“The Last Sun + The Hanged Man” (The Tarot Sequence Series) by K.D. Edwards

Popular author K.D. Edwards made a debut with his modern fantasy novel “The Last Sun” in 2018.

First of the trilogy of books, “The Tarot Sequence”, the book series tells the story of Rune. St. John and his partner in life (no homo) Brand. The title is eponymous in that Rune is the lone survivor of the Sun court (Atlantian Kingdom, one of many kingdoms that made up the society with a different tarot card). This survivor and the book are really something else and I’m very happy that Amazon suggested to me because I had never heard about it.

Before we get too far let me first say this is one of my favorite books. It is quite similar to “Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo in that you are dropped into the life of a headstrong main character and follow them down a well thought out fantasy world; filled with danger, magic and lies around at every corner. You really can’t fathom whom to trust. K.D. Edwards gives attention to side character and main characters alike, which adds weight to everything. You feel just as mad as Rune when someone’s duplicity is revealed.

The world of “The Tarot Sequence” surprisingly enough is our world, which Atlantians cohabit when their under sea setting becomes uninhabitable (no spoilers). Using magic, they bring sections of their fallen kingdoms to America and live alongside humans in a truly clever fashion. The amount of world building used for such a detailed environment is amazing. Seeing Rune walk through the setting and imagining the narrative via his “colorful” opinions to locations in and of itself are highly entertaining.

In the style resplendent of Dick Tracy, Rune is hired to solve the mystery surrounding a rich playboy named Adam, who has gone missing. The task is assigned to him by the Lord Tower, a very cunning man many are afraid of and for good reason. Lord Tower and Rune have a father/son relationship with Lord Tower, mentoring Rune and passing Brand off every chance he gets. Both young men have a cored history with the man and work to solve the mystery with passive reluctance. Also, they have a ward named Mathias to look after, who in reality is the grandson of the Heart throne.

Following leads and solving problems in real detective fashion leads the trio down a rabbit hole of secrets and lies that leaves them with a fair amount of surprises.

The second book in the series “The Hanged Man” finds the cast living their lives happily (well, almost everyone). Mathias has a problem though, one so great he doesn’t believe Rune can handle it. Rune strongly disagrees. Mathias was promised to one of the most dangerous of the Arcana (Atlantian Royalty) as a bride.

While the first book world laid the foundation with its world building, the sequel focuses largely on character development. Showing preconceived notions that could be right or wrong about the cast, the story moves ahead in a startling manner. Like in the older horror films starring Vincent Price, we are given notes and breadcrumbs allowing ourselves to paint the picture of who “The Hanged Man” is, long before we meet him. The man himself has a Bluebeard like fascination with younger people and using his status and duplicity often gets what he wants. What he desires is Matthias and with a legally binding contract, he has a claim to the teenager.

While I adored the book for the drama, it can get a bit weighed down with the attention to detail. The need to take notes was something was overwhelming as the book displays the entirety of “The Hanged Man’s” plan. I wonder if I was expecting the same amount of action as that in the first book and that’s why this one felt different. Once I got over my preconceived notion that we were really going on another adventure, the book became much more enjoyable. It looks at the motivations of the cast, deepens the bonds while doing a fantastic job of raising the bar for the main cast. Rune, being the last heir of the Sun throne, plays a surprising twist and Lord Tower proves to be an invaluable asset to Rune as “The Hanged Man” begins to play the strings of his plan like a well-strung violin.

What I found really amazing and something few can do as well as Edwards is create situations where the cast must grow. You follow their experiences, feel their fear as Rune and company take a trip to the perverbial playground of “The Hanged Man”; using their wit and “the few sigils we have” do what they do best. Surviving in true 1990s action movie fashion, the book’s finale had me on the edge of my seat as Rune goes head to head with the master of technicalities in a “Winner takes all, Loser dies” battle of not just words but magic.

The books are fantastic and they could be turned into a television series with topical and “colorful” writing. Having a cast of characters that were so LGBTQ without them being their focus was beyond refreshing. There are times where you find yourself reading the same information again and again as it’s explained to a new player joining the drama, but I never felt that it was overdone. Sometimes I even needed a reminder of who the characters are choosing to trust.

Action packed, clever, wickedly funny, the first two books in “The Tarot Sequence” should be on everyone’s reading list.

Rating- 4 out of 5

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