Eidolon, by Grace Draven

27 Dec
Cover for Eidolon, by Grace Draven; a redheaded white woman in an embrace with a man with literal gray skin, showing the scar across his missing left eye.

Almost seven years ago, I read Ms Draven’s Radiance, and loved pretty much everything about it. The writing voice, the worldbuilding, the plotting, the characters. I finished reading, and immediately wrote what became one of my most popular reviews on this blog.

I finished the book both entirely satisfied with the story, and desperate to know what would happen next in the world of the Wraith Kings, as the epilogue set it up so perfectly. So I did what any obsessed reader would, and checked Ms Draven’s website regularly until the second book, Eidolon, was released in early 2016–at which time, I snapped it up.

Then proceeded to let it languish in the digital TBR until Saturday night.1

Trying to rekindle the reading mojo, I re-read Radiance in one go, went looking for the sequel, found that I had already bought it lo, those many years ago, and kept on reading, finishing Eidolon sometime in the wee hours of Sunday. (I have now bought the next title in the series, The Ippos King, hoping fervently that doing so does not condemn it to seven years in the TBR.)

Please note, this a fantasy series, with graphic descriptions of heterosexual sex between the two main protagonists. If you like your fantasy ~pure~ and/or your romance chaste, these stories are not for you.

Eidolon, by Grace Draven

Radiance ends with an epilogue involving Brishen’s mother, and Eidolon starts with a very intense prologue dealing with the immediate, and catastrophic, consequences of that scene.

While I found the former an intimate book, despite involving a couple of subplots and pretty intricate worldbuilding, this second installment is much wider in scope, following two separate, more defined plotlines.

The blurb, from the author’s website:

In a bid for more power, the Shadow Queen of Haradis unleashes a malignant force into the world. Her son Brishen, younger prince of the Kai royal house, suddenly finds himself ruler of a kingdom blighted by a diseased darkness. His human wife Ildiko must decide if she will give up the man she loves in order to save his throne.

Three kingdoms on the verge of war must unite to save each other, and a reluctant one-eyed king will raise an army of the dead to challenge an army of the damned.

A tale of alliance and sacrifice.

One follows the only survivor of royal blood from the massacre at the palace in Haradis, a yet-to-be-named infant daughter to Prince Harkuf Kashkem, Brishen’s older brother and heir apparent to the throne. Saved and protected by three characters who, while lowly in worldly terms, prove to be brave, loyal, and, above all, resourceful, her survival means the continuation of the royal line, and of Haradis as a kingdom.

The other deals with how the invasion of the galla, demons who feed both of the living and their fear, affects not just the daily life at the royal garrison of Saggara, where Brishen and Ildiko live, but also how the changes in the political landscape–namely, the succession, as no one but her three protectors knows about the young unnamed Queen’s survival–affect their very marriage.

As I said above, the story’s scope covers the whole world, as the threat of the galla is to every living thing, not just the Kai, so aside from Ildiko, Brishen, and the secondary characters we meet in Radiance, there are a number of characters from groups that are mentioned in passing in Radiance, that play pivotal roles in the plot of Eidolon.

The worldbuilding remains top notch; there’s expansion on the mythology, but there are no contradictions and what retconning is there is truly seamless. The writing voice is very engaging, both in the action scenes as in the quiet, intimate ones.

As a reader of genre romance, I adored how the relationships are handled here.

There are misunderstandings between Ildiko and Brishen, but there is no contrived ‘big mis’ putting them in TSTL-romance-protagonist territory. Instead, we have two adults dealing with the natural frictions that come from seismic changes in their circumstances, especially considering that their marriage is still barely a year old, and that they’re still discovering each other and the many cultural differences between them.

They hurt each other more than once, without meaning to, as they try to come to terms with what is, while wishing for what was. I am very glad that we readers are able to see how both characters process each obstacle and stumble, how they change and grow, individually and as a couple.

We see more of Anhuset and Serovek, whose romantic subplot continues here, and culminates in the third book, The King of Ippos. I say, ‘we see more’, because while the tension between them, what with Serovek pretty open attraction to Anhuset and her contemptuous resistance to the very idea of a flirtation–let alone a relationship–, most of what’s on the page is either from Ildiko and/or Brishen’s point of view, and in service of the larger plot. And still, Ms Draven manages to give them depth and hint at a rich internal life of their own.

I also enjoyed very much the dynamic between Kirgipa, Necos and Dendarah, the young Queen’s protectors, and, frankly, had hoped to find a short story about the first two somewhere, as we see the tender beginnings of a romance between them, woven through the more harrowing details of their flight from Haradis. Alas, apparently there’s nothing available–so far.2

Just like the first one, I inhaled this book in one sitting, totally lost in the world of the Kai, and fully invested in the fate of all the characters. I finished it, then spent the day thinking about it, and re-reading some parts. The only weakness I found, and this is of course both subjective and a minor complaint, was in the later chapters.

I found the scenes with the Wraith Kings in Baradis, and later in Saggara, just a bit less polished, a bit more hand-wavey than the rest. And while I appreciate wanting closure on the Brishen/Secmis thing, I found the Deus Ex Machina just a bit jarring, a writing choice that doesn’t quite rise to the level of the rest of the writing. But again, this is all very subjective.

Like Radiance before it, Eidolon gets a 9.00 out of 10.

*****

1 The dreaded reading-slump-from-hell started around the time the “Jane Litte is Jen Frederick” scandal broke, and became full-blown when tRump came down that escalator in 2015. I went from reading five 300-page books a week to going weeks without reading anything at all, and often re-reading comfort reads just to engage in the mechanics of reading, without feeling any of the joy of it.

2 My understanding is that there will be six novels in the main storyline of the Wraith Kings world, the last four dealing with each of the other four Wraith Kings transformed during Eidolon, with shorter works that connect to this universe and, occasionally, other of Ms Draven’s worlds, published separately, sometimes in single- or multi-author anthologies.

4 Responses to “Eidolon, by Grace Draven”

  1. willaful 27/12/2021 at 6:10 PM #

    Yay for reading and blogging!

    • azteclady 27/12/2021 at 8:11 PM #

      The reading was good–oh, so good!

      The writing…mother of gog, it was like carving marble with a toothpick.

  2. Lori 28/12/2021 at 8:14 PM #

    I read the first book and loved it and then forgot there were more books.

    Excellent review. And I think I gots some reading to do.

    • azteclady 28/12/2021 at 9:04 PM #

      It’s very much worth reading, I think you’ll like it too. I started the third one, but have to stop (I can’t afford not to sleep tonight)

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