There will be spoilers for the manhwa series The King and the Paladin.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to rape, sexual assault, torture, murder, pedophilia/statutory rape, bullying, 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.
Before we get started, this review is specific to the all-ages edition. I have since reviewed the mature version, but this review is specific to the all-ages edition. This is gorgeous. There is no doubt about it. It is a beautiful manhwa through and through, and you will not be disappointed by the artwork. It's very, very consistent throughout, and I find myself looking through this manhwa time and time again to enjoy the artwork. Calliope, in particular, maybe the prettiest female lead I've ever seen in manhwa (as of writing this). Ezekiel is also beautiful, and seeing their opposing designs together is very satisfying since he is very cool-toned while Calliope is warm-toned, which is also befitting of their personalities.
Now, as for the story, it is a bit lacking. All of the tension relies on our female lead's severe misunderstanding, and she is beyond willing to hear otherwise. I do believe her trauma lends to her illogical and emotional decision-making. Still, it is frustrating to watch her make these snap decisions without any patience or exploration on her part. She now has all the power she could desire, so why she couldn't stop and listen to any explanations doesn't make sense to me, especially from the one person she cares about left in the world. It would have saved Calliope and Ezekiel a ton of heartache.
Don't get me wrong, watching Calliope get sickeningly sweet revenge on all of the assholes that betrayed her or Ezekiel was great, but watching her punish Ezekiel right along with everyone else was just frustrating. Especially when it is revealed that everything she was jealous of, he was doing for her. I can't express how heartbroken I was when he told her how excited he was about showing the house he built for them, only to reveal she had utterly destroyed it beforehand in her jealous rage. Ezekiel offered to explain everything multiple times, but Calliope was not interested in explanations for anything she had already determined to be true or false.
Now, while I do think the story is well-crafted, especially for how short the series is (barely over 30 episodes), I feel that it could have been longer and would have created a more satisfying ending. The big reveal of the misunderstanding feels abrupt, and there is very little information on what occurs afterward between Calliope and Ezekiel. I would have liked to have seen how they came to trust each other again, what was done with the poor home Calliope destroyed, how they handled the pregnancy, etc. It would have been really nice to see what closure Ezekiel received after discovering this dream he built had been destroyed. It also would have benefited Calliope's character development had we seen how she made up for the excessive cruelty she had imposed on Ezekiel, but we, unfortunately, don't get that closure. As a result, their relationship remains a bit superficial.
This is beautifully drawn, and the story is interesting enough. I do wish it had been longer so we could complete Calliope's character development, but we don't get that closure for Calliope, so the story does feel a bit unfinished. I still feel terrible for Ezekiel, and I sorta feel like he isn't all that happy at the end of it, but here we are. It's not super long, so it's probably worth the read/points, but if you expect cohesive character retribution and development, you may be disappointed. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful manhwa to enjoy, at least.
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!