Genre: YA, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Harper Teen
Publication Date: April 2010
Hardcover: 352 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 4 in the Wicked Lovely series
Hunger for nourishment.
Hunger for touch.
Hunger to belong.
Half-human and half-faery, Ani is driven by her hungers.
Those same appetites also attract powerful enemies and uncertain allies, including Devlin. He was created as an assassin and is brother to the faeries’ coolly logical High Queen and to her chaotic twin, the embodiment of War. Devlin wants to keep Ani safe from his sisters, knowing that if he fails, he will be the instrument of Ani’s death.
Ani isn’t one to be guarded while others fight battles for her, though. She has the courage to protect herself and the ability to alter Devlin’s plans—and his life. The two are drawn together, each with reason to fear the other and to fear for one another. But as they grow closer, a larger threat imperils the whole of Faerie. Will saving the faery realm mean losing each other?
Why did we read this book:We are, admittedly fan girls of Melissa Marr and of this series having loved every single instalment so far.
How did we get this book: Review Copies from the Publisher
Ana: I love Melissa Marr’s writing and I adore this series and consider it one of the best YA out there at the moment. The previous two books Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity were on my top 10 books of 2008 and 2009 respectively. To say I was excited about this book is to put it very mildly. And in many ways it delivers: the incredibly imaginative imagery returns as does the strongly, nearly perfectly developed overarching plot, the one that has been going on since book 1 regarding the Courts politics. Many of my favourite characters – Niall, Irial and Seth – are here and their presence and storylines are further developed. BUT I need to be honest and say that I felt disappointed about the main storyline –Devlin and Ani’s -of this particular book: it felt out of place and out of synchrony with the rest of series. It is the oddest sensation this one, especially because I never expected it to be connected with a Melissa Marr book. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Melissa Marr is capable of writing anything short of a very good book and I really liked Radiant Shadows. I just didn’t love it.
Thea: I have to echo Ana’s sentiments completely. I love this series. Deeply. I love that Melissa Marr isn’t afraid to push boundaries and that she isn’t afraid to write protagonists that fall outside of the usual straight-edge crowd. I love that she dares to put her characters through the grinder and not end things with a “and they lived happily ever after” withacherryontop. Unlike so many young adult urban fantasy/paranormal titles on the market, the Wicked Lovely series dares to go *there*. And that’s what I love about it. Radiant Shadows is another strong entry from Melissa Marr – the storytelling and quality of writing is beautiful as usual, and I’m definitely seeing that the overall series arc is moving towards a dramatic, awesome conclusion. That said, I have to agree with Ana – I found myself a little disappointed with this book as novel on its own. Ani and Devlin’s storyline felt forced, and I couldn’t really warm to either character. Worse, the characters I do love and wanted to see more of were relegated to the margins. That’s not to say Radiant Shadows is bad – because it’s still an awesome book and leagues better than the majority of YA UF books out there right now. But, having seen what Melissa Marr has accomplished with her previous books and knowing what she’s capable of, I can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.
On the plot:
Ana: Devlin is the brother-son of Sorcha, the Queen of the High Court and personification or Order and of her twin sister Bananach, the personification of War. He functions as the High Queen’s main advisor and assassin and a few years ago was asked to kill a half-mortal named Ani. Stopped by his friend Rae – for reasons not specified – Devlin let her live and that has been his greatest secret and shame. Ani is the daughter of Gabriel, the leader of the Wild Hunt which feeds the Dark Court. She is at a crossroads right now as her mortal side, inherited from her mother, is diminishing and her faerie side takes hold. When Devlin is sent by Sorcha (who is showing signs of neglect to her responsibilities ) to the mortal world to keep an eye on her son Seth he meets Ani and the two become entangled in court intrigue, and the war between Chaos and Order and both have major roles to play, possibly changing the very future of Faery itself.
The story is focused on the Devlin and Ani relationship but not exclusively so – their lives are deeply entangled in the overarching story, the one that has started in book 1. Basically, all the Courts have reached a point in time in which they need to change, move on or be extinguished. Things have been evolving: The Summer Court with the new Queen and King that are not together; The Dark Court which, after the peace was made between Summer and Winter find their very survival to be difficult; the Queen of the High Court once the personification of balance finds herself utterly un-balanced.
From that point of view, with regards to the overall arc, Radiant Shadows is absolutely great. I simply can find no fault in the execution of the plot, in the evolution of this story. I find it fascinating, beautiful and extremely well played. The mythology created, the richness of the images (like the Wild Hunt or Ani’s wolves), the consequences of every single act and the actions of every single major player matter and are what make this series so damn good. I love how everything is moving and how this book ended in a perfect note.
But if I can’t fault the execution, the writing or the plot, I find myself at odds with the very premise for this particular book and for Devlin and Ani’s relationship because it heavily relies on the idea of “fate”. You see, Ani, is for some reason, Important and has been foreseen as a key player. Hence why Sorcha wanted her killed. Even though “fate” as a word is never really used, there is the very strong, very clear underlying thought that Devlin and Ani are “meant to be” and that together they will shake things up in Faerie. I need to be clear and say that I am not averse to the idea of fate or couples meant to be together but the use of these concepts in this particular series is troublesome because up to this point every single thing, every single character’s motivation and action has been about free will and choice. To me, it just doesn’t make sense within the series’ parameters and I have to say the whole thing threw me out. There are even seers all of a sudden – when did that happen??? Although I can see that many things might have been inevitable, I want this inevitable to be because of the circumstances not because someone “foresaw” it.
Having said all that: as I said the execution of this plot was brilliant as usual. I might not like the premise (Ani and Devlin and their meant to “beness”) but Melissa Marr can tell a story. And the outcome IS freaking brilliant and perfect.
Thea: I feel similarly conflicted in terms of plot with Radiant Shadows. First, the good. Melissa Marr is nothing if not a damn good storyteller, and Radiant Shadows is no exception. Poetic, effortlessly paced, and deeply immersive, the fourth novel in the Wicked Lovely series is no slouch when it comes to writing. I have to echo Ana’s sentiments regarding the overall arc of the series as well – Radiant Shadows brings some major upheaval to the world Ms. Marr has created; faerie has been remade, allegiances are fluid and shifting, and power has changed hands. This is all delectable stuff, and I love the developments in this novel, leading to what promises to be a thrilling concluding volume.
But…There’s the significant problem of character, and a feeling that Radiant Shadows doesn’t quite fit in the Wicked Lovely canon (yeah, that’s right, I said CANON). My biggest problem with the book was how forced it all felt. The relationship between Devlin and Ani didn’t make sense to me (I could neither relate to these characters, nor did I buy that they fell head over heels in love with each other so completely and so quickly), and there seem to be some inconsistencies with the rest of the series thus far (i.e. all of a sudden there are new mortals with pretty solid powers just barely introduced now?).
Ultimately, I enjoyed Radiant Shadows, but it feels very much like an in-between novel. The buildup of the existing story arc and setting the stage for the final act of the series is tantalizing and expertly done by the ever-talented Melissa Marr…but the relationship and central characters feel like so much filler in comparison.
On the characters:
Ana: Some of my favourite characters of the entire series, Irial, Niall, Sorcha, Seth and Bananach play major roles in this book. And they are all so well developed too. And it is great to see how Melissa Marr writes them and doesn’t pull any punches. There is a lot of darkness and pain in this book. Every time Bananach walks into a scene I know nothing good will come out of it and am terrified. She is the personification of war and the author doesn’t shy away from this truth: two characters see their demise and one of them a major player (I wailed. Literally wailed in sorrow).
I am not so sure about the real protagonists though: Devlin and Ani and to some degree Rae.
Devlin is a man of conflicts: on one side his conflict about being part order and part chaos which is interesting but was basically Niall’s conflict too in Ink exchange. On the other side, his conflict about going against his sister and the High Court and breaking his vow by saving Ani’s life. Again, interesting. HOWEVER, this vow of fealty has been broken for a long time, ever since he welcomed Rae and kept her hidden from Sorcha. That completely undermined the specialness of Ani. I liked Ani though, I thought she was another strong female protagonist, which knew what she wanted, even though I never truly understand what made her different from all other dark Court faeries.
Then, there is the romance. Again, I have to say, it is well done and I loved the romantic development but at the end of the day it was never clear to me WHY did they fall for each other? There was NO explanation, it just was – as in “meant to be” which takes me back to the point I made before.
Finally, we have this new character Rae. A mortal and a dreamwalker and… I am left intrigued as I didn’t get what is the point of this character. Plus a powerful MORTAL dreamwalker? Again when did that happen, when did that become part of the mythology of this series? Her appearance at the eleventh hour points to an important role to play but also sort of smells of Deus Ex Machina. I really didn’t want to think like this as I have the utmost respect for Melissa Marr as a storyteller but I am puzzled. I hope though, I hope that the last book will clarify everything to me.
Thea: What Ana said. I love the characters in this series to date and Radiant Shadows reacquaints readers with old favorites – such as Iri and Bananach, two of my personal faves. I was kinda bummed that Seth and Aislinn were so much on the periphery this time around (even though I knew this was not a book dedicated to them), but I was thrilled to see the conflict between Bananach and Sorcha blossom to its full potential.
But again, (like a broken record, am I!) I have to agree with Ana – the two main characters of Ani and Devlin just didn’t do much for me. Ani is strong and “unique” because she can feed off mortals and faeries alike, and she’s (sort of) cruel and a daughter of the Hunt. That’s cool. I like that she is a strong character and clearly dedicated to those she loves, but she’s also supposed to be a morally ambiguous character – and her ambiguity never really felt genuine to me. She talks about her cruelty and her badassness, but it’s so restrained as to be irrelevant. (On that note, what the heck happened to the Dark Court in this book? Of all courts, wouldn’t they actually encourage Ani to use her powers to feed off of mortals and faerie alike, as opposed to restraining her? It doesn’t seem very Dark Courtly to me…)
Devlin, as Ana says, feels very familiar. I like the struggle he faces with his mother-sisters, Bananach and Sorcha, and with his own locked-down emotions. But I didn’t ever buy the romance between he and Ani. For one thing, Ani is anywhere between 16-19 years old, and half-faerie or no, that’s a pretty creepy age difference considering Devlin has been around for a millennium (not to mention, he was supposed to kill her when she was a baby – only FOURTEEN YEARS PRIOR to the main plot of the story). Age difference aside, I didn’t understand really what was so enchanting about Ani to Devlin, or vice versa. Radiant Shadows was like a very traditional, ‘and then they laid eyes on each other, fell in love, and lived happily ever after’ kind of thing – and it fell flat, for me.
Another new character makes an appearance in this book with Rae, the powerful, ethereal mortal in faerie…but her character ultimately seems kind of pointless. Unless she has some bigger purpose in the next book, that is. Time will tell, I suppose.
Final Thoughts, Observations and Rating:
Ana: It might not sound like it, given the criticisms aforementioned but I actually really enjoyed the book and I can’t say it is bad book at all. Everything connected to the Courts, to Niall and Irial was absolutely great. But everything else despite being well written, felt out of place within the confines of the series. As much as I enjoyed it, the fact is that Radiant Shadows is my least favourite book of the series but I am fully aware that it might be down to personal preference. I can’t wait for the final installment though, especially given how things were left off at the end of the book.
Thea: I loved the direction of the story arc in with this penultimate volume in the series, and there’s no denying that Melissa Marr is one heckuva storyteller. Even though I didn’t care for the protagonists or the romance, I still found myself devouring this book whole, and I cannot wait for the final installment. Especially since it means we’re headed back to the characters that really make the series tick.
Notable quotes/Parts: Thanks to Harper Teen’s awesome Browse Inside feature, you can check out the first 80 pages of Radiant Shadows for free online. Check it out:
And once your done with that, check out the book trailer, online HERE.
Ana: 7 Very Good
Thea: 7 Very Good, although its waffling between a 6 and 7
Reading next: White Cat by Holly Black