The Hanged Man by K.D. Edwards
The Hanged Man, published in 2019, is the second book in K.D. Edwards’s fantasy series THE TAROT SEQUENCE. In the first book, The Last Sun, we men Rune Sun, last of the Sun Court, in New Atlantis. New Atlantis is the former island of Nantucket and exists because of a truce between humans and the Atlanteans, at the end of a devastating war. The New Atlanteans value power only, which they confuse with strength. When unnamed individuals mounted a murderous raid on the Court of the Sun, the Arcanum, or ruling 22 families of New Atlantis, did nothing to stop it. Rune was taken in by Lord Tower, and made a living as an investigator or “fixer,” along with his human Companion bodyguard Brand. In the first book, Rune ended up with a young ward named Max, from the Court of the Lovers.
Between The Last Sun and The Hanged Man, Edwards wrote a novella called The Sunken Mall, which you can read here for free.
As events unfold in The Hanged Man, Rune reluctantly faces his responsibilities as the scion of a Court, even a ruined one. Originally Rune pledged to protect Max from The Hanged Man, who made a marital contract for Max years ago. Eons ago, The Hanged Man was an equalizing force in Atlantean culture, a voice for the victims. Times have changed, though:
The Gallows had been the patron of victims, and a recourse for the wrongly accused. It had treated death with honor and a reverence. It had believed in justice. In the modern age, it had become the reverse.
Planning to protect Max, Rune discovers that another boy has been kidnapped by Lord Gallows. That boy’s family was under the protection of the Sun Court, and Rune feels that he has to do something. Because it’s Rune, we know that something will be impulsive, highly dangerous, and lead to a lot of swears from Brand.
The gang’s all here in the second book, including:
- Brand, the human bodyguard who was raised literally in the same crib with Rune since infancy. They share a bond that is part telepathic and part empathic, but that doesn’t mean they get along.
- Max, Rune’s ward.
- Addam, Rune’s boyfriend. The scion of the Lady Justice, Addam is a genuinely noble Atlantean in a decidedly ignoble world.
- Quinn, Addam’s young brother, who is a probability prophet.
- Lord Tower, Rune’s patron.
The Hanged Man introduces Corinne, who was the Companion to a scion of a Sun family, and is now the guardian of that scion’s children, and a new character who promises to upend things around New Atlantis in a number of interesting ways.
As Rune tries to track down the missing boy, he soon learns that Lord Hanged Man has been doing more than having icky sex with minors. He is endangering all of New Atlantis with his acts. Lord Hanged Man is more powerful than Rune, but that never stops Rune, and this time, if he plays his cards rights, he might even have allies.
The section of this book that stands out, as it’s meant to, is the exploration of the battleship Lord Hanged Man has translocated to New Atlantis. The USS Declaration sank before it ever saw battle, presumably struck by a rogue wave. Rune, Brand and Addam soon discover that nothing of the kind happened. Edwards clearly did his research on battleship and it shows here in the best possible way. He based his research on this ship, which, via the character of Addam, he acknowledges in the book.
The scenes on the hijacked ship are chilling and disturbing, and give us a very good idea of the nature of Lord Hanged Man and the way power can corrupt. Another set-piece, later in the book, shows Rune arguing in front of the Arcanum, which draws back a veil and lets us see another piece of New Atlantean culture. It is here that Rune makes a decision that will change the course of his life, and that’s pretty tense and dramatic, but I was largely going along for the visuals of the room itself, and the various aspects of the 22 Courts.
Possibly I’ve acclimated a little better to this world and these characters, but I enjoyed The Hanged Man a little more than I did The Last Sun. That may be because Edwards shows us more of the New Atlantean world. One thing that did ding my enjoyment slightly was Rune’s, and Brand’s, repeated decisions to have A Very Serious Talk right in the middle of a tense reconnaissance mission, or while they were stalking a bad-guy. This is meant to heighten the emotional tension, but it often killed the momentum of the scene.
In tone, Rune’s first-person narration comes close to early Harry Dresden, or Simon R. Green’s NIGHTSIDE books, although THE TAROT SEQUENCE books are darker and far less whimsical than Green’s. That type of narrative voice will carry me through a lot. The Hanged Man shows Rune, at last, beginning to grow up. I want to know what he does next.