Radiant Shadows is the fourth book in Melissa Marr's 'Wicked Lovely' series. It begins where 'Fragile Eternity' left off. However, while Seth features as quite a main character, the story is no longer about Aishlin and the summer court.
The book is about Ani and Devlin, we've met them in previous books but as relatively minor characters.
Ani is Rabbit the tattooist's half sister, and daughter of Gabriel, leader of the hunt. She is a member of the dark court and halfling: half human and half hound.
By contrast, Devlin is half brother-son to the High Queen Sorcha and Queen of War Bananach, created jointly by them and not born. He is a powerful member of the High Court. Known as the Queen's Bloodied Hands. He is ordered, disciplined and importantly, Sorcha's obedient servant.
Devlin first met Ani when she was just a child. When he was ordered to kill her. And for the first time in centuries of obedience he disobeyed a direct order and spared Ani's life. Hiding her survival from his Queen.
Since the events of the last book Sorcha is no longer herself and her imbalance begins to seriously impact the world of faery. Reason appears to have departed from the Queen of Reason and Bananach glorifies in this advantage and her dark malevolence spreads. This book has some important developments for the faery world as all courts struggle to avoid the sinister plottings of the Queen of War, which has some far reaching affects. But primarily it is a love story between Ani and Devlin.
As the book begins, Devlin has not seen Ani in the years since he spared her life. But, sent on a mission to protect Seth by his unbalanced Queen he encounters her in a club. The chemistry between them is tangible, and while Ani has no idea who Devlin is, he's never really understood why he saved Ani and is inexplicably drawn to her.
In my opinion, this is by far the best book in the series. I sat down one evening to make a start and before I knew it I'd read 175 pages. Melissa Marr has a beautiful and captivating writing style. She draws the vision of her characters and worlds which sucks you in brilliantly.
On the surface of things the love story between Ani and Devlin could easily have not worked. It's not largely mentioned, but Ani is very much a young adult at 16, while Devlin's significantly older than her. Yet as the story progresses they both go on what I would class as a 'young adult' journey.
Being a halfling, Ani is frustrated with being pushed to the outskirts of the faery. Yet having the power to feed on the emotions & touch of both mortals and faery, her power is unheard of and it becomes quite clear she is no mere halfling. Because of this Ani is confined and protected by her father and the dark court and she chafes at the restrictions. She is desperate to prove to them all that she is a woman and no longer a child and can look after herself. While Devlin is struggling to escape the controlling influence of his sisters. Learning that he can have his own sense of identity and his own relationships while remaining true to himself.
I really like Ani and Devlin as a couple as they were so different. Fate obviously plays an important part in their lives, it is clear as all the threads begin to close that from the very beginning they were meant to be together.
As the book reaches its climax there is a big twist. However, for me it wasn't entirely unexpected, and I wondered from about a third of a way in if something similar would happen. But it didn't take away from my enjoyment of it at all.
This book really was superb and I could barely put it down, but I do have a couple of criticisms.
I would of liked to have seen a flashback to the time that Devlin spared Ani's life to fully understand the reason for that decision and what he was feeling at the time, it felt to me liked it lacked some explanation.
Additionally, having read the previous three books, I found it a touch frustrating that while Seth was an important character in the book, and some events happen that will change his life at least for the moment, irrevocably, there was virtually no mention of the love triangle that had me so hooked in previously.
This is a fantastic fourth instalment to the 'Wicked Lovey' series, and the best so far. Marr has cleverly interwoven the plots of the each of the books as the series builds to its sinister conclusion.
Technically if you haven't read the first three books in this series you could read this as a stand alone novel, but my recommendation would be to read them first in order to fully enjoy the depth of the story.
I am very much looking forward to discovering what happens next, but I do hope that Seth and Aislin take the helm once more.