Books

A book review: Knight in Paper Armor

Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

TITLE: Knight in Paper Armor

AUTHOR: Nicholas Conley

PUBLISHED: 2020

GENRE: Dystopian

MY RATING: 4/5

I received a complimentary electronic copy of this title from the author in exchange for my honest review.

*Synopsis taken from Goodreads*

Billy Jakobek has always been different. Born with strange and powerful psychic abilities, he has grown up in the laboratories of Thorne Century, a ruthless megacorporation that economically, socially, and politically dominates American society. Every day, Billy absorbs the emotional energies, dreams, and traumas of everyone he meets—from his grandmother’s memories of the Holocaust, to the terror his sheer existence inflicts upon his captors—and he yearns to break free, so he can use his powers to help others.

Natalia Gonzalez, a rebellious artist and daughter of Guatemalan immigrants, lives in Heaven’s Hole, an industrial town built inside a meteor crater, where the poverty-stricken population struggles to survive the nightmarish working conditions of the local Thorne Century factory. Natalia takes care of her ailing mother, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, and while she dreams of escape, she knows she cannot leave her family behind.

When Billy is transferred to Heaven’s Hole, his chance encounter with Natalia sends shockwaves rippling across the blighted landscape. The two outsiders are pitted against the all-powerful monopoly, while Billy experiences visions of an otherworldly figure known as the Shape, which prophesizes an apocalyptic future that could decimate the world they know.

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Before I get into my thoughts on this book, I just want to list some trigger warnings. When the author reached out to me he suggested that perhaps I may like a list to include in my review, and I figured that if he was suggesting them himself then it would probably be worthwhile. Whilst it is not my place to decide how triggering something is, or what effects something may or may not have on any reader, I will say that whilst certain elements were upsetting, I didn’t find anything unnecessarily distressing. Also, I hold the opinion that something must make sense within the unfolding story, I hate anything controversial being included simply for shock factor. There were no sensationalist undertones here and I feel as though the author handled everything sensitively. The trigger warnings are:

  • Hate crimes
  • Antisemitism
  • Xenophobia
  • Racism
  • Violence and torture, including guns
  • Brainwashing
  • Suicide
  • Sensory deprivation
  • Addiction
  • Traumatic injury
  • Sexual harassment
  • Poverty
  • The Holocaust
  • Emotional abuse

As I mentioned above, I was approached by the author with this book. I am so pleased that he reached out to me, because (as I often say under these circumstances), I probably wouldn’t have come across Knight in Paper Armor otherwise. It’s definitely one of the main highlights of having this blog; to gain exposure to books that I wouldn’t expect to like but end up really enjoying! This book is definitely an example of that.

The story centres around Billy, a teenager with a very special gift that his seen him exploited in the name of science. He has suffered for such a long time and lost so much, but then he meets Natalia, a fellow teenager with her own battle scars, and so their relationship begins. Through their connection they have the chance not only to heal but to take down those that need to be defeated and ultimately save the world.

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Knight in Paper Armor is a fine example of a book that expertly bridges the gap between fantasy and reality. It throws you straight into the action, which is my preferred approach (particularly with this genre) and doesn’t let go, right up until the last page. There is plenty of context and backstory, and yet the author has chosen not to dwell too much, instead touching upon the past just enough to make the present make sense. The focus remains firmly upon Billy and Natalia’s current state and their journey moving forward. Whilst I can appreciate that some readers may prefer a more in-depth account of what has led to this dystopian world, I was more than satisfied with what was provided. I don’t like to spend too much time thinking about what has been, I much prefer to get stuck in and solve the problem, and this probably goes a long way to explaining why I gave this book 4 stars. Just to confirm however, there are moments where Billy (through his powers) travels back in time to experience, or in some cases re-experience certain events that are pivotal to both the plot and the characters. This helps to ensure that everything makes sense, and there are plenty of opportunities to really gain a strong emotional reaction – both good and bad!

There are so many themes running through this story – love, heartbreak, loss, unethical behaviour, good versus evil, social considerations, political agendas, the perils of wealth etc. The author certainly gives the reader a lot to think about! Everything makes sense though, and nothing feels out of place, overdone or under acknowledged. I have read many books that try to cram too much in and end up feeling ‘too busy’ but don’t worry, that isn’t the case with this one. Instead, the outcome is one where you’ll find yourself picking it up whenever you have a spare minute – I certainly did.

It’s probably apparent by this point, but just to confirm, this dystopian tale is emotionally charged and I found it to be very moving. The idea of a huge corporation (Thorne Century) taking over and controlling everyone and everything is fast becoming both feasible and terrifying, and the portrayal in this book is spot on. The storyline is different but when I finished reading this I had similar feelings to when I read The Handmaid’s Tale. Those feelings were unease, and a tightening in my stomach when I thought about how it wouldn’t take much for this storyline to exist outside of fiction. There is no denying that there is a lot happening in this book, and it is definitely not for the faint-hearted, it is however brilliantly written and worth checking out if you feel confident after reading the warnings.

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It is worth noting as well that whilst the two main characters are teenagers, this book is not YA. It definitely works having Billy and Natalia as teenagers, and actually, it made me even more eager to see them succeed. They had seen and experienced things no child should have to, and so the fact that they were still showing such bravery and courage was commendable and awe-inspiring, and their age only heightened this.

Overall I found Knight in Paper Armor to be a highly absorbing read, and one that I would definitely recommend – particularly to fans of the fantasy and dystopian genres. I felt so many things whilst reading this – excitement, unease, fear and hope, so if you do pick up this book prepare yourself to go on a ride. I look forward to reading more from this author, and looking out for similar books. I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would, which is always a treat for us bookworms isn’t it.

Have you read Knight in Paper Armor? What did you think about it? If you haven’t read it do you think that you will? As always I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading, I hope that you enjoyed!

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Until the next time…Jess x

3 thoughts on “A book review: Knight in Paper Armor

  1. The gap between fantasy and reality. ? . A powerful phrase, compelling me to think very hard… Does this apply to all writing, in any genre ? Hard-hitting issues are with us now, daily, including hate crime, racism, anti-Semitism. Yes, definitely, I want to read this book, and your review makes it clear why the central characters are teenagers. .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You echo so many of my thoughts after reading this – it was far more thought provoking than I thought it would be. So many contemporary issues were present as you mention and that made it all the more interesting because it was a world of the past/present/future all co existing and very cleverly presented. I absolutely recommend it, I think you’ll enjoy 😊

      Like

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