What Janine is Reading: K.D. Edwards’ Tarot Sequence Series
Back in springtime I started fretting how few good 2022 books I’d read. I keep track of these things because I want to have a half decent best-of-the-year list by the end of the year. By early July, I only had two. Less than five books do not a list make and at the rate things were going, I thought, I’d be lucky to have four (luckily the second half of the year turned out better).
Two months before that, I had started to go through other DA reviewers’ A and A- reviews to see if I could find something that would do it for me. I struck gold with Sirius’s straight A review of K.D. Edwards latest and third book in his Tarot Sequence series, The Hourglass Throne. It made me decide to read the series from the beginning and I went on to read all three of the books that are available now.
(I feel very fortunate that my library had them because the books are expensive. But I like these so much that I plan to pick them all up when they go on sale and will probably pay full price for a copy when the fourth comes out.)
Below are my reviews of all three.
The Last Sun
This series is set in Nantucket, now taken over by the magic-capable people of Atlantis in the aftermath of a war between them and humanity. The Atlantians are led by the arcana (these are the leaders of their courts). The courts themselves are named after the major arcana in a tarot deck—or rather, the tarot cards were named after the leading families of Atlantis by someone who ventured to Atlantis and back to the human world before most humans found out Atlantis existed.
Rune is the scion of a destroyed court, the Sun Court. His father’s court was dismantled by an unsanctioned raid (unsanctioned by the other members of the ruling body known as the arcanum—supposedly, because in reality only they are powerful enough to have pulled it off). Every member of the Sun Court except for Rune and Brand, his companion (a companion is a bodyguard who shares a psychic empathic connection with the person they are guarding) was killed. Rune, then only fifteen, was gang raped, but his rapists were masked. Brand was the one who saved both Rune and himself.
Rune and Brand now work as detectives for Lord Tower of the Tower Court. In this first book, Rune and Brand participate in a sanctioned raid (different from what happened to him; in an unsanctioned raid people aren’t killed or abused unless they respond with violence) on the Lovers Court. Arcana store their magic in devices called sigils and Rune is short of them; when Lady Lovers offers him one in exchange for delivering a package, Rune agrees. It turns out the package is a teenage boy, Max, and he’s not to be delivered for another three years. So now Rune and Brand are stuck with a kid.
The Tower sends Rune Brand on a mission to track down the missing scion of a third court, Addam. It turns out Addam was taken by people who have dangerous forces at their command. Rune and Brand, assisted by another kid, Addam’s clairvoyant, confused younger brother Quinn, as well as Ciaran, a very powerful man who cares about Quinn, fight to free Addam.
This was an action-packed book (a little too action-packed in its first half) with a lot of snappy, hilarious dialogue (most of it courtesy of Brand), a nascent romance between Rune and Addam (once Addam is found), and some major discoveries, not just in terms of who kidnapped Addam, but also in terms of Rune’s powers and in terms of clues to who was behind the fall of his father’s court.
I loved Rune, the Tower, and especially Brand. I enjoyed the book a lot, especially the second half. The first half had almost no downtime and it needed some between all the action. I wanted a breather and more backstory and relationship development. The second half provided more insight into the characters, developed them and their various relationships, and moved the overarching plot of the whole series forward.
This is also the part of the book where Rune acquires a love interest in Addam. Addam’s instalove feelings for Rune felt unearned and I initially felt that he was a bland character. He was obviously a good guy but I wanted Rune with Brand, who is a much more interesting and compelling figure (my feelings on this changed in book two). A little bit is revealed about who was behind what happened to Rune when he was a child and Rune is determined to unearth the rest. Other interesting things happen in this part of the book too.
A major issue I had with this book was that of the seven most significant characters, all seven were male. This really bothered me; I like for there to be a significant female character in a story even if she’s not a protagonist. The second book in the series is much better in this regard.
Another thing that bothered me is that all the characters act younger than their age—Brand and Rune read as 28 or so, not 35, Max 14, not 17, Quinn 11, not 15. Eventually I realized that some of this was due to the slow aging process of Atlanteans but even after that I kept having to translate age numbers in my head. It was annoying and distracting for a long time and I think it detracts more than it adds.
I was hooked enough to read the second book, though, and I really loved that one. B for The Last Sun.
The Hanged Man
This book begins with an attempted kidnapping. Max, Rune and Brand’s ward, is almost snatched off the street by minions of the Hanged Man, an arcana. Max’s grandmother, the deposed leader of the Lovers Court, promised Max to the Hanged Man in marriage despite the fact that Max is only seventeen (and remember, that’s younger in Atlantean terms than it is in human terms) and the Hanged Man is a known pedophile.
Rune and Brand rescue Max in time but all three are freaked out. They know they need a way to look into the Hanged Man’s dealings but they also need cover, so they agree to take a case that has been petitioned to them.
Another teenager is missing, named Layne (Layne is described as a boy in The Hanged Man but by the next book, Layne has realized they are nonbinary so I’ll try to remember to use the pronoun “they” here). Layne’s guardian Corinne was their father’s companion (not romantically, but rather an empathically linked bodyguard much like Brand is to Rune).
Layne’s parents were affiliated with the Sun Court which is why Corinne petitioned for Rune’s help. They had two other children, Anna and Corbie. Corbie is four and Anna is twelve (probably three and nine in human terms—this age thing really trips me up). While poking their heads into the Hanged Man’s business in order to find and rescue Layne, Rune and Brand get closer to this family and develop protective feelings toward all of them.
The Hanged Man is up to his neck in some creepy stuff. In addition to kidnapping teens he also hijacked a naval ship that disappeared during World War II. Rune, Brand and Addam find and explore it and there are nasty surprises inside. They also discover that the Hanged Man is a dangerous enemy to cross.
There was so much I loved about this book that it’s hard to keep track of it all. As I said to friends, it fires on all cylinders. It had spot-on pacing, a great and satisfyingly twisty plot, action, humor, emotion, and bonding (both familial and romantic). I loved the introduction of Anna and the way Rune got closer to Max and Quinn. The kids (all but Corbie, who annoys me) added so much.
Since I had a problem with the almost all-male cast of The Last Sun, I was glad that significant female characters—Anna, Corinne, and an arcana named Lady Death—joined the cast in this installment. I loved the further development of Rune and Addam’s relationship. Addam is so honorable and willing to put himself on the line for Rune that he won me over and I’m no longer grumbling about how I’d rather Rune was with Brand. Addam’s relationship with Quinn (his younger brother/surrogate son) and Quinn’s relationships with just about everyone in the story are touching.
There was almost nothing that didn’t work for me—other than some simplistic humor with Corbie, just a scene at the Arcanum when so many Arcana characters were introduced all at once. I often find it awkward to try to get to know several important characters in one scene. Other than that, this was pretty much a perfect book. It’s an A, and I don’t give those lightly.
The Hourglass Throne
This is the most recent book in the series and it just came out this year. Rune and Brand are called to the scene of an attack on a rejuvenation center (a place where Atlanteans and their companions can be made physically younger). They quickly discover that a mysterious and very powerful patient at the center discovered that she could not be rejuvenated and murdered everyone there.
But who could be that powerful and what other motives can this woman have? When they are attacked at a party in Lady Death’s house, they realize that they are dealing with an attempt at resurrecting a fallen throne and that there might be a remaining scion of Lord Time’s bloodline.
I can’t say a lot about this one without spoiling it, but this was a darker book than the other two and the pacing was more uneven here than in book two. The ramp up is slower but once the action hits, it comes down on our hero with the force of an avalanche. There are twists upon twists in this book, revelations after revelations, and I loved them.
Many of them tie back to the fall of the Sun Throne and Rune’s systematic rape. At the same time, we also learn about a secret Rune has been guarding for a long time. The scene where he shared it with someone else was simultaneously gut-wrenching (this secret was very dark) and comforting (because at last he was no longer alone in the knowledge he carried).
There was maybe a little too much of the kids in this one (particularly Corbie), but at the same time I still love most of the dynamics between the kids and the adults. Rune comes into his own in a big way here and I also loved seeing more of the secondary characters. Brand, Addam and Quinn, of course, but also Lord Tower and Lady Death. The ending reveals one last twist and it’s one that hints at a lot more to come. B+/A-.
One last word. In many ways, this series remind me of a darker, more twisty, and queerer version of Ilona Andrews’ books. There’s humor and snappy dialogue (much of it courtesy of Brand, who drops an F-bomb into every phrase), loving and entertaining familial interactions, fast-paced action, great rapport between the main characters, strong female characters, people who think and investigate rather than just stumbling into dangerous situations, plenty of magic, and a hero whose magical powers and agency are growing from book to book. I also love that the stakes escalate with each book as each one brings us closer to the truth about Rune’s past.
K.D. Edwards has a total of nine books planned in this series so there are six more to come. It’s clear at this point that he knows where he’s going and what he’s got planned and isn’t just winging it. I’ve rarely felt that I was in more capable hands with a relatively new author, but that’s how I feel here. I’m so glad I discovered this series.