A little later than planned because it did not dawn on me that it was thursday until rather late this evening (my sense of time is all over the place after the last couple of years), but here is my stop on the Escapists Tours blog tour for A King’s Radiance by L.R. Schulz. This is the first book in the Bonds of Kin series, and the author’s debut, as well as entrant in this years SPFBO competition.
Please do check out the other blogs involved with the tour!
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
Three siblings… a rebel, a prince, a prisoner
The sun’s light shines bright over the land of Zapour, and only a select few can harness its power. But all power comes with a cost, and the world is not kind to those who refuse to pay it.
Raiz Glaive, a strong shine wielder, was born into royalty, though even royals have to answer to someone. When the King-Radiant sends one of his precious underlings to the Kingdom of Trost, Raiz quickly learns who holds the true power in the realm. After his sister is taken prisoner simply for having the violet eyes of a mystic, Raiz swears vengeance. But when an unwilling father stands in his way, Raiz promises to take revenge into his own hands.
Dazen Glaive remains heir to the throne of Trost, and a sworn defender of the King-Radiant, but he has not forgotten what happened to his sister, and will not forgive their cruelty.
Forced to be the centerpiece of her “master’s” twisted human art gallery, Isha remains a prisoner. Though she has not lost hope. Finding friends among fellow captives, she begins to formulate a plan for escape. Though what she discovers has a much more sinister bearing on the fate of all of Zapour.
I first came across ‘A King’s Radiance’ when looking at the list of SPFBO entries for this year, so it was already on my TBR, so I leapt at the chance to join the tour. The premise was interesting, and I liked the idea that we were going to be following siblings, although in retrospect it feels like too much is given in the blurb, although it did not detract from the story at the time. The cover is incredibly striking, and while it had me half expecting an older, darker book, after reading the book it does fit the story very well – especially with regards to the magical system. Also as is to be expected from me at this point, there is a bonus point for the map at the front of the book. It should also be said that the book is beautifully designed throughout with illustrated chapter headings which also signpost which character’s POV we are following, and inner title page, and it’s a lovely touch.
A King’s Radiance is at it’s core a character-driven story. We have our three main POVs, siblings that have been pulled apart through circumstances and their choices in the face of that, and that’s always a fun dynamic to see in fantasy and Schulz does an excellent job here. Each of the siblings – Raiz, Dazen and Isha – are well developed and we get to spend a lot of time with them, with Schulz taking the time to dive into each at a very personal level, which lets us see how their different situations and experiences are shaping them and influencing their paths forwards, as well as the bond between them. Raiz and Isha were probably my favourites, perhaps because their paths are somewhat darker and more twisted, and yet at the same time I think Dazen’s position was the most interesting because he was caught between them and the web of politics as the oldest child. It makes for a great dynamic between not only, but also the factions around them, as none of them are insular and the events they find themselves in have farther reaching consequences.
While the three siblings are the focal point, the wider cast of characters are not neglected and the complexity of their relationships and interactions is there too. Some were also given interlude POVs, offering us another view on the unfolding story which were a nice addition, and helped expand the world and story, and I hope that we will get more of this going forward as much as I love the main POVS.
Also Spike absolutely steals the show!
The worldbuilding was definitely second to the characters. This story is very much about the three siblings, and those around them, and their feelings and interactions with one another and the world around them. That isn’t to say that Schulz didn’t create an immersive world, and we are given more than enough to be pulled into the setting and the events, and to visualise this world he has given us. It just felt as though there was so much more we could explore (and yes I am gazing longingly at the map as I say that), but at the same time, this is the first book in a series and has a lot of legwork to do, so I will just say that I hope to explore more of this world in future books!
The magic system certainly stole the show when it came to the worldbuilding. The idea of drawing power from the sun to power magic is fantastic (and I said that the cover absolutely reflects that in my mind), it falls on the softer side of the scale as it felt like there was so much more we could delve into with this magic – which makes me excited to see where it is taken in future books. The magic itself is called Shine, and it’s an ability that not everyone has access to, and even amongst those who do there is an imbalance – between the King Radiant who can use it unlike anyone else, to those who can use it, to those who have too much and have it essentially boil over. The range of uses for the magic, especially in action scenes was brilliant and certainly added an extra dimension to those scenes and it gave me some Avatar or maybe even Fairy Tail (make magic – for anyone who gets the reference) vibes with how it could be shaped.
A King’s Radiance does an excellent job of pulling you into the story, in part because of that focus on the characters really pulls you into what is happening. I will say that it leaned more towards the predictable side of things, especially with the detail given in the blurb, and when reveals happened; but it certainly didn’t stop this from being an enjoyable read. The action flows, and with the magic as well those moments tend to be incredibly visual which is great. This is a fast paced novel, with an easy to absorb writing style, which again builds on that immersive feeling, because you are very much carried along by the flow of the book.
A King’s Radiance is a solid debut, that has set out the groundwork for what promises to be an interesting series and I am keen to see where Schulz takes it. If you like character-driven fantasy, especially where the focus is on family, lots of action, moral greyness and animal companions and a fun magic system then this is one that you should give a go.
Luke is a fantasy addict born in Melbourne, Australia. He discovered a passion for fantasy at a young age which developed into a love for the imaginary and a desire to write.
Despite an early passion for storytelling, Luke obtained a teaching degree before beginning a career as a primary school teacher.
When he is not reading and writing, Luke enjoys spending time with his Golden Retriever named Gem, gaming, and surfing.
A King’s Radiance is Luke’s debut novel, though he is always coming up with ideas for his next project, as well as working towards a sequel.
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this book.