The Hourglass Throne by K.D. Edwards
The Hourglass Throne, published in 2022, is the third book in K.D. Edwards’s THE TAROT SEQUENCE, following the adventures of Atlanteans transplanted to Nantucket Island. This review may contain spoilers for The Last Sun and The Hanged Man, the two previous books. I recommend reading both earlier books; at least read The Last Sun to better understand what is happening here.
Rune St. John was the sole survivor of the raid on Lord Sun’s court more than twenty years ago. His father, Lord Sun, was murdered. Rune was raped, tortured, impoverished, and left bereft of magic due to the loss of his family’s sigils, the items Atlanteans use to store their abilities. Rune and his human companion Brand are fighters though, and through his ingenuity and toughness, (and the help of some more powerful Lords and Ladies, like Lord Tower and Lady Death), by the end of The Hanged Man Rune had regained the Sun court, as well as drawing to himself a powerful, quirky found family.
Before he can finish the massive renovation job — structural and magical — on the estate he’s regained, Rune is called to help another power, Lady Priestess. The Papess court runs a magical rejuvenation center for Atlanteans; one has been breached, a barrier has been raised, and communication is cut off. When Rune and Brand managed to get inside the barrier, they find death and destruction on a scale that hints of an unknown power. That power immediately makes itself known by attacking the Sun Court and two other courts. Rune forces the Arcanum to acknowledge that this powerful person is not new, but someone very old — someone believed centuries dead.
This old power has big changes in mind for New Atlantis, and as Rune and the others battle her, Rune learns more, to his horror, about the original raid on the Sun Court and the murder of his father. The reader does too.
You may remember that I didn’t love the first book, mainly because of the heartless Atlanteans. For example, up in my second paragraph, you’ll notice I put “impoverished” at the same level as raped and tortured. This is because it seemed like the society did — Rune’s loss of sigils was seen as his fault, along with everything else that was done to him. Either the Atlanteans have changed, or Rune, my doorway into their world, is compassionate and warm enough to make up for it. I’m certainly not expecting warm and cuddly, but it does seem like the Arcanum has softened up, even to engaging in a big group hug right before a battle. (Rune says this was an ancient Atlantean custom — it doesn’t fit with the way they dismissed him as weak and worthless after what he survived.) Mostly, I think, this book draws aside the veil and lets us see into the workings of the other courts, which are just as messed up as any human family.
Foiling the assault by this new/old power is critical, but it does seem like half this book is about Rune settling his new family and coming to grips with changing relationships. Will he ask Addam to be his consort? Where does Brand, sworn to him from infancy, fit in? What about Quinn the prophet, or Anna, his designated heir, or Corbie, who has a prehistoric rhinoceros as a familiar? This focus on the complex family did not detract from the adventure for me; it added life to this world. And when we lost a beloved character, it devastated me nearly as much as it devastated Brand, Addam and Rune.
Most readers will love the banter, especially the near-constant bickering between Brand and Rune. Alongside the violence and the terror of these stories is a lot of humor. Rune’s complicated relationship with his lover Addam and his even more complicated relationship with Brand feels realistic.
This series is the first one that comes to mind for me when people ask for a fantasy series with men loving men. There is plenty of angst in these relationships but they are not primarily angsty, if that makes sense.
Rune has prevailed against another threat, for now, along the way uncovering the identities of a few more of his original attackers. The story is far from over. Things have been set in motion that can’t be stopped, and in the final pages both a new character and a prophecy emerge; a mystery woman who has clearly shaped Rune’s path, and a prophecy that just, well, doesn’t sound good for New Atlantis. I eagerly await the next installment.