What perils await on the other side of the veil?
In the seventh year of Áed’s reign, night descends on the autumn festival. But a time of revelry turns into one of fiery destruction—as fae pour across the veil and the Gut becomes a battlefield in an otherworldly war.
Determined to protect his kingdom and the people he loves, Áed finds himself catapulted into a realm as unfamiliar as it is dangerous, where magic is king and wild courts vie for supremacy.
While the faerie Queen’s missing consort holds the key to life and death, tenuous alliances raise questions about Áed’s connection to the mysterious Bone court. His survival hinges on cunning as much as illusion.
On a mission like no other, only one thing is certain: no one will survive unscathed.
This review is in regards to the concluding book to the Coming of Áed series. I’ve kept the review fairly general, avoiding potential spoilers to the best of my ability.
Trigger warnings (that I can recall for TWC): suicidal ideations/attempt (told in past tense, briefly mentioned) & physical/emotional abuse (neither of these are a main focus but are briefly mentioned), emotional and physical trauma from disabilities, fantasy action violence, family abandonment issues
The Wild Court by E. G. Radcliff is the third and concluding entry in The Coming of Áed series. Following a cast of endearing characters as they navigate a medieval-type setting joined with a magical realm that hosts a faerie race, this series will entertain any fan of the fantasy genre. Beyond plots of cut-throat gangs, court scheming, and mischievous faerie folk, Radcliff imbues these stories with themes of found-family, loyalty, and comradery, as well as touching on deeper topics like trauma, abuse, and unhealthy dynamics in relationships.
As a whole, The Coming of Áed follows a band of close-knit characters, the prominent of which is Áed, a young man who starts off his journey in the gang-infested streets before being thrown into a plot of high court officials and elusive faerie folk. His foggy past haunts him, veiled in mystery and yet blossoming with the promise of an important lineage. On top of that, he discovers that he wields a rare and unique power that many around him find frightening due to its power and origin. Along the way, he must determine who is friend and who is foe, always faced with the choice of taking the easy vindictive route or the tougher path of compassion.
The Wild Court is a thrilling conclusion to this series. Whereas its predecessors relied heavily on character development and plot rather than high amounts of magic or other expected fantasy tropes, this entry fulfills the promises those previous books implied by injecting fantastical races, previously un-traversed settings brimming with other-worldliness, and, of course, lots and lots of magic. This is certainly different from the first two books, which only scratched the surface of the magic elements of this world. Yet, it makes sense that this book finally explores the faeries and their world of magic, since there’s been a gradual buildup in the series to it.
That isn’t to say that character development goes on the back burner though. As always, Radcliff focuses on the characters that have accompanied readers through the series already, while introducing new faces to the cast. Of particular note is the M|M romance between Áed and another character—something that shouldn’t come as a surprise to eager readers, and yet Radcliff knows how to make us work for what we all want: for Áed to be happy, damn it!
Another element worth highlighting is Radcliff’s inclusion of character’s with disabilities. This isn’t necessarily seen all that often in fantasy fiction, at least not on a mainstream level, and so when it does appear in stories, I think it’s worth pointing out. Radcliff navigates this well, balancing the struggle that such disabilities would naturally incite, and yet showing readers that such characters are just as capable, brave, strong, and courageous as their non-disabled counterparts. This is something that is present in every entry in the series, since Áed, our main protagonist, has crippled hands that create unique challenges to a world of sword duels and gang fights. Other characters deal with the trauma of amputation, blindness, and body-deficiency ailments. It certainly adds tension to the story, but Radcliff never uses this as an excuse to dismiss characters from the plot or action.
As previously noted, Radcliff also doesn’t shy away from tough, uncomfortable issues like trauma, both physical and emotional. Without giving away spoilers, Áed has abandonment issues that follow him through the series, and are especially highlighted in The Last Prince. Another character in the series grapples with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse, while a new face in The Wild Courts admits to having attempted suicide. These topics and struggles crop up usually in a past tense, and are never pushed to extreme points that might otherwise spoil the light-hearted vibe of the series. Still, Radcliff navigates these with care, showing that it can be important to touch on these deeper topics within stories without unnecessarily triggering readers.
With all of the above in mind, I do think the other two entries in the series do deeper character development than The Wild Courts. It’s my only criticism for the book, and it’s not really a hindrance to the enjoyment of the story, since readers have had plenty of time to bond with the characters in The Hidden King and The Last Prince. The character development is still present, but as the concluding piece to this series, The Wild Courts seemed more concerned with exploring the mysterious magic and elusive faerie realm. It’s an interesting trade off, since typical fantasy fans may have found the other two books lacking in magic but overflowing in character development, while this finale swaps the weightiness of those two ingredients.
But I refuse to end on a criticism, especially since The Wild Courts is in no way underwhelming. To the contrary, it’s sprawling with immense detail, fluid and natural dialogue, intriguing character dynamics, and a fresh setting that its predecessors had not yet explored. The book starts with a tense and explosive event that instantly draws the reader in, setting the tone between how the two races of this world treat each other. Humans distrust faeries, a regard that is validated in the way the faeries treat humans as lesser and even expendable. The book explores these prejudices, putting characters in situations that force each to contemplate whether their beliefs of the other are accurate. Additionally, Radcliff wields a prose that invites readers of all levels, keeping it simple and yet intriguing, and does an excellent job of avoiding the dreaded exposition/info dumps commonly associated with the fantasy genre. Above all, readers will find the main characters of The Coming of Áed very endearing and relatable, and will certainly find themselves cheering on Áed and his companions as they explore the faerie realm in The Wild Courts.
In conclusion, read this series! The Wild Court brings Áed’s story to a satisfying end, full of action, compelling characters, and lots of that fantasy magic we all enjoy. My hope is that, someday, Radcliff may return for more entries in this series, and I will certainly be there, ready for the journey.
About the Reviewer
Enthralled by the magic that written stories contain, Jesse Nolan Bailey has always wanted to be an author. With his debut novel, THE JEALOUSY OF JALICE, and his shorter fiction, AMETHYST, released to the masses, he can now claim such title with relief. He lives in Durham, North Carolina, where he has embraced the equally-gratifying lifework of hosting a trio of spoiled cats and two mini-aussies.
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About The Jealousy of Jalice (A Disaster of Dokojin #1)
The Realms have split apart, the Stones of Elation have been hidden, and warnings of dokojin drift among the tribes.
The land and its people are corrupted. The Sachem, chief of the Unified Tribes, is to blame.
It is this conviction that drives Annilasia and Delilee to risk their lives. Afraid of the aether magic he wields, they enact a subtler scheme: kidnap his wife. In her place, Delilee will pretend to be the chieftess and spy on the Sachem.
Unaware of this plot against her husband, Jalice is whisked away by Annilasia. Pleading with her captor proves futile, and she rejects Annilasia’s delusional accusations against the chief. After all, the Sachem has brought peace to the land.
Yet a dangerous truth hides in Jalice’s past. As she and Annilasia flee through a forest of insidious threats, they must confront the evil plaguing the tribes and the events that unleashed it.