Radiance (Wraith Kings, Volume 1) by: Grace Draven
I give this book four out of five stars for a beautifully constructed romance, an authentic and engaging fantasy realm, and well done plot pacing. I audio binged my way through this book, and was upset to discover I have to wait to binge on the second book.
What I liked:
1) The fantastic execution of the plot of two royals from opposing worlds being married off as part of a treaty and falling in love. Ildiko and Brishen come to terms with the hideous appearance of their spouse, and slowly grow attached to admirable qualities of each other. Sound familiar, maybe, but it’s a plot that when done well stands out against a romance market saturated with characters in love over appearances. I got a happily ever after high when these two no longer cared about the others ugly appearance, and actually started to see things they admired in the unfamiliar features. The way their relationship builds is lovely and I enjoyed both characters.
2) There’s some great humor throughout the book. It’s clever how the protagonists meet for the first time. The tension built in a real and honest way and was broken with moments that had me laughing out loud. Their observations are candid and a lot is revealed about them in just that scene. I laughed through scenes where they are forced to eat new foods, and at the pair playing off the others culture shocks.
3) The fantasy realm. Draven’s constructed a world and cultures on par with traditional epic fantasy. It’s not a romance set in troupe like fantasy so fantastic plot devices can be used when the authors writing fails. This world felt genuine, was vividly captured, and held my interest. It’s a place with some grit and ugly realities. With fight scenes that have consequences, and a magic system I want to learn more about.
What I didn’t like:
1) The interactions between Brishen’s mother and Ildiko. It seemed odd to me that Ildiko’s noblewoman character would choose to verbally spar the way she did with her new mother in law and Queen. It still worked, but I thought it was a little out of place.
I listened to this book through audible and thought the narration by Gabrielle Baker was excellent.