Decent but sometimes confusing addition to series
RADIANT SHADOWS, the fourth book in Melissa Marr's WICKED LOVELY series, switches the focus to the Hounds, the Dark Court, and the growing instability in Faerie. As the High Queen's brother-son, Devlin has acted as her assassin since his creation. One refusal to act on her orders, unbeknownst to the queen, is now having repercussions. Daughter of the leader of the Hounds, Ani is a halfling caught between two worlds. As an anomaly with unique abilities, Ani is also someone that others want to abuse or destroy. When Devlin and Ani find themselves drawn to one another, decisions must be made that could upset Faerie itself.
Like INK EXCHANGE, RADIANT SHADOWS is a companion novel, not a true sequel. Reading the novels in order is necessary though, since much of the backstory comes from the previous books. In this installment, Marr continues her complex plot and worldbuilding and returns to a darker mood. The development of Devlin and Ani as characters allows for this, and the new focus takes the reader away refreshingly from the love quadrangle of the Summer and Winter Courts. To Dark Court fans, this may be their favorite book because Bananach, Irial, Niall, and Seth all play major roles. The plot, while standalone in some ways, also serves to create significant tension and unanswered questions for the upcoming final book.
However, much like my experience with the other WICKED LOVELY books, I enjoyed this somewhat but was not overwhelmed. Marr does a good job at creating a complex world for her characters, but at times it became too convoluted; even as a careful reader, I found myself confused sometimes about the world, its mythology, and its rules. Pacing was also slow at the beginning, taking 100 pages for my interest to catch. Then, as the book closes, the conclusion seemed obvious for the last 100 pages. As main characters, Ani and Devlin were interesting, but only mildly so; I never felt their emotional connection to one another, only their physical one. The character of Rae, who is introduced in this book, seemed like a too convenient plot device, and other characters, like Irial, came off as inconsistent with compared to how they were portrayed in prior books. Finally, while I'm impressed that Marr is willing to push relationship boundaries, the resolution with Devlin, Ani, and Rae at the end felt off.
In the fifth and final book in the series, DARKEST MERCY, I hope that Marr brings all of the story threads to conclusive and satisfying ends, while providing a clear mythology and world in which to do so.