There will be spoilers for the manhwa series The King and the Paladin.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to rape, sexual assault, dubious consent (dubcon), torture, violence, murder, pedophilia/statutory rape, bullying, drugging, and toxic relationships, as it appears in the manhwa.
Ezekiel is a noble paladin. For years now, he has been steadily building up his reputation, wealth, and standing in society in hopes of one day reuniting with his long-lost love Calli, and finally establishing a life with her. However, before finding her, he is appointed as the heir to a dukedom as the illegitimate son. Ezekiel accepts his role, and as the heir, he meets with the newly appointed queen of the kingdom. To his surprise, though, the bloody queen Calliope is none other than his long-lost love Calli. Before he can even express his joy, Calli captures him and forces him into a marriage ceremony right then and there.
Calliope has suffered for years under the power of her father's concubine and her children. Her only reprieve from the suffering was the company of a mysterious man named Ezekiel, who was being kept and trained by the church. The two shared many sweet and intimate moments. After discovering the corrupt and salacious nature of the church, Calliope's goal is to help rescue Ezekiel and take over her rightful place on the throne as its only direct descendent. However, upon making this decision for herself, she discovers Ezekiel has disappeared, and all she has to go on is the rumors that he has left to become a noblewoman's concubine. Betrayed by her only love, Calliope goes on the warpath, ascends the throne, and with Ezekiel back under her thumb, she is determined to keep him by her side, even if it means destroying him in the process.
This review is specific to the mature version. I've also reviewed the all-ages edition, but this particular review will solely focus on the mature version and its changes to the original all-ages storyline. It's interesting that, though the two are very similar story-wise, the art is slightly different for the new and added sections. The new sections are more sketchy and rough around the edges. I wouldn't say it was ugly in any sense, and I actually found that I preferred the rough and sketchy nature of the new sections. It made the clean, old sections look too clean in comparison, which was funny since I am usually so picky about art. The fact that I liked the sketchier sections more just shows how excellent the artwork is in this. It's beautiful, for sure.
One thing I didn't care for that I thought I would be the sex scenes. While the art was beautiful, the composition of the sex acts themselves was a bit ugly and confusing. Calli is cruel because she believes Ezekiel betrayed her; in turn, their sex is often cruel and violent in its own way. That is usually depicted by the chaotic nature of the panel's composition. It's not my preference for sex scenes, making it hard to enjoy. Some of my favorite parts of the sex scenes were the very beginning and the very end because, often, the two were still, which meant everything was much less chaotic.
However, one thing I did like about the sex scenes is that they humanized Calli and made her seem less cruel and rape-y than she was in the original. Based on the scenes we got to see in the original, it would indicate that Calli was entirely in control of every sex act. However, now that we get details into their dynamics during sex, we see that Ezekiel often took control, too, and Calli even mentions that she never imagined enjoying masochism. I also like the small change from the collar she gave to Ezekiel in the original to a pair of penis ring she uses in this one. It's an interesting way to transition to the sex scenes from the original, though I do miss the collar, and I think it would have worked just as well in tandem with the rings and the BDSM element in their sex play.
I still feel like this was too short. I am thankful we got to see much more humanization in Calli through the sex scenes, but I still would have liked to have seen more of the pregnancy, their relationship following the big reveal, and how they grew to trust each other again. For character development, I'd say this version was stronger. Even after reading through this again, I can't express how painful it is when Ezekiel finds his house destroyed. That is still one of the worst moments in narrative history to me. Even having read this story multiple times, It still hurts me deeply and is a very well-crafted scene. I love it.
I was really excited when I saw TappyToon had licensed the mature version of this story. I was hoping for more, and I definitely got it. As surprising as it may sound, the sex actually did round out the character development more than one would expect. Is it worth reading if you've already read the all-ages version? I think so. I found Calli to be much more palatable, adding an additional layer of depth to their relationship that we didn't have before. It's beautiful, short, and a good time at the end of it all.
Have you read The King and the Paladin? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!