding battle scenes that made the first book so easy to read. He also introduces a slew of new characters, including several new gods who inject the story with the series’ hallmark sense of humor. At a whopping 560+ pages, readers may find the book’s length intimidating, but the pacing, in addition to the book’s sense of levity, make for a surprisingly fast and engaging read.

Futility of Defense explores themes such as faith, loyalty, duty, honor, and redemption, challenging the reader to reflect on the nature of choice. This time, however, Cole also tackles certain social issues that add a fresh new dimension to the narrative without feeling heavy handed or overly political. Rather, this thematic broadening lands quite organically alongside Cole’s expanding of the universe. The issues that Cole explores become more relevant as his cast of characters become more diverse and as we learn more about the world that these characters exist in. Finally, Cole’s prose in and of itself offers readers a treat. It’s impressive that he is able to raise the stakes this time around, writing what sometimes feels like a war story, yet doing so in a way that is consistently humorous and, more generally, relatively light.

Futility of Defense: A Paladin’s Journey is a well-written, worthy sequel to Beginning of Arrogance; it is an immersive experience that lingers in your thoughts long after the final page is turned.