Single topic column this week. One commenter will get a hardcopy of The Secret Skin by Wendy N. Wagner.
The Eidolon is billed as Book One of the MAGNUS ACADEMY series, part of K.D. Edwards’s TAROT SEQUENCE world. It is a companion piece to the third book of his first trilogy, The Hourglass Throne. It you haven’t read The Hourglass Throne, it’s not likely you’ll understand what’s going on here. Mild spoilers for The Hourglass Throne may follow.
Rune St. Nicholas was the sole survivor of the murderous attack on his Court, the Sun Court. Aided by his human companion, Brand, and his lover Addam, Rune has not only survived but has reconstituted the Sun Court. He is welcomed back into the Arcana, the ruling elite of the surviving Atlantean culture which now lives on Nantucket Island (called New Atlantis). While Rune was fighting back against his enemies, he took in several youngsters, among them, Quinn, a prophet, Max, who is part fae, and Rune’s designated heir, Annawan, who goes by Anna.
In The Hourglass Throne, Rune and the Arcana confront the strongest and deadliest enemy they’ve encountered, in the form of Lady Jade. Early in the book, Jade took Quinn and Max as hostages. In The Eidolon, we readers learn what happened in those days when the boys—and later Anna—were captive.
The book shifts POV among the three young people, opening with Quinn. This means we get to see Quinn’s gift from the inside—as a prophet, he sees multiple timelines all the time. At Rune’s coronation, Lady Jade reaches out to Quinn in a way nobody else can see, and demands he surrender himself to her or she will kill everyone in the family. Because she is an Old Atlantean, Lady Jade allows Quinn and Max, who insists on coming to protect Quinn, relative freedom as long as they don’t try to escape. The boys give their word, privately agreeing that this doesn’t mean they can’t spy and gather information they can later get to Rune.
They are held in an underground compound called the Eidolon, which was a creepy and wonderful part of the book—part labyrinth, part maze, the Eidolon is comprised of buildings from all time periods and places, brought together by translocation, knit together into an intriguing and scary set of structures complete with giant carnivorous earthworms and monster bears.
The book explains where Lady Jade got the “cannon fodder” army she used in The Hourglass Throne, and how she powers her magic. We see a bit more of our villain, and Jade is not only a narcissistic mega-villain, she’s mean. I don’t know why a soulless monster bent on global destruction seems worse to me when she’s mean to the hired help, but she does.
Truly, most of the book is concerned with the boys, and later Anna, who comes to find them, wrestling with their own powers, doubts and fears. The three are engaging YA protagonists. I had a few quibbles; Max and Quinn in particular engage in an eye-rolling, tough-love style of banter that reads like Rune and Brand Lite. I believe that youth raised by these two would emulate them in many ways, including this one, but I would like to see these young people develop their own quips, banter and verbal shorthand. Quinn was the focus of Lady Jade’s strategy; Quinn’s gift is the most enigmatic and powerful, so of course he is center of the story, but Anna’s power was much more mysterious and strange to me, and she shows up rather late in the book. She’s supposed to be twelve, and she doesn’t read on the page like a twelve-year-old, even an Atlantean one.
Overall, I liked the adventure. The three main characters are plucky, “meddling kids,” and the world of New Atlantis is expanded for the reader. Late in the book, there is a vital revelation that will explain a few tantalizing hints that have been dropped in earlier books.
I enjoyed this, but I alluded to my major problem in my opening paragraph. It’s billed as Book One of a new series, but it can’t be read as a standalone. A new reader is going to feel like there is a whole story happening off the page (and they’re right). The scrappy heroes don’t vanquish the enemy, who is dispatched off the page and dealt with in an epilogue. This works fine for those of us who know what’s happened—it doesn’t stand as an independent introduction to the MAGNUS ACADEMY and NEW ATLANTIS.
The double epilogues are especially awkward here as Edwards summarizes things that happened in The Hourglass Throne. A reunion with Quinn’s Arcanum mother and his older brother felt forced and unnecessary to me. On the other hand, the final paragraphs of the book have me pacing the floor waiting for the next, to see what happens with Anna. I’m recommending it for the setting and the expansion of this world.
I expect this book and the earlier trilogy to be banned in several states within the next (looks at time) well, any minute now, because they represent queer characters and other aspects of sexuality in a well-rounded and positive way. This is a bonus for me; your mileage may vary.
I’m also recommending the hardcopy of the book, a special edition created by Rainbow Crate Books. As an object, this book is a thing of beauty; reversible dust jackets with full-color portraits of the characters; interior art (more depictions of the three); a beautiful cover and a map of New Atlantis. Inside, Rainbow Crate delivers quality copy-editing and formatting. The book came with a signed bookplate.
It doesn’t stand alone, but it opens up the world of New Atlantis, and it gives Rune’s second generation of leaders their own problems to face, as they assist him in growing his community, now called The Misfit Court.
Ooh, a Sawmill Gothic sounds interesting. Thanks for the giveaway!
The Eidolon sounds like a perfectly sinister setting for an adventure.
What’s the deal with Atlantis in this world?
I was somewhat perplexed by Amazon calling “The Secret Skin” “a sawmill gothic.” Maybe they mean “a Carpenter’s Gothic tale,” implying the eerie deep south, etc. Anyway, it sounds like it has some great spookiness!
The book has a strapline labeling it “A Sawmill Adventure,” and there is a sawmill in it. I think maybe the publisher imprint might have offered that as a theme.
I meant “Sawmill Gothic.”
John, if you live in the USA, you win a copy of THE SECRET SKIN!
Please contact me (Marion) with your US address and I’ll have the book sent right away. Happy reading!
Great news! I have emailed the sonic address. Thank you!