Book Review: Radiance by Grace Draven




Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined.


Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn’t just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she’s known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light.

Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.



I first read Radiance a few years ago (three?) right before I started blogging. As such I’ve never written a full review for it. Since I recently re-read it (yay mood reading) I thought I’d go ahead and officially review it.

Radiance is one of my all time favorite fantasy romance novels. If you’re looking for a place to start with Grace Draven, I usually recommend this one as a good entry into her work because it has some really great things going for it. Honestly, it’s one of the best blends of the two genres that I’ve come across. Radiance is, at its core, maybe more on the romance side of things as the main plot centers around the new couple getting to know one another after an arranged political marriage. Also because one of them his human and the other is Kai there’s a bit of fish out of water as Ildiko goes to live with her Kai husband and his people. And that’s the basic gist of this book.

It may seem like there’s not much going on but there’s plenty of drama to be had. Although I will say that the one thing I appreciate about this book above so many other romance focused plots is the lack of drama between the two protagonists from misunderstandings or distrust or any of the other usual stuff. In this Ildiko and Brishen decide to get along right from the get-go. They meet and they’re like ‘hey, let’s be friends and make the best of this’ and I love it. Watching they’re friendship progress into something more was wonderful especially because it was drama free. Most of those relationship tropes are avoided (thank goodness!). It felt really refreshing because of this, even on a reread! I love that they always have each others backs here.

Most of the conflict in the book is driven by external factors. There’s Ildiko navigating the Kai court with a particularly nasty mother in law, political intrigue, raiders, the threat of war, etc. Navigating the court is interesting as Ildiko is also learning how the Kai do things and what their culture is like now that she’s living among them. I loved the world building here. I particularly loved that the author didn’t paint the Kai as some kind of monolith–even with tiny things such as their ‘favorite dish’ there are some Kai that are like ‘yeah that’s not for me’. Little things like that show the difference among the people and that not everyone is the same.

Now, I will say that while this book is mostly on the lower-key end of things (like, there’s still plenty of things to keep the story moving but it’s nothing earth-shattering) near the end there is a major event which leads right into the second book. Book two is much more on the fantasy end and less on the romance end, but still a good blend. I would recommend continuing the story if you at all liked the first one but are looking for something with a little more action. In fact, you could probably read them back to back as on long story. πŸ™‚ 5/5 stars.




28 thoughts on “Book Review: Radiance by Grace Draven

  1. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

    Great review! I love this series and 100% agree – I love the relationship between Ildiko and Brishen and how much the two of them support one another. πŸ™‚ My favourite character will always be Anhuset, though, so I’m very excited for The Ippos King this autumn…

  2. dinipandareads says:

    Great review! If I’m not wrong, I read this book aaages ago and I remembered enjoying it even though I now can’t recall anything about it. Reading this review has convinced me that I should pick this romantasy up again soon! I definitely want to read more of the romance fantasy variety πŸ˜€ Excited to hear that you loved this one so much!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I’m definitely into romantic fantasy–it’s my jam. πŸ™‚ I really love her new series as well–highly recommend anything Grace Draven for fantasy romance. πŸ™‚

  3. Tammy says:

    I’m glad you reviewed this. I’ll definitely read it at some point, since I’ve become a big fan of Draven recently! I like her balance of romance and drama😁

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thanks! This one definitely leans more romance than not but then in book 2 all of a sudden an epic fantasy breaks out. Well, it actually starts and the end of book one so if you go in and you’re liking it might want to have book two handy. πŸ˜‰

  4. maidensblushblog says:

    Grace Draven, in my opinion, is the QUEEN of developing relationships from point A to point Z. Whether they’re friends-to-lovers or enemies-to-lovers, there’s just something about how she handles the journey = she’s the best at it!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      It’s a good one although *mostly* romance focused but the second book in the series kicks the epic fantasy WAY up. She’s become one of my favorite authors for the fantasy/romance combo. πŸ™‚

  5. Susy's Cozy World says:

    I have added this book on my TBR thanks to you, and after reading your review I am even more curious! The lack of drama between the MCs due to miscommunication or similar is something amazing!! And now I am really looking forward to it!!!

  6. maddalena@spaceandsorcery says:

    While I would not normally have read a book with this kind of premise, your description of the dynamic between the two protagonists made me pay attention because it’s so very different from the expected norm and sounds very interesting as a character exploration. The added value comes from your comment about conflict coming from the outside rather than inside the couple.
    And now I want to read this one… πŸ™‚
    Thanks for sharing!!!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      I love reading books with relationships but one of my biggest pet peeves is there is always so much manufactured drama between characters and this one avoids so much of that it really has my heart for that reason. πŸ™‚ If you check this one out I hope you enjoy it!

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