What perils await on the other side of the veil?
It’s the seventh year of Áed’s reign. While Ronan, full of restless wanderlust, dreams of a world outside the protective walls of the palace, and Éamon, Áed’s closest friend, struggles quietly with his growing feelings for the King, the world of The Gut is at peace. Until on one cold, autumn festival night, faerie and human worlds collide. With the calm of the kingdom suddenly ablaze, Áed, Eamon, and Ronan find themselves catapulted into a realm as unfamiliar as it is dangerous, where magic is king and wild courts vie for supremacy.
As a tenuous alliance raises questions about Áed’s connection to the mysterious Bone Court, and with a manipulative queen’s missing consort holding the key to life and death, survival hinges on cunning as much as illusion.
In this otherworldly war, only one thing is certain: no one will survive unscathed.
I was kindly given a digital arc of this novel by the author in exchange for an honest review, thank you very much, E.G. Radcliff!
The Wild Court is the third book in the Coming of Áed series and I had been looking forward to reading it and reacquainting myself with Áed and his ward, Ronan and the other more minor characters from the previous two books. The story is told from the perspective of three main characters, Áed, Ronan and Éamon, with the majority being from Áed’s perspective.
At the beginning of The Wild Court, Áed has been king for seven years and has made many improvements to his realm, The Gut, which comprises both The beautiful marble White City and the slumlike Maze, where Áed grew up. He has settled into his role over the years and has become close friends with one of his advisors, Éamon, who would clearly like to be more than a friend, but is trying to keep his feelings in check. Áed has not told anyone that he is half fae over the past seven years so it is still only Ronan and Boudicca who are aware of this fact at the beginning of the story.
Ronan is now a wilful teenager who is about to be officially named Crown Prince and heir to the throne. It is a festival night, however, and he has run away to have some fun, when all Hell breaks out. The veil between the worlds being thin on festival nights, fae come rampaging through into Áed’s world, killing people and destroying buildings, creating havoc. Understandably Áed is scared for Ronan whose whereabouts are unknown and the tension mounts as he realizes the fae magic has sent everyone to sleep, apart from him, supposedly due to his fae blood. He finds he is able to wake people and shelter them using powers he didn’t know he had and that no one else can use. This exciting series of events draws the reader into the story right away.
When Aed awakens Éamon, his counselor and dear friend is confused as to why Áed is able to do this but no one else can. It seems Áed will have to let him in on his secret sooner rather than later, but Éamon is intolerant of fae and Áed does not want to lose his friendship:
“They are pretty terrifying”, Éamon said. “In a…steal-your-children, set-your-house-on-fire kind of way.” He chuckled humorlessly. “A break-your-legs way.”
In this way Radcliff expertly introduces the theme of fear of the “other”. People are predisposed to mistrust anything they do not understand and Áed naturally worries he will be shunned by both friends, and his subjects if they found out about his heritage (we learnt in the first book that his fae mother was raped by the previous human king on a festival night).
When Ronan returns to the castle with an injured sixteen year old fae named Erin we are introduced to a new bold, brash, sarcastic character who I really liked. Fae are unable to lie and she is intrigued by Áed’s relationship with Éamon, since she recognizes immediately that Áed is fae and that he and Éamon are not exactly being honest about their feelings for each other. Erin is able to fill in some details for Áed about the fae side of the veil which is in the throes of civil war between the eight Low Courts and the High Court, which is reigned over by a despotic Queen. In this way the reader is told a lot of information about the realm of the fae in a way which feels completely natural and not at all convoluted, since we are learning from Erin at the same time as Áed does.
Áed needs to ensure the violence does not spill through the veil into his realm again and so the three of them hatch a plan to cross through the veil, with feisty Erin as their guide, meaning they will be stuck in the fae realm until the next festival night around three months later. Intent on ending the war between the fae courts, the three of them embark on a journey which sees them navigating the complicated politics of the fae realm in a bid to locate the tyrannical Queen’s runaway consort and help end the war.
The relationships between these characters were very well written and believable and the ‘will they, won’t they’ tension between Áed and Éamon was palpable. I also loved Ronan’s stroppy teenage behaviour – not showing up for his own ceremony when he became Crown Prince and refusing to open his door to say goodbye to Áed. The antagonism between Éamon and Erin is also well done – he has no trust for fae and she dislikes him for it. Their relationship develops nicely into a teasing fondness by the end. However, Éamon’s early attitude to Erin adds fuel to Áed’s reluctance to let Éamon find out he is part fae.
The world is described in great detail with beautiful prose which makes it so easy to visualize. I have said this before about Radcliff’s prose (in previous reviews) and it continues to be fantastic in this novel too. On entering the veil to pass through to the fae realm we are told:
“The whispers split into undiscernible words, sounding like wind through dry leaves. A shudder passed over Éamon’s skin, as if the air of the cave had suddenly become real, and ahead of him, the darkness seemed to crack. Splitting light traced over it like branching tree boughs, and then it was opening around him.”
I was captivated by the world of the fae to the point that I could not put the book down. There is magic all around: in the magical glowstones used to illuminate the ceilings and walls of their dwellings; in the pollen which can be used to communicate with other fae; in the interesting and sometimes scary beasts we are introduced to. The fae themselves are also capable of many different types of magic. If you want to learn more about the magic of this world read this article written by E.G. Radcliff on that exact subject.
There is also plenty of action in the story. The group is chased by a hunting party of the Moon Court when they get through the veil and the tension is high, my heart was in my mouth waiting to find out the outcome. The conclusion to the story is also action-packed to say the least, and very satisfying.
Áed goes through plenty of emotional wrangling in this story, which is oftentimes heart-wrenching. Throughout the trilogy there has been the theme of familial rejection – Áed’s mother was raped and left him a message saying she couldn’t bear to keep him as a reminder. He has always suspected that she would never be able to accept him, if he were to meet her.
Áed also feels guilty for Éamon’s devastating injury at the hands of the Moon Court fae. He cares deeply for Éamon, but is still emotionally involved with his dead partner, Ninian, and has to work through these feelings before he can admit how much he cares for Éamon.
Radcliff also introduces the theme of being in an abusive relationship and escaping, followed by the terror of returning, despite the knowledge that it could save thousands of lives. Each of these themes could come with a content warning, but they are approached delicately by the author and not described in gratuitous detail at all.
There are so many things I want to say about this book but I can’t because I’m trying really hard not to give away too many spoilers! Suffice to say The Wild Court is a wild, emotional and highly enjoyable ride! I really enjoyed the previous two books in the series and gave The Last Prince 5 stars, but in this final installment E.G. Radcliff turns the dial up to eleven or maybe even twelve and I want to give it 7/5 stars!! Pre-order it now – you will not be sorry!
Pre order The Wild Court here: www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08BS1KGXH
Add to goodreads here: www.goodreads.com/book/show/57861030-the-wild-court
About the Author
E.G. Radcliff is a part-time pooka and native of the Unseelie Court. She collects acorns, glass beads, and pretty rocks, and the crows outside her house know her as She Who Has Bread. Her fantasy novels are crafted in the dead of night after offering sacrifices of almonds and red wine to the writing-block deities.
You can reach her by scrying bowl, carrier pigeon, or @egradcliff on social media.