Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary or Urban Fantasy, Queer Protagonists
Representation: Gay MC, bi/pansexual love interest, M/M, asexual secondary character, Indigenous American secondary character, Indigenous American nonbinary secondary character, sapphic Black secondary character, minor wheelchair-bound character
PoV: 1st person, past tense
Published on: 17th May 2022
As Rune Saint John grapples with the challenges of assuming the Sun Throne, a powerful barrier appears around New Atlantis’s famed rejuvenation center. But who could have created such formidable magic . . . what do they want from the immortality clinic . . . and what remains of the dozens trapped inside?
Though Rune and his lifelong bodyguard Brand are tasked with investigating the mysterious barrier, Rune is also busy settling into his new life at court. Claiming his father’s throne has irrevocably thrown him into the precarious world of political deception, and he must secure relationships with newfound allies in time to keep his growing found family safe. His relationship with his lover, Addam Saint Nicholas, raises additional political complications they must navigate. But he and Brand soon discover that the power behind the barrier holds a much more insidious, far-reaching threat to his family, to his people, and to the world.
Now, the rulers of New Atlantis must confront an enemy both new and ancient as the flow of time itself is drawn into the conflict. And as Rune finds himself inexorably drawn back to the fall of his father’s court and his own torture at the hands of masked conspirators, the secrets that he has long guarded will be dragged into the light—changing the Sun Throne, and New Atlantis, forever.
I received this book for free from the publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
~dial the Feels up to 20
~the kids are all right
~don’t trust jade
~secrets within secrets
Do you remember, dear reader – for I presume that if you’re here, it’s because you’ve already read and loved the previous books in this series, and if you have not, then get you hence and read them before you read this review of book three! – do you remember, dear reader, when, in The Last Sun, Rune used a mass sigil for the first time?
This is like that.
We thought we were prepared for The Hourglass Throne, at least a little.
We weren’t. We really weren’t. But in the best way.
Somehow, impossibly, Edwards has managed to level up again. With The Hourglass Throne this series – which has only gotten better with every installment, which has been redefining the genre and its possibilities since the first words of the first page of the first book – has become something fucking mythic.
And I mean that in multiple ways. Because yes – oh gods, yes, it is cinematic and beautiful, epic and glorious, packed full of mystery and intrigue and battles fit to shake the stars from their moorings, strike Time from its course. But it’s also so heartbreakingly full of heart; not just romance – these books have never thought romantic love was the only kind that mattered – but platonic and familial. Who is reading this series and isn’t in love with Rune and Brand’s relationship? Who doesn’t adore Max and Quinn and Layne and Anna and Corbie; who isn’t willing to go toe to toe with a lich for them? Whose heart is not too full for words with all the love poured into these pages?
We saw the beginnings of a found family in The Last Sun, and we saw that family grow a fair bit bigger in The Hanged Man, but The Hourglass Throne is (outside of the extra novellas) the first time we actually get to see that family really being a family. And that is something special, in a world where most authors either don’t try or aren’t allowed to include slice-of-life moments in their action stories. But the Tarot Sequence has been the exception to every rule I can think of since day one – and like New Atlantis in the human world, this series has carved out its own space where nothing is as it seems and the expected never appears; where miracles go hand in hand with nightmares and there is a weight to every word.
As someone who gave up on the Urban Fantasy genre years ago after too many disappointments, I feel qualified to say that the Tarot Sequence really is groundbreaking, and that’s mainly in how it deals with toxic masculinity (defenestrating it) and family (embracing it); in how it deconstructs heroism and subverts everything we’ve been taught to expect, both in terms of plot and characters. And that’s never been clearer, or more the case, than it is in The Hourglass Throne, where we see Rune not about to become (as in Last Sun), or becoming (Hanged Man), but being the kind of hero we all should have expected him to be – Edwards has laid the groundwork for this from the first page of the first book – and yet that still manages to take us by surprise, even as it fills our hearts up to bursting.
Rune is not a conventional hero, but he is the hero we need, want, and deserve.
I have a sense, though, that there is a long conversation before us. Are you ready to have it?”
“I was until you said it would be a long conversation. I thought I’d just shout some bullet points and run.”
And the plotting! The twists and reveals! These books are like glorious jewelled puzzle-boxes, and every word is a piece clicking into place. Nothing – nothing! – is insignificant, is not layered with deeper meaning. We’ve experienced this already with The Hanged Man, but in The Hourglass Throne even more of the story Edwards has been working on for decades comes together, coheres out of things even the most dedicated readers didn’t notice or fully understand into something–something–
Something unputdownable, and gorgeous, and blazing-bright. Something unexpected and brilliant and perfect.
The Tarot Sequence is not queer fantasy just because it features a queer cast in a queernorm culture; I mean that it’s fantasy that is queer; boundary-breaking, unconventional, redefining what Urban Fantasy means and looks like. Edwards is actively queering storytelling itself, the techniques and tropes and conventions we all know inside-out and backwards remade into something strange and gleaming and breathtaking. The plot-twists, the character dynamics, the dialogue, the emotion, the battle sequences – this is Something Else, something that’s only pretending to be Urban Fantasy to get in the door, but is so much more than we could ever have expected or dreamed of. It feels like the birth of a new genre.
Deep breath. Okay. Let me try and get back on track.
You can read the titles and covers of these first three books like tarot cards: The Last Sun is the Sun, the reminder of one’s divine place and gift, as Rune was reminded that the ‘normal’ life he’d been living was not his real life; The Hanged Man is the Hanged Man, the call to step up and claim your responsibilities, which Rune did by claiming his throne and his place on the Arcanum.
The Hourglass Throne is one big time’s up. Not just for Rune, but for New Atlantis, and by extension the world.
And by all the gods, for us readers too.
There’s so little that can be said without going into spoilers, and I refuse to do that; you need to go into The Hourglass Throne…not blind, but with only what the previous books have given you. With your eyes and hands and heart all open. Ready to hit the ground running, because The Hourglass Throne starts mid-sentence and that should say it all, really; that should be all the warning you need that this book will sweep you away as surely and inescapably as the flow of Time. Don’t start reading if you have to be up early the next morning; if you have exams to revise for; if you have a presentation to write. Because once you start, there is no stopping until the final page is turned.
(Which is not, after all, the final page. This isn’t the end. Or if it is, it’s only the end of Act I, and that gives everything a different flavour, doesn’t lessen the urgency but does temper it a little, because the end is not the end and that means, that means–)
What is it about these books that grabs our hearts so tightly, fiercely, completely? I can’t break it down into technical terms; I can only tell you that The Hourglass Throne is ablaze with it, that you will rage and weep and gasp and shriek and cheer and howl for Rune and Brand and Addam and Quinn and Layne and Anna and Corbie and Corinne. I can only tell you that if you think you’re already feral with love for them, then this book will make you rabid. The Hourglass Throne breaks through the bottom of your heart and opens up so much space in there, space to love these books and these characters even more, more than you ever thought you could, and dear gods the rush of it, the power in it – holding this book in your hands is like holding a mass sigil: you can’t help but shake and roar with the magic in it, with the magic coursing through you as you cast the spell by reading the words. It’s a supernova.
Edwards somehow manages to give us everything we wanted without ever once giving it to us in a form we expected; to assuage our deepest fears by presenting us with worse horrors; to soften the blows with incredible joys and lightning-strike laughter. These books have always been about queer joy and family and love, and The Hourglass Throne surpasses all that came before it, in that and every other way.
Are you scared? Nervous? You shouldn’t be. Some of it will hurt. Some of it will make you cry. But some of those tears will be tears of laughter; some of them will be tears of freakin’ DELIGHT. Because The Hourglass Throne is utterly perfect, and if this is the end of Act I, then folx, I can’t wait to see the rest of the play.
Run, don’t walk, to preorder The Hourglass Throne immediately.