Radiant tops my list of best books of 2014; neither the cover nor the blurb accurately foretold just how good a story was contained within. Very intricate and unique world building combined with highly nuanced characters to create a story full of pathos. I couldn’t put it down once I had started reading.
Story: Xhea lives on the ground in a post apocalyptic Canadian City with magic-powered floating cities. Humans have found magic and it fundamentally changed the world, creating inequalities based upon the strength of a person’s innate magic. It is currency and coin, and the heart of Xhea’s poverty. For she doesn’t have magic, only a very rare ability to see/hear ghosts. On the ground are the poor and in the outskirts, the Walkers – zombie like humans who are a horror of their own. When Xhea is paid to temporarily separate a ghost from a man, she will become unwittingly embroiled in world politics. For the ghost, Shai, is special. And the two girls will need each of their unique skills if they are to survive what is about to come.
Both main characters, Xhea and Shai, are very fully formed. Each is strong in a unique way that will both help and hinder their journey together. But it is their interactions and halting friendship that give this story heart. Rather than being enemies or screeching females, each recognizes the gravitas of their situation and make use of their talents. For once, we have characters who understand just how perilous their lives have becomes and act accordingly.
The side characters are just as human (or inhuman, as in the case of the ghosts). There are no mustache twirling villains or too-good-to-be-true friends who will end up as tombstones. Rather, loner Xhea has those she can sort of depend upon but whom will end up disappointing when she runs into trouble with the Towers.
The human aspect of the story is very well complemented by a fascinating and intricately conceived world. From the politics of the elite in the Towers to the scrabble on the ground – it all makes sense and it is all incredibly unique. A post apocalypse world with magic running throughout – powering elevators or cars and defining the worth of people. It’s a capitalist society run on magic rather than gold or currency.
There’s a lot to like here. Those who are looking to avoid yet another sloppily written, illogical YA dystopian with copious amounts of meaningless action culminating in a soppy insta-luv romance will find a lot to love with Radiant. It’s the antidote to the rash of very poorly written books springing up since Divergent and Hunger Games became popular.
I eagerly look forward to the next book in the series and I give my highest recommendations for Radiant. Reviewed from an ARC.