My name is Rune Saint John. I am, before anything else, a survivor: of a fallen house, of a brutal assault, of violent allies and complacent enemies, of life among a people who turned their back on me decades ago.
You know what’s a great feeling? When you love a book, start up the sequel, and discover that the sequel takes everything you loved in the first book and makes it even better. KD Edwards has nailed his voice in The Hanged Man, and has given us even more and even better character interactions. Brand and Rune are still the ultimate bromance, and Addam is still the kind and caring partner Rune needs and deserves. Max, Quinn, Ciaran… everything you wanted and more. Absolute cinnamon rolls, all of them – and the new characters are similarly great.
If you’re not already familiar with the Tarot Sequence, my review of the first book in this series can be found here: The Last Sun by KD Edwards. This review will contain very mild spoilers for book one.
After taking care of the immediate problem of the lich, the Scooby Gang must now tackle the problem they’ve all been determined not to think about: The Hanged Man’s claim on Max. Although morally grey antagonists seem to be all the rage right now, that’s not the case at all in this book. The Hanged Man is horrific in every way. His emissary is covered in scars, he takes underage children on as his consorts, and really… that’s all you need to know about him. He’s not a good person, not at all, and keeping Max our of his hands is paramount.
Rune also comes to several key realizations. Specifically, it begins to hit him that he was not the only one who was hurt by the sacking of Sun Court; his people, the retainers and houses under his father’s protection, have also suffered. As the heir Scion of the Sun Throne, the responsibility to care for them now falls to him. He steps up to the plate, growing into his new place in the world. He ceases to act as a spectator and becomes an agent. He recognizes that he is one of the powers that be now, and that he has a duty to embrace and use his special abilities.
Flames burst from me. They raced from my eyes, down my face; swept along my arms; fanned across the jade floor in a plume of solar yellow. The world became my silhouette.
Naturally, he does this with Addam’s support. Addam is just such a damn good match for Rune, and I really can’t get over how wonderful he is. I want an Addam for myself and a few spares for everyone I love. Everyone deserves an Addam in their life, frankly. Rune, having been raped and traumatized by the Sun Throne attackers, obviously has a few challenges where intimacy is concerned. This is not frustratingly hand-waved away as I’ve seen in other books (cough cough Liveship Trilogy), but is something they work on together with gentleness and understanding. Every single scene between these two melted my heart with happiness and warmth.
“Brand did that to me,” Addam said. “In the Westlands, at my family compound. When I tried to blame myself for what Ashton caused. Brand poked me and said that I didn’t do this. That this was done to me. Rune, what happened to you . . . It was done to you. You did not cause it. I think the world of you for how you’ve handled it. I truly do.”
Addam is still incredibly protective of his little brother, Quinn. Quinn’s powers of prophesy continue to take a toll, but he’s found a friend in Max who helps and supports him. They’re inseparable; a true dynamic duo… for better or for worse. It’s a fact that they tend to get themselves into more than a little trouble.
We get a closer look into what makes Arcana and principalities different from your run of the mill scions, including some explanations for the more mysterious uses of magic in The Last Sun. No magic is without cost, however, and while it may be flashy… it’s not without limitations. The magic that runs through their veins, including that which binds them to their Companions, becomes a much more important thing for Rune to understand.
Rune’s own Companion, Brand, naturally still has the same exact tough love bond we know and love from the first book. There’s not much to say other than that if you liked Brand in The Last Sun, you’ll continue to adore him in The Hanged Man.
Brand pulled his gun out of his holster, removed a cartridge from his belt, and slapped it into place. He aimed the gun at my leg and shot me. “What the hell, Brand!” I shouted. I looked down at the blue, feathered end of a dart. “You did that really quickly. It’s like you’ve been waiting for the chance.”
Brand smiled . . .
“You act like wanting to shoot you is a secret. I’ve practically painted murals of it on my wall. It’s the closest I can think of to an off switch when you’re about to do something fucking stupid.”
Although the writing style is loose and modern on the surface, a closer examination will reveal a tight, highly polished narrative. If there’s a Chekhov’s gun present, rest assured that it will be fired at some point. Every strand of narrative and plot is relevant, word choice is deliberate, and that which isn’t explained fully will be in the future. There are hints peppered liberally throughout regarding Rune’s dark past and quite a few fan theories floating around to explain them. KD Edwards plays to his audience in the best possible ways, crafting a fun, engaging narrative that will tug on your heartstrings.
Thank you to Pyr for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review!