Thank you to Pyr for a copy of The Hourglass Throne in exchange for an honest review.
I’m putting the content warnings up here this time since there’s some pretty heavy stuff that I can’t avoid talking about even in a spoiler-lite review.
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?
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.
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. ( – trimmed down from publisher summary)
K.D. Edwards’s The Hourglass Throne is the final book of the first trilogy of his Tarot Sequence series (say that 10 times fast). I discovered this series early in the pandemic and devoured the first two books — The Last Sun and The Hanged Man — in about a week. So, I’ve been (im)patiently waiting for this book for two years now.
The world-building in this series is incredibly intricate. The general premise is that Atlantis is/was real and that Atlanteans are immortalish who resemble humans but with preternatural powers. Having revealed themselves to the human people of the world, Atlanteans now live in what used to be Nantucket. The most powerful Atlanteans are called “Arcanum.” They live in courts named after tarot cards.
There’s a lot of political intrigue, gross disregard for life and some truly horrific imagery. Edwards balances that with such humor and love that it’s never too much, so despite the bleak content warnings, the Tough Stuff never feels gratuitous (to me, at least).
That should be enough to get us into The Hourglass Throne …
I won’t give anything away here, but wow. A crap ton of stuff comes to light. To call the main character Rune an unreliable narrator would be like calling Antarctica “chilly” (though that comparison might not have aged well if you’re reading this in five years).
The revelations in this book are not necessarily surprising, narratively, but as an artistic choice, they are very bold. It proves Edwards’s trust in both his readership and his craft. I wholeheartedly approve. A lesser novelist might have shied away from the “twist” or failed by not having created such intriguing, lovable characters.
It’s not a spoiler to say that Rune is a survivor of a very brutal sexual assault. Because he’s famous, everyone knows what happened to him, even if they don’t know the specifics. So much of this series is a meditation on the nasty side of fame and power, and this story thread is no exception.
A lot of careful research was done into what to say and what not to say to survivors. Further, while we as readers have known some of his story, getting more clarity and how we get it mainly sheds a lot of light on Rune’s specific trauma responses.
Always a critic…
I only have two criticisms of The Hourglass Throne. One, the pacing felt a little off. It took me a couple of days to get through the book’s first half, but then I read the second half in one sitting! Compare that to my absolute sprint through the first two books … so I’m not sure what happened here.
The second thing that irked me is perhaps more personal. There’s a nonbinary character who came out in one of the many beautiful pieces of extra content Edwards puts out between his books. And maybe the fact that they came out in additional content is why Edwards chose to have one character misgender them a couple of times in the book.
It’s realistic for people to have trouble getting on board with new pronouns, I get it, believe me, but New Atlantis is a world where nearly everyone has some sort of queer sexuality, and it’s just not a thing. It woulda been cool if gender identity played the same way.
Holy polyamory, Batman!
Okay, technically I don’t know if Edwards is gearing up for a polyamory story between Rune’s partner Addam, Rune’s psychologically bonded lifelong bodyguard, and Rune, but there were vibes. I’m here for it. I’m not sure if we’re looking at a vee or a triad situation here, but whatever. So refreshing.
Even if this relationship doesn’t become something other than what it is now — two men in love within a group of three men who love each other — that’s still incredibly profound. They are three men raising a family together. When reading any of these books, there are times that I have to pause and reflect for a moment. And try not to cry.
The Tarot Sequence is a series about found family, a found family led by three queer men. Honestly, I’m getting a little choked up just writing about it. I can only speak to US-American and Turkish culture, but there’s a lot of BS in society about men and parenting and queer people around kids, particularly queer men.
The downside is I don’t think the people whose viewpoints need to be challenged will read these books, but at least those of us who need validation can get it here.
Should you read it?
If you were a fan of the first two books, you probably already are going to, and you won’t be disappointed. The Hourglass Throne is not a standalone novel, so I’ll use this space to say that if you haven’t read The Last Sun or The Hanged Man, you should do that and then pick this one up. So, like, seriously, if you haven’t yet read this series, remedy that, STAT.
The Hourglass Throne comes out May 17. Pick up a copy and your local indie bookstore or library. 📚