D.G.’s Rating – 4 skulls: B+
When I first read the description for Radiance, this sentence convinced me to read it: “discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.” A romance where the hero and heroine find each other totally unattractive (not to say fugly) sounded so unique! I’m tired of books where the heroine swoons after the hero at first sight even if he has 9 tentacles and 7 eyes.
Radiance is the story of two people from different species who entered into an arranged marriage in order to make a political alliance between their kingdoms. They have never met before their wedding day and they know nothing about each other except for their species. Brishen is Kai, a race of gray-skinned people, with declining magic, claws and fangs who live by night, while Ildiko is human. Each finds the other completely ugly and even frightening: Kai are disturbed by human eyes and humans are frightened by the sharp Kai teeth, which “could put a pack of wolves to shame,” according to Ildiko. But since the moment they first met, Brishen and Ildiko feel a connection that allows them to honestly share their feelings about each other.
“You might have a face to turn my hair white, but your honesty is handsome.”
Thus start their marriage, which suddenly becomes a solace for them both. Even though they are pitied by their people in landing such a homely spouse, both feel lucky to have found the other. They agree to delay the consummation of their marriage and they quickly become very close friends, who trust each other implicitly. They seemed so taken with one another that I expected they would move to the lovers part of the romance a bit sooner, but I think the author wanted to gradually show how they stopped seeing the physical and fell in love with the great person underneath. Both were really good people, bright, good humored and very sensible. I aplauded their maturity at making the best of their situation – there was no whining at having to do their duty and marry whomever their King decreed – but I thought Ildiko adapted a bit too quickly. Except with a few hiccups at the beginning, she seemed to take to the Kai way of things like duck to water.
The world was interesting but the focus on the relationship was such a big part of the book that the actual conflict was vague. There wasn’t a particular villain to defeat just a nebulous “they want you to pay for getting married!” threat. There was some action interspersed with court intrigue that wasn’t as interesting. I confess I almost didn’t believe Kai’s assertions about his evil mother, because they seem so one-sided. I wished we had seen evidence of her evil deeds “with our own eyes” earlier in the book so I could really see her as the terrible threat she was supposed to be.
The end of this book was spectacular so I’m definitely reading the sequel, which seems to be a continuation of Brishen and Ildiko’s story. I’m also checking out other books by Ms. Draven – after enjoying this book so much, I’m adding her to my list of authors to watch.
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