Author: Grace Draven
Series: Wraith Kings #1
Date: January 2015
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THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE
Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.
THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.
Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.
“You might have a face to turn my hair white, but your honesty is handsome.”
Radiance starts out pretty strong. The characters were emotionally mature and charming.
Their first meeting actually managed to have some swoon, despite the fact that they found each other physically repulsive. Their reasonable temperaments and lack of self pity or wallowing over their situation was refreshing. I was pretty sure I was going to love this. However as the story goes on, though we are told the stakes are high and much is made out of the awkwardness that comes when these two cultures blend, there didn’t seem to be enough momentum or actual plot. I never believed in the urgency or lack of safety.
This was primarily a romance with almost all the focus being on the development between Ildiko and Brishen as they graduate from deep emotional connection (which happens very quickly) to physical attraction and love. I appreciated that this was a love story where the focus was first on respect and emotional compatibility between two people. Watching them come to see each other as beautiful because of their emotional bond (when neither meets the others cultural bias for beauty) added to the romance. Sadly there wasn’t enough else to get me hooked into the story.
The middle portion dragged due to lack of action. Neither Ildiko or Brishen seem to progress as characters, partly because they are a bit too perfect to start out with. Once Ildiko arrives in the Kingdom of Kai, chapters are spent featuring her being thrust into one supposedly challenging social situation after another, all which she carries off with nearly effortless aplomb. She never seems to make any mistakes or have any trouble handling the alien culture she has been handed off to. Brishen’s parents, the King and Queen, are one dimensional villains who act as a destabilizing force and so that we can contrast them with the perfect paragon of goodness that is Brishen at all times. When real danger and tragedy finally come into play during the last quarter, it still doesn’t seem to have any lasting impact on the characters. It happens, they deal with it, and after they are still the same perfect people they were. Part of the point of major events is to come out changed or to have learned things. I’m not certain what the point of this was other than to make good on the danger we already knew was there, however this is a duology and maybe some of that will come into play in the second book.
I really wanted to love this and think it has good bones, but ultimately suffers from a thin plot and a black and white approach to characterization. However, if you are in the mood for a romantic fantasy about two good-hearted (and often times funny) people this may work better for you than it did for me.