Title: The Last Sun (The Tarot Sequence 1)
Author: K.D. Edwards
Release Date: June 12th, 2018
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Page Count: 367 (paperback)
I’ve been sitting on this review for over a month, all the while rewriting and tweaking and coming to the realization that a written review can’t properly encompass the adoration I have for this story and its characters. A hundred gifs of muppet flails would be a better representation of my feelings, but I figure I still have some shred of respectability and professionalism to maintain.
But that was more or less my experience reading this book–every cell of my body flailing their tiny cytoplasmic limbs in abject worship. Because The Last Sun shines with the light of a supernova. It brims with life and love and wonder and serves as a testament to some of the best this genre has to offer. It’s everything I want in quality fantasy and more: a lovingly-crafted, rich setting that’s a blend of contemporary and high fantasy; prose that moves from laugh-out-loud humour to quiet poignancy; caffeine-fueled pacing and breakneck action sequences; complex, unabashedly queer characters, and heartfelt exploration of the many kinds of male relationships.
The story takes place in New Atlantis, an island formerly known in the human world as Nantucket. This Earth is very much like our own–same countries, same pop culture, same technology–except for the presence of various magical beings. These magical beings used to exist unbeknownst to humans, but then came the Atlantean World War and the boundaries between Atlanteans and humans became frayed. Among these beings are those called the “Arcana.” Named after tarot cards–like The Tower, The Fool, Justice, and The Sun–they’re the closest things to gods of this world. Their access to immense power and their considerable influence within and outside of New Atlantis make them the de facto Atlantean rulers.
New Atlantis is like if Shadowrun had a baby with Neverwhere. Worldbuilding in urban fantasy don’t normally excite me because many of them feel the same. There’s either the fae–the Seelie and the Unseelie–or the paranormal–wereanimals, vampires, spirits, and such. You get the gist after reading half a dozen UF series. The Last Sun, though? It makes me giddy in a way that the Shadowrun world does. For those who are unfamiliar, Shadowrun is a cyberpunk RPG that’s unfortunately shadowed (no pun intended) by the popularity of D&D. And what I adore about Shadowrun is its diversity. Its major cities are a hub for not only human diversity–various ethnicity, sexuality, and gender–but magical diversity. When you walk down a street, you would see orcs intermingling with trolls, elves, dwarves, shamans, druids, and more.
The same goes for New Atlantis. The island is crammed with all manner of magical beings. Wereanimals, spirits, fae, ghouls, elementals–pick the name of any random fantasy creature floating around in your brain and it can probably be found in New Atlantis. Every corner of the story unveils something new and exciting and I couldn’t help but grin like an idiot tourist at the absolute wonder of it all.
The magic system is very reminiscent of RPGs–dynamic and fiendishly delightful. The plot moves from your standard mystery to something with larger implications, and its pacing grabs you by the neck and hurls you forward at a hundred miles per hour. And what’s incredible is that even though the pacing hardly ever lets up, Edwards still makes time for meaningful character interactions without disrupting the momentum.
The book could have stopped there and I still would have given it a very high score. But Edwards takes it a step further. Let’s talk about the reason this gets a 10 out of 10: the characters. Because the characters of The Last Sun have wormed their way into my heart, built themselves a little cabin, and are now refusing to leave.
In a genre that so often celebrates a testosterone-laden brand of masculinity, Edwards whittles down stereotypes. Take Brand, our protagonist’s foul-mouthed, sarcastic bodyguard. We’re all familiar with the type. But the thing with Brand is that he never shies away from showing how much he cares about Rune. He dons the tough bodyguard look and the emotionally vulnerable look with equal confidence.
Take Addam, who is a perfect example of the Knight In Shining Armour archetype done right. He’s one of those people that you want to hate because they’re so perfect, but can’t because they’re so perfectly nice. In fiction, nice characters–especially nice male characters and especially nice male love interests–are often disparaged as boring. Dull. Weak. Addam shatters this notion to pieces. He’s a pillar of strength born of unconditional kindness and love and trust–qualities that we as a society often misconstrue as naiveté.
And then there’s Rune, our protagonist. The heir to the fallen Sun Throne. Victim of an unspeakable tragedy. He lives in a tiny house on the edge of poverty with the fear over his head that someday his luck will run out and his enemies will catch up to him. But most of all, Rune is a survivor. And his display of strength–through his jokes, his empathy, his determination to keep moving forward–amidst the demons of his past is nothing short of inspiring.
But what I love and appreciate the most, and what makes the book special to me is in the way that Edwards tackles relationships. Specifically, the notion that deep, emotional intimacy can’t exist between two people who are not romantically involved.
I’m always drawn to stories about friends who share hugs and kisses and tell each other, without shame or hesitation, “I will walk to the deepest of hell for you.” Because my own relationship with my best friend is a very intimate one where we tell each other things like “You’re my raison d’etre” with complete seriousness. But I hardly ever see this explored in modern western literature–mostly in manga and anime.
Then this book comes along.
Rune’s relationship with Brand is different to his relationship with Addam–in that it’s not a romantic or sexual one. Yet it’s no less intimate. It’s still love. It’s palpable love that makes you want to burst into tears at the sheer beauty of it. To see this portrayed with pitch-perfection in a book–a fantasy one at that–makes me ridiculously happy. Reading through Rune and Brand’s snarky exchanges are always great, but the moments of quiet, during which they reiterate their bond to one another, are what makes this relationship so compelling. They make my heart soar in the same way that the genre’s best duos do.
What else can I say? The book is only just over 350 pages, but Edwards utilizes every single one of them and takes you through a whirlwind of an adventure. The Last Sun gives so much and leaves room for yet so much more. And I feel incredibly privileged to witness the start of what’s no doubt going to be a magnificent one-of-lifetime journey alongside these characters.
Review copy provided by Pyr and Edelweiss.
Wow, you are making me want to drop everything and read this! Unfortunately I am literally in the middle of three books and I must finish them first. Awesome review😁
Yes! Mission accomplished! 😀
Great review! You definitely convinced me to read it.
omg, amazing review!! i have never even heard of this before but now i am DESPERATE to read it!!!!
im especially excited abt the portrayal of friendship here!! looks like exactly the kind of thing i am always on the look-out for.
Awesome review! you just keep expanding my tbr 😉
Haha thank you! And sorry not sorry. 😛
Again with your amazing reviews that give me chills! This was wonderful to read and now I really want to read this book. I love magical beings diversity and RPG like magic systems? Totally there for it. And one of my favorite things to read about are platonic relationships that are still so very initiate. They get to me more than romantic ones do.
Hell yeah, go read it! 😀 And the more I get older, the more I’m like, “Screw romance, I want friendships!” But it’s hard to find books that portray it at all, let alone in a complex way, so this was suuuch a nice thing to see.
Wow, that is high praise! I want to read this one soon, so I avoided parts of your review that went into the finer details, but I’m glad overall it was such a winner. Now I can’t wait to get to it.
Haha I may have been a little more spoilery in my enthusiasm. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
I loved this book so much! I’m still struggling to find words, but you put it so perfectly. Such a great review ❤️ I adore these characters and their relationships. I can’t wait for The Hanged Man and I hope this book gets all the praise it deserves once it’s released!
YES I’m so glad you enjoyed it!! I can’t wait to read your review. <3 And I'm definitely going to be shoving it into everyone's arms once it releases . 😀
Oh, I love it when a book finds its way into our hearts and we can not stop thinking about it. Your wonderful review reflects how much you enjoyed it, it’s such a joy reading your words as they make me think of times when I read a book like that. 😊
“He’s a pillar of strength born of unconditional kindness and love and trust–qualities that we as a society often misconstrue as naiveté.” YES YES YES! Such nicely put, I could not agree more with you and I am so happy to hear The Last Sun addresses it.
In all honesty, those three complex characters really do sound amazing, I will read it one day for sure! 😊
Your comments honestly make my day, Vera. Thank you so, so much! <3 And I'm so glad the review is getting people interested in this book, because it deserves all the love in the world. 🙂
You always write the most thoughtful, beautiful reviews! I’m not into urban fantasy, but this one sounds absolutely wonderful. I love the idea of a world full of different fantastical creatures, that sound magical. And books with deep, meaningful friendships are the best!
Ahhh thank you, Aurora! <3 <3 As I get older, I find myself craving more books that focus on friendships over romances. It's one of the hundreds of blog post topics that are currently in my draft folder. 😅
[…] So take a chance and go check it out. You won’t be disappointed. (You can see my 1200-word gushfest of a review here.) […]
Wonderful review! I just read this one last week, and I loved it too! I completely agree about how great the characters were and how fantastic the friendship was. You really don’t find a lot of friendships like that in books, especially not between men. Btw you have such an awesome way with words! Your reviews and posts are so eloquent and entertaining!
[…] rambled on about intimacy and the rigid preconceptions of romance versus friendship in my review for this a year ago, and I’m going to ramble about it again now, because this is something I feel […]
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