Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr
Melissa Marr has a knack for good titles, and she’s been lucky enough to get some pretty cover art for her novels. Her Wicked Lovely series of stories about fairies presents a dangerous world of shifting alliances. Her human and fae protagonists have to find their way through a maze of complex relationships. Marr uses shifting third person POV to get inside the various characters and present several plotlines.
The main characters here are Devlin and Ani. Devlin is one of the oldest faeries, created mutually by two sisters, the High Queen, who personifies reason, and War, personification of violence and discord. He’s always been kind of torn between the two, working as an assassin for the High Court. Ani is a member of the Dark Court, half-Fae but rapidly losing her mortal side and gaining power. The High Queen had ordered Devlin to kill her at birth, but he’d disobeyed. Now there’s a strong attraction between Ani and Devlin, and War is taking an interest in Ani, hoping to use her to take power and overthrow the High Queen. In a side plot, the High Queen is slowly going insane over the abandonment of her son, which is destroying the land of Faerie and weakening herself for War’s attack.
It sounds complicated, and it is. Part of the fun of these books is learning the intricacies of the faerie world and seeing how characters navigate these complex systems of power which must be balanced. The complicated plot means that a lot of action is going on, and it’s important to read closely, or at least more closely than one might typically read YA fiction.
The love story between Ani and Devlin was appealing, perhaps the most appealing one in this series so far. At first Ani has to pull away physically because she has this blood hunger that could hurt or kill Devlin if she gets carried away (I was reminded of vampirism). They each know they should kill the other, but they don’t want to. These hints of danger create a tension that just drives them toward each other more surely. They end up with a very healthy relationship and seem to treat each other as equals, despite the age difference of several millenia.
Each book in the series can easily stand on its own; there is little carry-over from one book to the next. For example, Aislynn, the main character from the first book, is only mentioned in this one once or twice. As someone who likes series, that seems to me like a missed opportunity. There’s nothing more fun than seeing an “old friend” character pop up in an unexpected place, or, better yet, correctly predicting that a previous book’s character will come back to fill a certain role or solve a problem. In the last book, Darkest Mercy, which came out a couple months ago, I hope to see the disparate strings of the different characters’ narratives tied together. Judging by the book jacket description, it seems likely.