Book Review: Radiance by Grace Draven

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Title: Radiance
Author: Grace Draven
Published: 2015
Genre: Fictional Fantasy Romance

Synopsis: 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. 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.

My Rating: Red-StarRed-StarRed-Star 1/2

I picked this up on a whim because I had just finished shedding tears for “Burial Rites”, I felt heavy afterwards, I wanted something romantic but not YA and I didn’t have anything on my shelf to satisfy that so I picked up this ebook. In Radiance we have the story of 2 races of people. The humans and the Kai. The Kai is a nocturnal race that looks quite monstrous to our human eyes but in turn they are both petrified and disgusted by human vestige. In order to conduct a peace treaty between the races Kai Prince Brishen, the younger spare heir is married off to Ildiko, the nice of the human King to seal an alliance. I found it refreshing that they each thought the other to be repulsive looking but right off the bat there is tenderness in their shared sorrow of marrying someone they find so vulgar. This alone I truly appreciated. Brishen is not an asshole who makes Ildiko’s life hell, on the contrary he is protective of her, considerate and so kind. Ildiko is a good heroine, she’s bold but not a caricature, she navigates court politics with aplomb and is not a damsel in distress at all. She’s not a shivering virginal medieval dunce, she’s experienced but real, sweet but sassy and her closeness towards Brishen is evident right off the bat.

The burn is slow and gradual and the two begin seeing past their ‘ugly’ spouse and to the person they are. This was sweet and well crafted but not corny, unlike many romance novels out there. I loved the richness of the world building, the culture and the mythology along with the magical elements.

Now, here’s where it fell short for me and I think it’s because I was expecting more out of it than it was intended. I felt that the plot was virtually non-existent and it was strange because the world is so rich and the culture so well defined that the lack of plot had me completely confused and floundering especially with an end that was suddenly epic. I felt that this needed more. The reasons I felt like it needed more is because I think this has the skeleton of a really great fantasy but it never got there and I felt let down because I loved the skeleton. You have likable characters, great world-building but no driving plot until the last 15-20 pages where it ends and you’re like ‘WHERE THE HELL DID THAT COME FROM THERE WAS A PLOT??’

So, I know this book will have a sequel and I will pick it up because I’m hoping that in the sequel Draven delivers what I felt was missing in this one.

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