Light of the Radiant by Matthew Ward. I very much enjoyed the previous book in The Reckoning series, Shadow of the Raven (you can read that review here) and I eagerly waited for the second book to come out. I even jumped on a short prequel as an appetizer ("A Matter of Belief"; it was also really good). Did these two build up my hype too much? Nope!
It has an engaging start using In Media Res. Edric, Cal and Jamar are investigating a cult but got caught instead. The reader joins them as they are being escorted to a sacrificial alter. Everything flows smoothly from there to the very end. It's remarkable how what can look like a Deus Ex Machina is actually a heavy clue to The Reveal.
Indeed, there are a lot of hints about The Reveal before it comes out and even before it becomes obvious. It's a "snapping into place" feeling meant to be shared with the protagonist.
Whereas the previous story was heavy on mystical mystery, stealth, and fighting Things-That-Go-Bump-In-The-Night, this is more of a political conspiracy story. There is a lot of wheeling n' dealing; "political theater" is what Edric calls it. Investigation is here too but it is more uncover-corruption than find-the-arcane-secret. Indeed, Edric treats Azyra more like the mortal/human ruler of a foreign country than some fey overlord. Certainly, he does it more for her than Malgyne or Jerrack.
I find the Serathi's society and history interesting. The world building of it and how it relates and interacts with what is known from the previous book has this wonderful building-up effect. This rich mythology is one of my favorite parts of this series.
Overall, I would say this story is a different experience from the previous one. There are mysteries and narrative twists but it feels like the world has been sketched out; the highest level borders are in place. More than that, the story is more....straightforward than the previous. The bulk of the plot concerns the Serathi and their preparations for The Reckoning. Perhaps what I mean to say is that there are fewer factions and the motivations between each faction is less opaque. There are lots of factions but they have more minor roles. SERATHI is everywhere in a way neither the trees nor the ghosts of the last book were.
The ending is fantastic. It is a neat trick to close one book's conflict and threats while simultaneously shifting weight to set up the next with a sequel hook.
Edrin has much lasting great development. Most importantly, he is no longer a depressing mope. Now it's more like snark and Heroic Self-Depreciation. The relationship upgrade with Arianwyn has done wonders for his mood and outlook. His character arc has moved on towards the future instead of dwelling on the past but it is clear that the past still influences him.
Also, he is moving towards Seen It All. The events of the last book have left him unimpressed by further supernatural happenings. For instance, when he meets the Serathiel, the ruler of Sky Haven and leader of a race of angels, he interacts with her like he would any human ruler (i.e. politely but suspiciously).
Arianwyn is now a Defrosted Ice Queen. The couple-y scenes she has with Edric are cute and romantic but not overwhelmingly so. She has a new character arc as well, and also rooted in the events of the previous book. Namely, it is a tug between doing what she can for the people of the republic, which she wants to stay a republic, and resisting the urge to become queen so she doesn't have old and stubborn upper class twits sitting on their hands and obstructing her. It contrasts nicely with a Scared of Her Own Strength subplot regarding her magic.
Calda has a more substantial role in this book, and, wow, it is more dynamic than Edric's. There's enough fuel for an interquel. She is the one who thought up the idea for the misadventure that became the Media Res start, something big happens to her and then she goes drastically off the rails. In some ways, it is a foil for Edric's response to the same, and underscores how different they have become culturally.
Azyra the Serathiel. She is Imperial, Proud and Mighty. She's also not as clever as she thinks she is. It's basically favorable circumstances (i.e. she is The Spook and has a Bigger Stick than anyone else). What likes Beneath The Mask is both egoistical and tragic.
Elynna is adorable. I'm not sure if this is accurate, but I picture her as this little child-like cherub. She's likely much older than that but that's the impression I get because she's so friendly and cheerful and lacking in guile.
Elspeth is another new character. Her introductory big moment was executed well. I also liked the Fair Folk part of her personality. It is clear that she is not human but equally clear that is she human-like, if that makes sense. I loved her banter with Edric. In retrospect, it makes the bombshell she dropped make perfect sense. The way she describes her connection with the Palace of Dreams was interesting world building.
It looks good. I think I saw a handful of errors over the course of the book. It happens when books are of a sufficient length.
Trickster Eric Novels gives "Light of the Radiant" an A+
This has been a free review request. The author requested an honest review of their book.
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Brian Wilkerson is a freelance book reviewer, writing advice blogger and independent novelist. He studied at the University of Minnesota and came away with bachelor degrees in English Literature and History (Classical Mediterranean Period concentration).