“The bonds of kin will be tested as new threats arise, though not all threats are new. An ancient evil awakens, and new bonds must be forged if light is to shine another day.”
A King’s Radiance, book 1 in the Bonds of Kin series, absolutely swept me off my feet and left me hungering for more in all the best ways. Needless to say, I went into this sequel with extremely high expectations, both nervous and excited to see if it would live up to the brilliance of that first instalment. And honestly, rarely has a book suffered less from middle book syndrome than The Sun Prince does. This did not merely meet my expectations, but it exceeded them in every single way imaginable; this is how you write a banger of a sequel!
The story picks up roughly two years after the epic final battle at the end of book 1 and reunites us with the three Glaive siblings that we have come to love. They have all been trying to adjust to their new lives and dealing with the fallout of their actions in the best way they can, but a new and more peaceful status quo has proven difficult to establish.
And to make matters worse, the Sun is said to be dying and the notorious Sun Prince from across the sea has set his eyes upon the continent of Zapour. Whether he is friend or foe remains to be seen, but either way, the bonds of kin will be tested again as new and ancient threats are beginning to rise.
Now, I was already very impressed with the expansive, inventive and immersive world building in A King’s Radiance, so imagine my surprise when I discovered that we had only barely scratched the surface there.
Whereas book 1 focused heavily on Zapour and the Shine (sunlight) magic, this instalment takes us to the continent of Yagos where we dive deep into the history and lore of these lands and learn a lot more about the rare Mystic (mind control) magic. There are also a lot more fantastical creatures and animal companions introduced here, which only heightened my enjoyment and increased my sense of wonder.
And I think the reason why all this new information feels so incredibly exciting, is because we experience and learn about it so organically through our main characters’ eyes. It’s not just world building for world building’s sake, but instead we get to see how all these earth-shattering new discoveries directly impact our characters’ lives and tie into their own personal arcs.
Schulz once again proves his masterful skill in handling a multi-POV story set-up where all the perspectives are equally interesting and compelling. This time, though, Dazen’s POV is switched out for a very intriguing and slightly unhinged new character who I was instantly morbidly fascinated by. I personally found this to be a very welcome change, as Dazen was my least favourite sibling in book 1 and I thought that this new POV character provided SO much intrigue and tension to the story.
Speaking of intrigue and tension, I absolutely loved the introduction of the titular Sun Prince in this story and thought the author did a brilliant job at keeping him and his motivations shrouded in mystery. He is a very enigmatic and compelling character who I instantly wanted to trust and fall in love with, yet the wariness of the protagonists and everyone’s conflicting beliefs sowed so much doubt and really kept me on my toes.
Though, even with the introduction of some of these intriguing new characters, the Glaive siblings still remain the big focus of this story and they once again absolutely steal the show. I particularly enjoyed seeing the development of both the sibling bonds and the multiple strong friendships that lie at the heart of this story, while also continuing to progress their individual character arcs in exciting ways.
Isha was already my favourite character in book 1, but here she really established herself as one of my all-time favourite female characters in all of fantasy fiction. Her resilience and strength, both physically and mentally, make her such a fierce and inspiring character, which is why I love her so much and feel so deeply for her.
There is also a particular relationship that blooms between her and a new character in this instalment, and that instantly became my favourite character dynamic in the entire series so far.
I’ll admit that Raiz tested my patience a bit, especially in the middle section of the book, but only because he is such a well-written and frustratingly realistic character. His journey has been full of tragedy and I really appreciate that the author doesn’t brush over all the traumatic events, but instead provides a deep exploration of the heavy emotional impact of them. Raiz’s painful inner conflict is believable and compelling, and in the end I was very satisfied by his slow but very earned character growth.
And when you combine all this engaging character work and exciting new world building with the absolutely riveting plot, excellent pacing and thrilling action, the result is another unputdownable story that will keep you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.
The twists and turns in this series are absolutely jaw-dropping and I love that literally no one is proven to be safe, because that makes the stakes feel so dangerously high. Also, Schulz is both an absolute genius and a damn evil bastard, so you better prepare for a wild emotional rollercoaster when you pick up one of these books.
All in all, The Sun Prince is everything you could wish for from a good sequel, and then so much more. This is not a story that you devour, it’s a story that devours you.
I highly recommend The Bonds of Kin series to anyone who likes their fantasy to be dark, character-driven, action-packed, inventive, and full of emotional destruction. It’s quickly creeping to the top of my personal favourite series list!
Thank you to the author for providing me with a free eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. This book is scheduled for release on October 15, 2023.