Series: The Coming of Áed, #3
Author: E.G. Radcliff
In the seventh year of Áed’s reign, night descends on the autumn festival. But a time of revelry turns into one of fiery destruction—as fae pour across the veil and the Gut becomes a battlefield in an otherworldly war.
Determined to protect his kingdom and the people he loves, Áed finds himself catapulted into a realm as unfamiliar as it is dangerous, where magic is king and wild courts vie for supremacy.
While the faerie Queen’s missing consort holds the key to life and death, tenuous alliances raise questions about Áed’s connection to the mysterious Bone court. His survival hinges on cunning as much as illusion.
On a mission like no other, only one thing is certain: no one will survive unscathed.
Rating: Interesting, Adventurous, Heart-touching, Something-I-rarely-see (Unforgettable)
The First Review:
Hopefully I can do this all right, since I seem to be having a really hard time keeping what is the spoilers and what aren’t straight, and that is especially true of this book. For some reason, it feels more different from the first two books than they did from each other, though they are all very different – this is neither a good thing nor a bad thing, as different parts of life are different, and in my opinion books are not about a specific format, but about life. However, the first two books (The Last Prince, The Hidden King) lead into each other and rely on each other, whereas this one is largely separate.
I have to say this is a book where I have several slightly mixed feelings about it. I loved it. I loved it so much. There were things in it that really touched me, things that really speak to me, things that I – at least when they are done in a way I like – predictably like, and something I crave to see but see so, so rarely. These are, by and large, major spoilers, so hopefully they aren’t the kind of spoilers that shouldn’t be shared – I don’t think they are – but they are going in the spoilers section of the review. I can say it has to do with compassion and redemption, and most of all with a choice to cling to one’s personal ideals no matter the consequences. I really rarely see what this book had, so I was so, so happy to see it.
In other respects, I liked Áed and Ronan, but I didn’t feel quite the same connection that I did to the main characters in the previous books. Maybe this was because I read this one in ebook format, whereas I got paperbacks of the others, and that format tends to work better for me, I don’t really know. And sometimes I really felt Áed (and I loved his and Ronan’s relationship. He’s protective and a companion all at once, and Ronan is pretty cool). But it also might have had something to do with something else that is going. I think this is less of a spoiler, but I’ll save the specific details that could be spoilers for later (and I’ll put them at the beginning of the spoiler review, so if you want to know them without going into the major spoilers, that shouldn’t be too hard).
It’s two things sort of, which are slightly different. I don’t really like it when characters who have lost lovers or life-mates or whatever find themselves finding a new love. I mean, I don’t mind it a little here and now, there are people who are like that, there are stories like that, and they should be shown in fiction, too, and maybe it’s because I’m reading the wrong books, but it seems to me that almost always they are shown, and other responses/stories aren’t. That very, very rarely is a character or relationship shown, where one dies, and there’s no need or desire for another, and no other ever could come along. And I think both that some people are like that, that it can be healthy (though there are unhealthy ways for it to be at least thought), and that the relationship two characters in these books had seemed to me like such a one. Where there would not be another. But maybe I am wrong? Maybe in relationships like that, there could be another, and that should be shown. I probably would not have noticed it, have not liked it, except that seems to be how it always turns out in fiction. And I don’t like that. So maybe this is something I didn’t like about The Wild Court, or maybe it’s just that I don’t like the fact that I can’t find something.
The other is that there is another relationship that really struck me like it was a friendship. A platonic brother-to-brother friendship. That was the vibe I got out of both the characters. So I found it kind of jarring when it turned out to be romantic. Also, even if So-and-So’s feelings were romantic, and I misread them as purely platonic and brotherly, why do we never see unrequited romance in stories? Just because one person feels romantically, doesn’t mean the other has to ever want that, return that, or even be able to accept it. So this is another one where it might be like that I didn’t like The Wild Court and more that I really can’t find something, and when I think I might have, and then it turns out not to be that thing, I can find it kind of disappointing, but there’s no fault in the actual story. But I just could not see the relationship as being anything other than platonic or brotherly. Like I literally can’t. Is this what shipping two characters feels like, except in reverse? Except, I really loved them as platonic friends, as brother friends! That made sense to me and really resonated with me.
That said – I loved the book. It has some neat world-building and creatures, and loyalty and tenacity, and I liked the instinctive, animalistic sounds the faeries have for communicating emotions and intentions. And I mentioned, there was that thing I rarely, rarely, ever see, that I loved so much, and I think it was done so well, but it is the biggest spoiler ever, so I’m going to try to put it at the bottom of part two!
… And, I think the Bone Court attitude towards scars and wounds could be good for Áed, who has some of his own that are particularly … bothersome. Not as in painful.
Oh, and, by the way, this one is a lot more epic in scope than the first two.
The Review (Part Two – Spoilers and Such):
So. Trying to arrange things in order of how spoilery it is. First will come something that is a spoiler for the earlier books (letting you know), but there’s been some suggestion of The Wild Court as a standalone/possible introduction to the series (though it is a sequel) and it gets spoiled in The Wild Court pretty early, I won’t worry too much about that. Just letting you know.
Áed and Ninian are the initial lovers. Their love was so sweet and free, and it just did not seem, from the moment I met them, that there could ever be anything remotely like that for either of them with someone else. Like they were just meant for each other and no one else.
Now, so Ninian died, way back in The Hidden King.
And, here’s the next part of the spoiler. Where it’s a spoiler for The Wild Court, not for the earlier books. Apparently, Éamon, who I thought loved Áed like a brother, fell in love with Áed romantically.
And apparently Áed reciprocates, but he just hasn’t been willing to show it, or really let himself feel it, because he feels like that would be betraying Ninian or his grief for Ninian, or something. And if that’s how he feels, yes, he should grow through it. I’m not disagreeing with that. It just felt to me like there would be more to it, and I just can’t see anything romantic between Áed and Éamon. On either side, but especially not Áed.
Well, that’s the slow-burn romance in this book. Éamon’s romance for Áed, and Áed eventually accepting it. Good for them, but whereas I loved Ninian and Áed’s romance, this one – I just couldn’t get. At all. Which isn’t a surprise, since it is true that romance is not my thing.
Okay. Well, I started the beginning of this review with the best of the best parts, and I will end the ending of it with the best of the best parts.
Rian, and Áed and Rian.
Now, Rian an exception among faeries, who generally can’t use magic for anything other than their fire and sensing or emotions, so he is very, very unnaturally powerful, and he is the Queen’s consort. Or was the Queen’s consort, the consort of the Queen of the High Fae, because there are basically two kinds of fae: low court fae which have fire that doesn’t burn other faeries and is most like woodfire, and whose society is divided into many courts, and high court fae, who have fire that hurts low fae and that they can cast into weapons, and who have a Monarch.
Well, the low courts think Rian is a monster. It turns out Rian was abused and tortured into behaving like a monster by the Queen, and finally fled because he couldn’t take it any more, after trying to commit suicide failed.
So Áed and Ronan – who incidentally has to learn to use magic to find Rian – help to find Rian. And it was so heart-touching how Áed senses that Rian is hurting and hurt, and he’s something other than how others see him, and offers him companionship. Áed’s compassion is what makes the whole thing work, what brings the truth to light, and I loved that – might be something like friendship, that develops between him and Rian. Áed’s body language is written so well, too, I think.
And there’s just a certain resonance between them. Like they’re so different, but Áed provides Rian an opportunity to feel sympathy and companionship. By being so compassionate himself, and by being someone Rian finds it in him to relate to. Can I mention, I love Áed?
“Look,” Áed said finally. “I know there’s something else going on here. You’re not who they say you are.”
The consort’s voice was low and cutting. “You’re naïve.”
Áed shrugged. “Maybe.”
After a long pause, Rian glanced over. “Can I ask you a question?”
Áed quirked an eyebrow and held up his hands. “Is it about this?”
Rian nodded. “Forgive me. I was curious.”
“I don’t mind.” Áed held out his hands in front of him, propping his elbows on his knees. “They were smashed when I was younger. Never healed right. With the way they broke, I don’t think they ever could have.”
It was with very little expression that Rian looked at Áed’s hands, but Áed could feel a suppressed flutter of something just beneath the shields that masked the rest of Rian’s emotion. “Do they still hurt?”
“Sometimes.” He folded his arms again, and then paused, wondering if he should ask what he wanted to ask. He wasn’t sure how Rian would take it, but he did want to know. “You’re in pain, aren’t you?”
There was an element of Rian’s story that felt… desperate. As if no matter how little he wanted to speak of it, the past had been pressing at him for so long that the words came on their own.
Áed couldn’t help it any longer. He got to his feet and crossed to the chimney. Rian looked at him, blinking out of the well of his own misery, as Áed lowered himself to a seat next to him. He didn’t brush against Rian’s shoulder, but he was close enough to feel the other man’s warmth through the chilly night air. Rian looked absolutely confused. “What are you doing?”
Rian laughed humorlessly. “Why aren’t you moving farther away?”
“Are you going to hurt me?”
“Then why should I move away?”
Rian stared at him blankly. “Did you not hear what I’ve been saying?”
Áed nodded. He leaned against the chimney, crossing his arms over his middle. “How did you get out?”
Rian met his eyes, searching, like he expected to find deception there.
Áed extended a hand. “Friends?” The word came out uncertainly.
Rian eyed his hand skeptically. “I don’t feel right letting myself be your friend,” he admitted. “I’m sorry. I just… I don’t know if I can.”
Áed lowered his hand a degree. “Okay. That’s okay.” He offered it again. “Then… allies?”
At that, Rian held his breath. Then hesitantly—gently, like he wasn’t sure how best to touch it—he accepted Áed’s hand. “Allies.” He pronounced it as if the word felt odd in his mouth. “All right.”
Well, that will be it for the quotes from there!
But that is only the beginning. What became my absolute favourite part, what I find so special and unforgettable.
Rian has done a lot of terrible things. And he has decided he is never going to kill again. Ever. Anyone. No matter what. He just can’t. He won’t.
Rian, Áed, and Áed’s half-siblings, along with Ronan, contrive a plan to take the castle where the Queen rules. There’s a bit of confusion about some things, but Rian, Áed, and the Queen all end up in the same place, and the Queen specifically has plans to kill Áed to create a two-way gate between the world of the faeries and the world of humans, which would allow her to make the humans into an army for her and rule both worlds with her tyranny.
I didn’t mention, but the Queen has honed the faerie power for influencing emotions to a fine art, and absolutely excels at emotional/mental torture: one of the ways she tried to control Rian, and punished him when he didn’t do as she wished.
And, oh my goodness, I loved how Rian shields Áed, despite the Queen torturing him. And I love how Rian is like, “No, I can’t kill,” and then Áed is like, “Just make me able to. Use your magic to make it so my hands work properly so I can use the axe. I’m not asking you to. Just to let me,” and Rian is like, “Have you killed? Don’t. You’re never the same again,” and Áed is like, “Umm, actually, I have.” (By the way, this is all paraphrased. Not how Áed or Rian say it, or would say it.)
And, in the end, that’s not the only thing I loved about the book, but it’s what made it sing to me. I love characters who will make their choice and hold to it. Who aren’t consequentialist, don’t decide what they will or won’t do based off of what they’re almost sure will happen. But off what they feel or know is right. And I see stories like almost never, so this one!!
I want to quote the whole chapters, pages and pages, so maybe I should quote none of it? Because there is no one line that says it, I think. They would just feel so bad ripped out of context. But I can say it was the best. And I keep re-reading it, far too many times.