Science fiction and fantasy
by Grace Draven
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
If you like this, try:Soulless: The Manga: Volume One by Gail Carriger and Rem
Alexia is soulless, which means she stands between the supernatural world and the human one. A graphic novel.
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: own copy