Some time has passed since Rune St. John had his encounter with Rurik the lich. For the most part now life appears to be business as usual for Rune and his bonded companion Brand. Rune, the survivor of a fallen court, once called the Sun Throne, manages to make a modest living with Brand, only now he has a ward under his care in the name of Matthias St. Valentine, or Max for short. Max was delivered to him compliments of his grandmother, who now has to watch over him until his 21st birthday after which he is to be delivered in marriage to the ruler of the Gallows Throne, this being The Hanged Man. Everything seems to be going fine until The Hanged Man starts making official overtures to claim Max much sooner. Rune and Brand, along with Rune’s boyfriend, Addam St. Nicholas, and Addam’s younger brother Quinn (who has the ability to see probabilities thus making him a prophet), need to find a way for The Hanged Man to release his contract on Max. The only problem is, The Hanged Man is a somewhat feared member of the Arcana (the ruling body of Atlanteans), and he doesn’t exactly toe the standard Atlantean line. Does Rune have what it takes to save Max from an almost unsavory future being wed to The Hanged Man?
This is K.D. Edwards’ second book in The Tarot Sequence, the first being The Last Sun. Let me start this off by saying if you haven’t read The Last Sun then you need to stop right here and pick up that book, for everything that happens in The Hanged Man is an absolute continuation of that first story making it required reading. However, for those of you who have read The Last Sun all I can say is that K.D. Edwards is now two for two with The Hanged Man. His first book became quite the success with both critics and readers, and now he has proven that he is no “one-hit-wonder.”
Arguably the greatest element his stories have is his cast of characters. It can be said that the best writers are those who “hear” the voices of the characters in their heads and more or less take dictation as they talk to the writer. It’s clear that with Edwards this is no exception. All of his returning characters have not remained static since we last read their exploits. They have grown and evolved in ways that I found to be not only refreshing but actually exciting! Even choices that were made in The Last Sun that I found to be questionable are revisited and dealt with in a new manner that had me smiling in agreement, showing an evolution in the characters as their own experiences helped to shape the way they would view their circumstances.
However, this book doesn’t rest on its characters only. Edwards has delivered a plot that at times feels like a runaway train, but never at the expense of its own quality. From the very beginning of the book, Rune is involved in a salvage mission of sorts that has surprising revelations and unexpected complications that keep the reader engaged through to the very end of the first chapter. But this story does revolve around one of the most terrifying members of the Arcana, and to help give a sense of perspective Edwards also alters the tone of the story at one point from that of urban fantasy to one of pure horror that left me breathless. Another aspect of this story that differs from The Last Sun is the amount of world-building. The first book had quite a bit that almost amounted to info dump, but as with all new epic tales, a very extensive amount of world-building is required to establish the world for the story to take place in. With The Hanged Man Edwards uses the introduction of new characters as a means of providing additional material for how this world operates. The result is a very even manner of world-building along with plot development making this book not only exciting but also very easy to read. However, the very soul of these stories is made up of the characters inhabiting both books, and Edwards has spent just as much time making sure their development is on par with the plot. His way of writing them, giving us Rune’s thoughts, hearing the words of Brand, Quinn, Max, and Addam, does more than just give the reader something to look at. Edwards has managed to breathe life into these characters making them alive. These people became so real to me that during one touching moment between Rune and Brand I actually became somewhat teary-eyed. Later, in a scene that I can only describe as beautiful and loving, I had to put the book down because I couldn’t stop sobbing.
If you are a fan of D & D, or any other type of role-playing game of that nature, then you will love these books. Much like The Last Sun, The Hanged Man is a quest story, and yet it is much more than that. It is theater of the mind. It is the finest form of escapism I have ever read. There are no proper terms to express how powerfully this book affected me. For only his second book, K.D. Edwards has delivered something that I can only categorize as masterful. Put simply, The Hanged Man is probably the best book I have ever read.
The Hanged Man receives 5 out of 5 Sigils!!!