‘The Last Sun’ by K.D. Edwards is one of the most entertaining books I’ve read this year. It’s funny, exciting and heartwarming. I have an iffy relationship with Urban Fantasy, but decided to pick this one up based on the characters and the premise. Both delivered.
Briefly, Rune Saint John is ‘the last Sun’, the last surviving scion of his house. He and his companion/bodyguard, Brand, make ends meet by hiring out to the other houses for whatever the job requires. In this instance, they’re looking for a missing person, the scion of another house.
The job is complicated at the very beginning by an unexpected house guest. Further issues arise during interviews with the brothers of the missing scion, one of whom has unusual insight. Then there’s the creature of legend running around flinging powerful magic at Rune and Brand. Throw in a power struggle, a summoning gone wrong and secrets buried since the night Rune’s family was wiped out and there is enough story here to keep the pages turning at a fast clip.
I loved so many aspects of this book, but I think perhaps the characters were my favourite part. The relationship between Rune and Brand is fascinating and fun. They’re closer than brothers and often have as little respect for each other’s space as siblings might. But they also understand where each other’s strengths lay and are able, sometimes under sufferance, to stand back and let the other do their thing. It’s a great partnership and based on that alone, I’d be content to read continuing adventures regardless of back story and what’s to come.
I adored Matthias’ role. The unexpected houseguest, he’s a delightful complication that serves to remind Rune of where he came from and not always in the most pleasant way. Matthias also has a story of his own and I hope we get more of him in future novels.
I was also really intrigued by Addam, their missing scion. His role became something completely unexpected and I loved the reversal. He’s almost the dude in distress or the prince in the high tower and comes with his own bag of tricks and complications. The interplay and budding romance between Addam and Rune is, at turns, sweet and hilarious and is another story thread I’m eager to see continued. There are too few gay heroes in Fantasy/Urban Fantasy and I loved the way K.D. Edwards handled the issue of sexuality in that it was a non-issue. Yay for enlightened societies!
The world-building is deft. New Atlantis is the island home of the Atlanteans, a race of extraordinary people gifted with the ability to manipulate ambient magic. Some magic is summoned and stored into sigils, while other spells seem to be innate, small things everyone can do such as produce a light. Each house also has their own unique brand of magic and Rune coming into his ‘aspect’ is one of the highlights of the story. As an orphaned scion, it’s clear Rune hasn’t had the same guidance or backing as many of his contemporaries, so every goal is harder won.
The magical battles are numerous and exciting. One of my few quibbles was that they were perhaps a little too numerous. But I did enjoy the different combinations of spells and the way the author established what worked and what wouldn’t, while occasionally leaving his characters in the balance.
While I’m on the subject of quibbles, I’d have liked to have seen more female characters. I enjoyed the camaraderie between all the guys, but missed having a female character in an important role. Not just someone with influence in the Atlantean society, but someone important to the immediate group of Rune, Brand, Addam and Matthias.
Refreshingly, what I didn’t have any issues with was the narrative style. Urban Fantasy often loses me somewhere between the wisecracking and the world-building. I like funny books and I like speculative fiction. What I don’t seem to like is funny books where the hero is so busy thinking they’re the most hilarious and amazing thing to happen in this particular world, that they miss a hole in the pavement, fall through and accidentally start the apocalypse. ‘The Last Sun’ is not that book. I laughed out loud a number of times, but appreciated the author’s restraint. The book isn’t always funny. Sometimes it’s extremely moving and even a little horrifying. The depth and breadth of emotion is more akin to epic fantasy and the world-building is always clear. I understood what was going on without either starting a flow chart or having a character simply say, ‘Trust me.’
‘The Last Sun’ is a skilful debut for K.D. Edwards and I really look forward to seeing where the ‘The Tarot Sequence’ takes us. This book holds a complete story, but one that is also obviously designed to go somewhere. I have high hopes for ‘The Hanged Man’, due out in January, 2019.
(pub: Pyr/Prometheus. 384 page enlarged paperback. Price: $17.00 (US), £13.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-63388-423-6. Ebook: Price: $ 9.99 (US), £ 6.95 (UK). ASIN: B075PW1YQN)