Over the weekend, I read Grace Draven's Radiance and loved it.
First of all--that cover. Absolutely gorgeous.
Radiance is the story of Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai and spare heir to the throne. For political and trade reason's, he's required to marry, Ildiko, niece of the king in the human kingdom of Gauri.
I enjoyed how the two main characters approached their arranged marriage. Neither of them are happy about it, as the Kai view humans as ugly and vice versa. Since they are initially physically repulsed by each other, their attraction is based on genuine like and I found that dynamic refreshing. They were friends first, and naturally their bond only deepens as they get to know one another.
Once they get past the issue of the uglies, the conflicts come from outside their relationship--Brishen's mother, who is positively evil, and Ildiko's trials as she adjusts to living within a foreign country and with a race much different than hers. The world building was interesting with the right amount of detail without being overwhelming or bogging the story down. Brishen possess vague supernatural powers, an aspect of the story I wished had been explored more.
What I loved most was the prose. As an aspiring writer, prose is undoubtedly my greatest weakness. I enjoy studying how other writers put words together, and I took a lot of mental notes reading Radiance.
The only thing about Radiance I resisted were some of the initial descriptions of Brishen. I'm all for a Beauty and the Beast type story, but he's described as having deathly gray skin and a mouthful of long sharp teeth so lethal he can't even kiss Ildiko without risk of mangling her. Every time he was described an image of this guy from the Return of the King popped into my mind. Ugh.
That aside, I'm looking forward to the next installment of the series.
An interesting consequence of writing is that reading is now more for research than for enjoyment. Usually, one of two things happen. Either I read a book in awe and think, Gah, I'll never be this good. Or, like the other book I read over the weekend and DNF'd, I think, I can write this good.
Radiance is what I consider fantasy light as much of the story focusses on the relationship between Brishen and Ildiko, and that's the way I like my fantasy.