Book Review: The Last Sun by K.D. Edwards
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1 of The Tarot Sequence
Publisher: Pyr (June 12, 2018)
Length: 384 pages
It can be a dog-eat-dog world out there—especially if you’re an Atlantean. Rune Saint John learned that lesson early on the hard way, following a bloody coup on his family when he was just a young boy, which tragically resulted in the complete destruction of the Sun Court. Now, years later, rumors about that day still fly among the elites of New Atlantis, who love to gossip about the Sun’s sole survivor whenever the nobility holds their swanky soirees. For even though Rune is still considered royalty, his family’s downfall ultimately cost him much of his status and power, and as such, he and his loyal bodyguard Brand often find themselves doing odd jobs for Lord Tower, the head of another high-ranking house.
But this time, their employer has charged them with a doozy. It appears that Addam Saint Nicholas, son of the powerful Lady Justice, has suddenly gone missing. Tasked to track down the young man, Rune and Brand start their investigation by questioning those closest to Addam, including his family, who may know significantly more than they are revealing. The deeper they dig, the more they also find evidence of foul play and dark magic. And as if that weren’t enough, the case is further complicated when our characters are saddled with an unexpected houseguest, to whom Rune must play guardian. Everything comes to a head when they discover that Addam’s disappearance might have links to the massacre that destroyed the Sun Court, and Rune has no choice but to face the terrible things done to him in the past if he is to uncover the truth to preserve his family’s legacy.
I enjoyed The Last Sun a lot. Everything about it—from its amazing characters and relationship dynamics to the action-packed plotline and incredible world-building—seemed perfectly aligned with my tastes. Still, like most debuts, it had its fair share of flaws, and I’ll be sure to go into those later, but to start, I definitely want to talk about the elements that really worked for me.
First things first: the world-building. Wow. Just wow. I can hardly remember the last time I was this blown away by such sheer magnificent creativity and imagination. I haven’t seen world-building of this caliber probably since Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence. I could easily go on for pages about what impressed me, but the following are some key features that stuck out. One, the story takes place in an alternate world with many similarities to our own, but with the inclusion of magic as well as the existence of supernatural beings. History also differs dramatically, with the Atlantis being a real place (albeit previously unknown to humans) until the continent was destroyed after the Atlantean World War, which revealed its magic and left the ruling families scattered across the globe. Two, these powerful houses are all named after the Major Arcana of the tarot deck, and their nobles are practically godlike compared to mere mortals thanks to their access to and control over magic. Three, as the prince of a once great house, Rune also possesses a good deal of magical power, including a special mental bond with Brand, who takes his role as protector very seriously. Their mental connection means Brand feels what Rune feels, a perk which actually allows them to communicate quite effectively.
Speaking of which, there’s the character development. Rune is a fascinatingly deep and complex character, with a well-crafted back story, and he’s not even my favorite of the bunch (that honor would belong to Matthias). Granted, it’s a heavily male-dominated cast, sometimes with too little variation in the personalities to set each person apart, but I have to admit, this was an extremely entertaining group to read about, with their lively banter and camaraderie. I also have to mention the queer-friendly themes and the fact that the inclusion and representation of the LGBT characters in this book felt very natural and meaningful, as opposed to being reduced to a mere symbolic gesture or selling point. Without a doubt, the characters were the heart and soul of this novel, and I loved reading about their thoughtful and wonderfully subtle relationships.
In terms of criticisms though, I thought The Last Sun suffered from one minor, but not insignificant, problem. Mainly, it almost feels as if there’s too much going on. The plot might be action-packed, but it’s also arguably the weakest aspect of the book, by which I mean it was decent and entertaining, but still paled in comparison to the spectacular world-building and character development. While you had plenty of skirmishes and nail-biting escapades, ironically my favorite parts of the book were always and unfailingly the quieter parts of the novel, when Rune had his moments of connection with other characters. To me, these were the defining moments of the story, worth more than all the action scenes put together. And yet, the latter was what we mostly got, to the point where the idea of another umpteenth battle sequence actually became unbearably exhausting, so that by the halfway mark I was already skimming over a lot of them.
Still, I can’t emphasize how impressed I was at how all the pieces came together. With so many ideas and moving parts, this book easily could have become a disaster, but in K.D. Edwards’ capable hands, The Last Sun instead became a special series starter full of promise and potential. Despite some hiccups, I enjoyed the book immensely, and I’m excited to see what the sequel will bring.