Author: Karina Sumner-Smith
Series: Towers Trilogy, #1
Publication Information: Talos, 2014
Genre: Adult – Urban Fantasy/Post-Apocalyptic/Dystopian
Rating: 3 Stars
Recommended For: People who like their zombies and oppressive governments armed with magic.
Warnings: Drug use, brief mentions of torture.
Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.
When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.
With two extremely strong female protagonists, Radiant is a story of fighting for what you believe in and finding strength that you never thought you had.
(Summary from Goodreads)
I’m a total geek for world building, so that part of RADIANT really appealed to me. I also really liked the premise – girl in a world in which magic is currency having no magic at all except for the ability to communicate with ghosts. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect very much with any of the characters.
RADIANT is set in a world where magic runs everything – it’s their power source, their form of currency, their means of transportation, everything. Most people live in towers that float above the ruins of an old, earth-bound city but those with very little magic are left to scrounge for what they can in the ruins. I loved this take on magic and how versatile it was. I also loved the idea of the political intrigue going on with the towers, something that was only hinted at for the most part in this book since the main character, Xhea, is as far as you can get from the action…until she isn’t. I also loved the combination of magical and post-apocalyptic elements.
The premise was what grabbed me initially. As I said, Xhea has no magic, unless you count her unique ability to see and communicate with ghosts, which she parlays into a career of sorts in order to survive. This is what puts her into contact with Shai, the ghost of a teenage girl who turns out to be extremely important in Tower politics. Xhea, unused to trusting anyone, has to work with Shai in order to ensure both of their survivals.
Unfortunately, I had a hard time connecting with the characters. I thought the character development for Xhea was great, and Shai had some tough choices to make in the book, but I didn’t really feel it the way I wanted to.
TL;DR: Interesting world building and premise but characters fell flat for me.