Science fiction and fantasy


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by Grace Draven

As a noble outside the direct line of succession Ildiko expects to marry for reasons of state in this fantasy novel. Her relationship with her uncle, the Gauri king, is cool, so she expects no special favours and is prepared to do her duty when wed to a minor prince of the Kai, a neighbouring people.

The Kai aren't human, though, and with their grey skin, pupil-free eyes and predator's teeth and claws they repel Ildiko. The repulsion is mutual, so Ildiko is all set for a loveless marriage in a foreign country where she will be the only one of her kind. Brishen, her new husband, is brutally honest about how he finds her, but their mutual honesty seems to spark a bond between them.

The journey from one country to the next is dangerous, but its perils pale beside the challenges of court life under a tyrannical queen. Ildiko has to navigate new customs and protocols, and she must try to protect herself and her husband in a land where everyone has trouble looking her in the eyes due to her appearance.

Brishen's lieutenant and cousin, Anhuset, is often in the background ready to make sacrifices and guard Brishen and his new wife. However, the close relationship between Brishen and Anhuset isn't explained until later in the story.

Radiance is a very slow-building romance, and this is one of the things that makes it extremely sweet and compelling. Brishen is a very respectful character, and this makes him likeable; the same can be said for Ildiko, so the pair of them are very easy to root for. The sweetness extends to the story but not the heat level, and this novel is pretty steamy during later chapters.

This is a fish out of water story with a fair bit of court politics and adventure thrown in, plus a touch of magic. The magical elements are both subdued and laden with dangerous consequences at times, so that it isn't used as a "get out of jail free" card that would spoil the tension. Most of that tension comes from the careful development of fully rounded characters dealing with prejudice and challenging circumstances.

Radiance is romance first and foremost and fantasy second, but the fantasy worldbuilding is also detailed and believable. This is the kind of comfort reading that warms the cockles, and also other parts. It's also beautifully written, bringing the main characters to life in a way that's totally relatable.

2nd January 2017

5 star rating

Review ©

Source: own copy

Book Details

Year of release: 2015

Categories: Books
Cheerful Not For The Squeamish

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