The Twelfth Paladin by Nora Weston
Publisher: Melange Books LLC
Length: 242 pages
Purchase on Amazon: The Twelfth Paladin
In The Twelfth Paladin, good against evil battles as an angel, demons, and a temptress extraordinaire, named Rachel Darnell, vie for the soul of Jake Cottrell. Jake foolishly dares Hell to burn him. Hell agrees.
Scarred with angelfire by a rebellious angel, named Micah, Jake Cottrell is sanctioned to become the twelfth paladin in Micah ‘s supernatural unit of slayers. However, regret abounds as Micah is banished and ordered to protect what he now despises a human he believes is unworthy of such an honor. Never fear, Jake is a seeker of mischief who soars on a blistering blacktop to escape the wrath of Hell while he transforms into the twelfth paladin.
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In The Twelfth Paladin, Nora Weston puts a modern twist on the age old classic tale of good versus evil. Unlike some of those classic tales, however, the protagonist in this story, Jake Cottrell, isn’t depicted as an honorable, virtuous hero who does what’s right and resists evil temptations. No, Jake is a man who doesn’t hesitate to look the Devil, himself, in the eye and say, “Bring it on.”
He isn’t overly concerned about what happens to his eternal soul; he’s just focused on mindlessly getting through each day working a dead-end job while living with an abusive, alcoholic father. Danger, mischief, and women are the vices he seeks out in his free time.
So, when Jake finds himself caught in the middle of an eternal supernatural war between Heaven and Hell, God and Satan, angels and demons, well, let’s just say he doesn’t take it as seriously as he should. Instead of turning toward the light, Jake embraces the darkness that begins to immerse him after a deadly motorbike accident that he barely survives.
Much of this story is told from Jake’s POV, which initially limits our understanding of the events taking place. Jake has no idea that God has chosen him to become one of his mighty warriors, one of his paladins in the war against Satan. Unbeknownst to Jake, his life changes when he decides to forfeit a win in a motocross race to help save a fellow racer in danger. Instead of dying, God leaves Jake scarred by “angelfire,” a supernatural power that will help Jake to fight and kill demons that prey upon human souls. However, before Jake can use his emerging powers, he must first awaken to this new role God has planned for him and realize his worthiness in God’s eyes. This will be a challenge for Jake since he has also drawn the attention of demons intent on stealing his soul for Satan. To make things worse, Jake openly taunts these demons, initially welcoming the evil that descends upon him. I like the use of Jake’s POV in building suspense as he gradually discovers the truth about the demons surrounding him.
I have to admit that I had a difficult time liking and connecting with Jake as the central character in this book. His apathetic nature and foolish choices kept me frowning through much of the story. Yes, Jake had a difficult childhood. Being abandoned by a selfish mother who cared more for material possessions than her own son and being raised by an abusive alcoholic father has certainly played a role in the man he has become. Even though I understood Jake hadn’t experienced much, if any, goodness, love, and support, I still wasn’t able to fully empathize with his character as much as I would have liked. Now, upon further reflection, I have a sneaky suspicion this may have been one of Weston’s intentions. Jake is a man easy to dislike, easy to fault, easy to judge…but who among us can really know and understand what’s in another’s heart and soul? This is a prominent theme illustrated throughout the novel.
Micah, a powerful angelic warrior, is an important character in developing the plot and reinforcing this theme. God has sent Micah to watch over and protect Jake as he struggles to escape darkness and find redemption before joining God’s army of supernatural slayers. Micah is distressed over his new mission and grumbles about his fall from God’s favor:
“I had to argue with Him about Jake becoming the twelfth one…but that rogue is not paladin material. Lord, he’s scarcely human!” Feeling a sharp stab in his heart, Micah’s thoughts raced. Until I regain my loyalty to humans, and especially Jake, I’m damned to be on this planet without my command. And although I should’ve listened to God, I still believe Jake Cottrell is unworthy of service.”
Although it was easy to see that Micah is too quick to judge, it took a bit of time for me to realize that I was being just like Micah in my assessment of Jake. Both Micah and Jake are two well-developed, dynamic characters whose emotional growth infuses the story with a sense of hopefulness about our humanity.
A part of being human is the frailty we have toward temptation, and Jake’s former high school classmate, Davis Travers, knows exactly how to entice Jake to embrace his sinful nature. Davis loves to arouse feelings of self-doubt and jealousy in Jake, which makes him more vulnerable to the seductive demon temptress, Rachel, who has been sent by Davis to claim Jake’s soul. Although Jake easily gives in to the sexual fantasies Rachel promises, these scenes are not explicit but, instead, focus more on Jake’s inner conflict, knowing what he’s doing is wrong, yet unable to physically resist this demon succubus with her own plans for Jake.
To retaliate against the evil Davis has inflicted upon Jake’s family and friends, Jake runs away with Angie, Davis’ fiancé. Angie is basically a good person, but like everyone else in the story, she has flaws, and her choices have left her living in fear and darkness with Davis. Just like Jake, Angie wants nothing more than to be free from the demonic hold Davis has on her. Angie also becomes a powerful motivator for Jake to change:
“We checked into ‘Drifter’s’ knowing our lives had left the realm of so-called normalcy, but the conscious decision to change the future was made the first day I saw Angie at Davis’ mansion. From that point on, the look of sadness dwelling in Angie’s eyes, the haunting tone in her voice…forced me to reexamine my selfish existence. I could not release myself from caring about her. She was, in fact, special…and I was a better man when I was around her.”
I enjoyed the twist that Angie’s situation added to the story’s major conflict and loved seeing the impact she made in helping Jake move away from the darkness that had enveloped his life.
As Jake increasingly moves toward God’s light, the evil intensifies leading to Jake into the ultimate battle for his soul. I found the resolution to be unified and satisfying in wrapping up the story.
Although the story had a solid, well-developed plot, I did have some issues with story’s POV and narration. Although the majority of the story is told from Jake’s limited POV, at times the author switches to the perspective of other characters, such as Micah and Davis. This is fine except that in a few places, the POV becomes unclear as this sentence illustrates: “Although, Davis Travers had no idea Jake had planned to be eating, sleeping, and in good spirits with his stolen, virgin bride. Was Angie Helms worth the boundless reprisal of Hell? Let’s hope so.” I’m not sure who “us” is in reference to the story.
Another aspect I found problematic is the use of both past and present tense in narrating the story. Jake tells the story as if it has already happened, and, at times, he interjects his own reflective commentary about what he knows to be true now. These reflective comments are helpful in establishing conflict, foreshadowing, and building suspense. Unfortunately, when Jake describes events in past tense and then reacts to them in present tense, I found that the switch disrupted the flow of the story. Here is an example:
“I enjoyed my reckless ride to work on a long forgotten state road, feeling the need for speed. If only I could forget what I’ve done…who I am. To my surprise… “Wham!” A tree had fallen on the road. I tried to stop, but my skin ate asphalt as I skidded off the road to fall over a steep rocky hill. There I was in the boonies, hanging on to a tree limb for dear life. “Am I screwed or what? This is ridiculous! What am I to do?” Well I really couldn’t move. I was stuck.”
I would have preferred that the author used the past tense consistently. I know the present tense can help intensify a scene’s drama, but this switch became awkward for me as a reader.
Overall, I am glad I read this book; I enjoyed the complexity of Jake’s character, the suspenseful storyline, and overall, how Weston made me think about my own perceptions of others.
I received a copy of this book from the author via Book and Trailer Showcase in exchange for an honest review.
Excerpt from The Twelfth Paladin
Jake Cottrell survived a Motocross accident due to intervention from a rebellious angel, named Micah. Ordered to do so, but done half-heartedly, Micah scarred Jake with angelfire during the accident that was supposed to claim Jake’s life. Angelfire transforms humans into supernatural warriors. Practically healed at this point, Jake accepts an invitation to meet some friends at a local carnival, but nothing is as it seems…
“Jake Cottrell is that you, old buddy?” Not a shadow by any definition, a tall man appeared from out of the darkness. He walked closer saying, “It is you, right, Jake?”
“Yeah, who the hell are you?”
“It’s me, Davis Travers. Have you forgotten hanging out behind Zeke’s and the state football championship our senior year? Man, we pounded the shit out of the Wolverines.” He put his hand out for me to shake. “We go back a long way.”
I shook his icy-cold hand. “Davis, it is you. You moron, were you trying to give me a heart attack?” I asked with my usual tactfulness.
“No, just trying to catch you, that’s all. Walk with me.”
We walked further into the middle of the carnival.
The lights sparkled, shining across Davis’ eyes…making them glow in an unnatural way. At times, he squinted trying to block the flashing streams of rainbows.
“Okay, are you cranked on something? Your eyes look like they’re about to pop,” I said thinking he was tripping out.
“Nah, some lights drive me insane. I prefer darkness since my laser surgery. Oh, never mind, it’ll all work out. Come on, I know someone you need to meet.” With a sense of urgency, he showed me the way to a black tent glowing with a dim blue light from within it.
We stood just outside of the tent.
“Davis, where have you been? I haven’t seen you in six years or so.”
“I’ll fill you in, later. Follow me, and you’ll descend into a world filled with more pleasure than you could ever dream of…hurry, Jasmine is ravishing.”
Just the way Davis uttered Jasmine tempted me to see who she was. “You promise?”
“Well, Napoleon said, ‘the best way to keep one’s word…is not to give it.’ Although, I remember you used to love screwing around with anything you shouldn’t.” Peeling back one side of the black tent, Davis smiled welcoming Jasmine’s eerie, blue light. “Dare to enter her world?” He stared at me with eyes full of arrogance and then chuckled like he knew something I didn’t.
Davis understood I wouldn’t refuse a dare…yet, right before I entered that tent, I glanced up. The full moon looked abnormally huge, and menacing clouds were about to digestthe moonlight. Thunder and lightning crackled in the far distant sky, while the wind whirled as though I was its target. For about seven seconds, a tantalizing, spicy scent captivated me, but I sensed it was loaded with poison. I acknowledged my curiosity thinking, Hum, Mother Nature is pissed. It’s as though there is a war going on up there. More often than not, I didn’t care about such things, but this night felt mystical.
We entered the tent.
Jasmine’s cat-like eyes caught me off guard, as did her sleek black gown molding around a body any goddess would attempt to covet. Dark locks fell around her dolled-up face as she walked over to Davis and smashed her pink lips onto his. She kissed him long and hard. Freeing herself, Jasmine teased us with graceful moves like running her hands through her long, shiny hair. “So, my darling, you’ve brought me a treat for tonight?” she asked with a strong accent, possibly Romanian.
Davis grabbed her and kissed her again as though her lips belonged only to him. He pulled Jasmine against his body smothering her with his confidence. Davis played with her like she was merely a toy.
I could tell they were more than just first time acquaintances and felt somewhat like a voyeur…I mean, for crying out loud, get a room.
In-between kisses, Davis whispered, “Yes, baby. This is Jake Cottrell. Read for him okay? I’m dying for some entertainment.”
Jasmine approached me, snatched my right hand, and placed it around her gold adorned neck. Moving my hand down her body, she said, “Sure, I’ll read for you, and this one is on me. Come.” She motioned for me to sit by a small table draped with various colored, silk scarves. The table had a blue crystal ball positioned in the center of a circle made by five black candles all tied together with silver ribbon.
Without any sense of wrongdoing, or thought I may be dabbling with danger even too risky for the likes of me, I sat down and then stared across the table at Jasmine. “Okay, go ahead and read my future.” Smiling, I clutched onto Jasmine’s hands like nothing she saw could possibly affect me.
Jasmine’s dark green eyes intensified making me feel vulnerable, like my skin was nothing more than clear, plastic wrap. Her crystal ball glowed bluer as pure white light shot out from the top of it. The warm light split up into thousands of hair-like strands, which proceeded to wrap themselves around my stinging flesh. A satisfying, but powerful aroma gobbled up the carnival smell once present.
I couldn’t speak, felt immobile in every physical aspect, yet my mind burned. Things about my ridiculous childhood appeared throughout my mind much like a movie. Tender moments shared with Tony were especially heartfelt to see, like the day he showed us our new home. After that, I remembered when my mother left us, and our life mirrored the underworld. Sadness just about asphyxiated me. Out of nowhere, the sorrow left as I relived the surreal accident at the Motocross Track. For a second, I was dead and descending into Hell.
At last, relief came to me as Jasmine released her hands from mine. As fast as a lightning bolt, the white light retracted back into her crystal ball. “My, my, Jake Cottrell,” she said patting her lovely chest.
“What did you see? Am I going to win a lottery or something?” Standing up to leave, I acted like nothing had happened.
Jasmine came to me and then placed her delicate hand on my right shoulder. A half-smile disappeared when she leaned in to whisper, “Surely you will fall into darkness, before you willingly bathe in the glory of the light. All in due time, Jake Cottrell.”
Faster than Tony could empty a bottle of whiskey, goose-bumps consumed my skin. “Stop it. How’d you know I dreamed that?”
Inches from my face, Jasmine ran her black nails along my jaw. “You’ve been scarred with angelfire. Your right shoulder I believe? A war is going on, but you won’t accept you’re the twelfth one, will you?” She laughed, dancing about the tent looking more like a medieval witch than a modern-day carnival gypsy. “I hope you’re ready for the ride of your life…because it’s coming.” Jasmine spun around faster as the candles flared and her cackle grew more intense.
About the Author
Nora Weston’s fiction and poetry slips in-between and all around science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Her publishing credits include the novels Guardian 2632 and The Twelfth Paladin, plus anthologies, magazines, and e-zines. Themes found in Nora’s work relate to good against evil, Internet safety, the powerful consequences for one’s actions, and the ability we all possess to improve the world. She’s had the pleasure of reaching people through the airwaves on radio stations throughout the US. Recently, her work was published for Bête Noire and Crack the Spine. Feel free to download previous interviews and segments from Desmond Haas/Romance Radio Network and Blog Talk Radio’s Not Picture Perfect, plus B.K. Walker has interviewed Nora on Blog Talk Radio as well. Contact Nora Weston: firstname.lastname@example.org
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