“Three siblings… a rebel, a prince, a prisoner.”
From the moment I first heard about A King’s Radiance, I just had the feeling that it was going to be a book for me. Brutal dark fantasy, three siblings as the main protagonists, an inventive sun-based magic system, and plenty of jaw-dropping plot twists. Oh, and we’ve got a loyal ‘animal’ (?) companion, what’s not to love?
On a fateful day eight years ago, which we get to experience first-hand in the gripping prologue, the peaceful lives of the three royal siblings of the Glaive family were brutally shattered. They have been separated ever since, but now their fates are starting to intertwine again as the flames of rebellion are being lit. A princess turned slave, a prince turned rebel, and a crown-prince on the cusp of a life-changing decision; this is their thrilling story of endurance, vengeance, uprising, and freedom.
Right from the prologue, I was fully hooked into this story because of the high levels of tension and intrigue. The reader is just thrown into the world and presented with all kinds of captivating concepts and dazzling displays of magic, which instantly captured my imagination. It quickly becomes clear that this sun-based magic can be incredibly destructive and that no one can be trusted at face value, so the stakes are sky-high from the very first page.
To me, the world building felt very immersive and I am deeply impressed with how seamlessly every aspect of the world and story is woven together into one cohesive whole. From the religion, to the magic system, to the tense and corrupt political landscape, and to the personal struggles of our main protagonists; they are all interconnected and affect each other in unexpected yet catastrophic ways.
I was morbidly fascinated with the merciless King-Radiant and his zealous Eagles, and was truly shocked by some of their vile convictions and practices.
Also, this is the type of story where breadcrumbs of foreshadowing are masterfully planted into the narrative, which made all the reveals and plot twists feel so earned and satisfying.
Now, as a character-driven reader I need more than just an engaging plot and intriguing world building to keep me hooked, and I am very pleased to say that Schulz’s excellent character work turned out to be a shining light of this story for me.
I absolutely loved following these three siblings and exploring how that one pivotal event in their youths has shaped them into the people they are 8 years later. They are all on such different paths and driven by their own motivations, which made it super interesting to explore this world from such contrasting perspectives.
I personally immediately latched onto Isha and Raiz, because I found their respective inner conflicts extremely compelling and really liked how much emotional depth they both had. I’ll admit that it took me a lot longer to get interested in Dazen which made the pacing a bit rocky for me in the beginning, but eventually I got fully invested in all three perspectives and could not stop turning the pages.
Each of these characters is also surrounded by some very strong and vibrant side characters, all with their own backstories and motivations, who we really get the time to connect to. Some are lovable and some absolutely despicable, but I loved how the author defied expectations and did not immediately make it obvious how you were supposed to feel about any of them.
Some character arcs were very unexpected in the most satisfying way possible and I was fully on-board for the unlikely alliances, strong friendships, and wholesome found family vibes that were established. All the conflicting emotions, shifting loyalties, hidden identities, brutal betrayals, and various other crazy twists and turns made this just such an extreme emotional rollercoaster from start to finish.
I also feel like I have to give some special praise to the author for writing some of the most cinematic and pulse-pounding (magical) action sequences that I have ever read. I am the type of reader who often skims through action or fight scenes, but these had me completely glued to the page.
The displays of the Shine magic are just so vividly described and the tension is built up masterfully, which made me feel like I was right there in the scenes alongside these characters. It also helped that the incredibly strong character work had allowed me to become fully emotionally invested in all the characters, so I was biting my nails when shit started to go haywire. And believe me, this story gets absolutely batshit crazy in the best way possible!
Needless to say, I had an absolute blast with this story and the explosive ending left me desperate for more. And judging by the impressive quality of this debut novel, I have a feeling that Schulz is going to be an author to watch.
If you are looking for a dark fantasy with an inventive magic system, compelling sibling dynamics, secret/hidden identities, dangerous rebellion, and lots of emotional gut punches, then you have to check out A King’s Radiance.