That rare second novel that improves on everything the first novel already did so well
The Hanged Man by K.D. Edwards is an engaging, epic tale that doesn’t let you put it down. It’s the sequel to 2018’s The Last Sun. Both books follow the story of Rune Saint John, the last scion of the fallen Sun Throne, one of the 22 Arcana of Atlantis. The story is masterfully told, set in an alternate version of modern-day earth, where Atlantis was discovered in the mid-1900s and this lead to a massive war which saw the original Atlantean island decimated. New Atlantis is on Nantucket. As you might have guessed from the titles, Edwards has modeled the setting on the major arcana of the tarot deck.
This unique inspiration and world building is one of the many things that stand out about The Hanged Man. Atlantis itself is an amalgamation of famous buildings and architecture from around the world, and this gives the city a sort of character of its own. I loved how, in describing the look of a building, Edwards often appeals to history and gives us a little tease about this real-world building that has shown up in Atlantis. In doing so it’s not only a fun connection but provides backstory and context to the vast power that the Arcana of Atlantis wield. World building with such layering is a strength of Edwards. Another area of strength is the magic. The way Atlanteans use magic is through storing spells in sigils that can be accessed later. In some ways this is reminiscent of old D&D magic where wizards had to choose the spells they had ready. It creates some interesting strategies for different points in the story as well. It’s all very fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It also provides for some tense action sequences. Speaking of tense action, there is one sequence in the novel that is incredibly creepy and disturbing and shows the effects magic can have even long after the fact. Edwards prose in this section really brought an element of horror to the novel that was perfectly placed for emotional impact. That emotional impact is probably the aspect of the novel that shines above all others. Edwards is truly gifted at allowing us to feel the pains and joys of the characters he crafts. By this second book, as readers we deeply care for the characters we’re reading about and Edwards continues to deepen them. I was particularly impressed with how Edwards deepened the side characters in this novel, giving us some great emotional beats. We celebrate at moments and ache at others for each of the characters in this novel. It’s one of the things that makes this so addicting. Edwards also excels at writing banter, and the back and forth between Brand and Rune, as well as some of the other characters, is wonderful. At the end of the day we have a novel where the characters and world building are amazingly deep, where the action is pulse-pounding, and where all the elements come together to tell a unique and compelling story.
I don’t have many criticisms for this one. The whole comes together so well and is such a compelling read that it’s difficult to isolate anything that needs to be named as a criticism. A couple of the character moments in the story felt like they could have been given just a little more space. Once or twice I felt like I wanted to stay in that moment of character tension or development just a bit longer. It’s hard to call this a failing of the novel. It’s more that I love how Edwards is developing these characters and I want more of it. Call this a criticism if you like, or perhaps a hope for future installments. There were also one or two action sequences where I had questions about how the magic was working, or how spells interacted. This is very much a personal criticism because I tend to enjoy hard magic systems.
The Tarot Sequence is proving to be a top-notch fantasy series and if you haven’t already joined the ride, you should do so as soon as possible. The Hanged Man is that rare second novel that improves on everything the first novel already did so well. This one takes everything and cranks it to eleven and I loved every minute of it. The Hanged Man releases on December 17 and is available for preorder now.
Review by Calvin Park
9.2/10 from 1 reviews
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