Radiance by Grace Draven (Wraith Kings #1)
Released: February 2015
Reviewed by Mandi
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 make a very handsome dead eel, my husband,” she said and winked. Sinhue and Kirgipa both gasped.
“For a boiled mollusk, you wear black quite well, my wife,” Brishen shot back, and his smile stretched a little wider.
Is that quote romantic or what? No? Trust me, once you read this book, when that is spoken you will smile and swoon. I first read Grace Draven quite recently when I was looking for a fantasy book and was recommended Master of Crows. I really enjoyed that book and didn’t realize she had a new one out until Tori and Has started tweeting quite positively about it. Radiance is a fabulous romance.
Our heroine is named Ildiko and is human belonging to the Gauri people. Growing up in a royal court, she has a duty to marry whomever is chosen for her, and she has always been prepared for this – but she isn’t prepared to marry someone who isn’t human. Brishen is prince of the Kai, human-ish in appearance but with grey skin (hence the eel comment above), odd eyes and fangs for teeth. They are blinded by the sun so are creatures of the night. Brishen takes one look at his human bride and recoils in horror himself. Although Ildiko is considered a great beauty by other humans, her pale skin, weird human eyes and bright red hair make Brishen think she is quite ugly.
Her eyes bothered him most. Unlike Kai, hers were layers of opaque white, blue ringed in gray and black pinpoint centers that expanded or contracted with light. The first time he’d witnessed that reaction in a human, all the hairs on his nape stood straight up. That, and the way the contrasting colors made it easy to see the eyes move in their sockets gave the impression they weren’t body parts but entities unto themselves living as parasites inside their hosts’ skulls.
And when Ildiko realizes her eyes bother him, she immediately crosses them just to freak him out more. I love this. A marriage of convenience, two species forced together for an alliance and they think the other is hideous. But what I love even more is that they put their appearances aside and they realize they respect each other. The first time they meet, while repulsed by appearances, they end up laughing about it. They both have great wit and can make the other laugh. They are both mature enough and have both grown up at court, that they know there is no use of fighting off this marriage. So they go with it.
Her bridegroom wasn’t Gauri; he wasn’t even human. He was, however, congenial and gracious. She had proclaimed his appearance ghastly and his honesty handsome. Ildiko still stood by both opinions. She could have done infinitely worse.
They decide not to consummate it right at first, but to become friends – and great friends they become. Since Ildiko has to move to Brishen’s lands, he becomes very protective over her. His people are not used to looking upon humans, so she must endure a lot of ridicule and cruel remarks. He stays steadfastly by her side, and it’s so romantic. So romantic before they even kiss. Their respect and friendship, and the way they support each other is romance at it’s best. (and don’t worry – they do eventually consummate and it’s …worth the wait)
He slipped under the covers and pulled her against him. Her braid slid across his arm, a colorful serpent. He captured it and wound its length around his forearm before letting it unwind and fall away to shelter behind Ildiko’s slender back.
“I’m not human, wife,” he whispered into the darkness.
Shock rounded his eyes at Ildiko’s response, slurred with sleep ad nearly incoherent. “But you’re still mine, husband.”
And while they stand strong together, they also must stay on their toes. Breshin’s mother is a fierce Kai who immediately hates Ildiko. While she doesn’t have a ton of page time in this book, she has a big impact. You will learn much about her.
This book ends with a solid HEA, but the bad guys are not done causing havoc, so that will carry us into book two (due out later this year). Ildiko’s is a most awesome heroine who stands up for her man. The romantic gestures and words in this book are some of the best.
“Woman of the day,” he said slowly. ” You mean everything to me.”
I highly, highly recommend this one.