Knight in Paper Armor by Nicholas Conley

First, let’s start with the title. Every good novel needs a good title. Not enough attention is paid to good titles. (I’m especially looking at you right now, traditional publishers.) But “Knight in Paper Armor”? That’s a title I wish I had come up with myself. Kudos to the author for coming up with a GREAT title that is both interesting and fit the book.

This is a dystopian novel that takes place in America in the near future of 2029. In this version of America, people live segregated and under the control of the monopolistic Thorne Century Corporation. The story is part sci-fi, part dystopian, part fantasy, and it crackles with the ominous and intense undertone often found in dystopian literature like “1984” or “Animal Farm” or “Brave New World.” Basically, in this version of America, if you’re a white Christian, you’re golden, and if you’re anything else, well–

I won’t disclose the plot further than that other than to say the novel was never predictable, and the storyline had many hard-hitting twists and turns. While not a book I would call a “page-turner,” (it’s too thought-provoking to wear that moniker) the novel was well-paced and kept my interest throughout. Characterization is strong with Billy (who could be considered something of a version of the “Chosen One,” a sympathetic and gifted young man) and Natalia being the heroes and the standout characters. The writing and voice were superb (to the point of being of literary fiction level in terms of quality), and the book was immediately engrossing with a good hook. The dialogue sparkled and came across as realistic.

If this book had a negative, it came across at times as perhaps a bit too moralistic and forceful with its messages to the point the ideas may have lost some of their persuasive power if the author had chosen to use a lighter hand. (Sometimes, less is more.) Still, this is a thought-provoking novel, one which is extremely relevant to America today, and one which could perhaps find a good home with book clubs interested in thoughtful literature. Of the various moral and ethical topics covered, the one which stood out to me personally was the ethics of science and the cost of “helping” people.

Sensitive readers should note that this book deals starkly and openly with several “triggering” topics, including segregation, racism, and discrimination. The story also contains some graphic violence, although I didn’t consider any of the violence that was depicted to be gratuitous or far out of place for a dystopian/sci-fi novel. Also, while the novel features teen protagonists and the cover hints that it could be YA, I would recommend this novel to an adult audience based on the themes and the aforementioned possibility of triggers.

Finally, I’d like to add that I rarely read dystopian literature because I find it depressing. I wouldn’t say this was an uplifting book (there’s too many dark themes contained in it), but the ending is very life-affirming, and I was very glad I finished it. (In this way, it somewhat reminded me of my own novel.)

A solid 4.5 star read, rounded to five, recommended to mature readers capable of handling a dystopian version of America with a redeeming and life-affirming ending.

** I received a free advanced review copy of this novel in ebook format from the author, but I received no other compensation, and I am leaving this honest review of my own choice. **