The Sun Child Chronicles is a fantasy series with a touch of sci-fi, but life has a way of mixing everything up. For protagonist Lucky, who is fifteen in Wraith Queen’s Veil, that means his days are touched with every emotion from peace to grief, and though he must focus his wishes, his power, and his will on fighting dark things, romance reaches out and touches him, too, with all its new and nervous wonder.
Lucky found the pack he’d left the queen’s tower with now occupied a space by a comfortable-looking bed in a cozy room. The room where his bath had been made ready was at the far end of the corridor, on the other side of the stairs. At the end of the hall closest to his room, a huge window of surprisingly clear glass took most of the wall, looking over a small, sparsely wooded valley and across to a line of mountains that barely showed as a darker line under a dark sky.
“My room is here,” Rio said, opening a door across the hall diagonally from Lucky’s. “If you need anything at all, at any time, just come and get me. I sleep light, so it won’t be a problem. Okay?”
Lucky had his bath and went to his room, suddenly so sleepy he could hardly keep his eyes open. The flannel nightshirt Rio had loaned him fit loosely, and as he crawled under the quilts, he remembered his first night in Thurlock’s house back in Earth. He’d been wearing the wizard’s pajama pants, courtesy of Uncle Han, and it seemed a bittersweet memory. He fell asleep and thoughts of Han became a dream. Han smiled in his dream, and they rode the toboggan down the hill over and over—although they never got to the bottom. Every time they stood at the top, ready to start again, Han said something wonderful that he’d said to Lucky for real at some time or other.
“It’ll be okay.”
“You’re stronger than you look!”
“You did well, today. I’m proud of you.”
Then, finally, “I’ll be back.”
Lucky woke up feeling horribly alone, even though he was in a house full of wonderful people. Han wouldn’t be back; whether he was dead or not, he was gone from the world. Even the Wraith Queen didn’t know what had happened to him. And when Lucky allowed himself to contemplate that, he felt hopeless. He knew he wouldn’t ever grow up to be the best he could be, having lost Han just when he needed him most. Suddenly feeling closed in and restless, he got out of bed, slipped on some warm socks, and quietly left his room.
In the hall, the light from the risen moon made a path, and he followed it to the window. He stood there, awestruck by the vista. The valley lay before him toned in various grays, with a silver-white mist rising from the stands of trees and the creek that ran at the bottom. The moon hid some stars, but those he could see must have numbered in the thousands—or maybe millions.
This is a good place, he thought. Part of him wished he could just forget all about his destiny and everything else and stay right here until he died. But he had worries, friends to find, things to do, and deep down he already knew he wouldn’t walk away from his fated future, even though he knew he could.
He heard Rio’s door open and his quiet footsteps coming near, but he didn’t turn until the young man stood beside him. The moon sculpted his already beautiful face and his shoulder where his nightshirt had fallen to leave it bare.
Stop it, Lucky. You’re already bummed out. Stop thinking about him that way. You’re just going to make yourself feel worse.
Then Rio laid his hand on Lucky’s shoulder, and it was warm and… good, and Lucky’s body begged him to turn around and stand right up against the other boy, but… oh crap! Instead he reached up to remove the hand, but somehow, when he brought his own hand down to his side, he brought Rio’s too, and their two hands entwined so naturally that Lucky didn’t even notice it right away.
Oh shit! Oh damn!
If Lucky had been sad before, he’d now turned into a basket case. Rio was sexy. Like Zhevi, but different because… he couldn’t quite put it into words. With Zhevi, all Lucky had was a vague hope for someday. But Rio…. He’s so freakin’ sexy! And he’s right here, right now. Soon both his imagination and his body seemed to be racing way ahead of what he could keep track of.
Come on, Lucky. It’s only his hand you’re touching…. Yeah, but then there’s the way he smells and… the heat coming off his body and… the sound of his breath. Holy crap, I’m doomed!
He tried to turn his attention to the scenery out the window. “Beautiful,” he said in a voice just above a whisper. As soon as he said it, though, Zhevi’s face took the place of the moon in his mind. In no time, though, he saw Rio’s image instead. He felt disloyal. He knew it made no sense, but he kept feeling that way anyway.
“Yes, beautiful,” Rio said, his voice deeper than Lucky’s and right now a little breathy.
Something in the way he said it made Lucky turn to look at him, and he saw Rio’s eyes trained not on the beautiful night outside the window, but on him. Their eyes met and locked, and Lucky had a crazy feeling that something was about to happen.
“I’m a little nervous about telling you this, but, you know, I really like you. I mean, I think we’ll be good friends, but…. Can I maybe kiss you?”
When Lucky arrives in Ethra, the world of his birth and destiny, he expects a joyful reunion, but the first thing he notices when he reaches the Sisterhold—his home—is something false behind his mother’s smile. In a matter of weeks, the Sisterhold becomes agitated with worries and war plans. People he trusts—like the wizard Thurlock—frequently can’t be found. His mother seems angry, especially with Lucky. Even Han Shieth, the warrior uncle he has come to rely on and love above all others, maintains a sullen silence toward him.
When Lucky’s resentment builds to the breaking point, his bad decisions put him and his friends, L’Aria and Zhevi, in unthinkable danger. Han arrives to help, but he can’t claim invulnerability to the hazards and evils that threaten at every turn. Events launch Lucky, alone, on a quest for he knows not what, but every step brings him closer to his identity and full strength. Self-knowledge, trust, and strength lead to smarter choices, but even his best efforts might not render his world truly safe, now or for the future.
Release date: 6th October 2016
Review by Elaine White
Book – Wraith Queen’s Veil (The Sun Child Chronicles #2)
Author – Lou Hoffman
Star rating – ★★★★☆
No. of Pages – 350
Cover – Nice!
POV – 3rd person, multi POV
Would I read it again – Maybe.
Genre – LGBT, Fantasy, Young Adult, Child Kidnap/Slave Labour
The only problem with reading and reviewing an ARC is that you read a good book in a good series and you have even longer to wait for the next one, because you got it before it even hit the press, never mind had time to heat up.
Down sides? The format of the Prologue. It’s going to be a theme for the series, considering it’s in books 1 and 2, as well as the sneak peek of book 3. However, I don’t like it. It introduces characters that have no real bearing on the story and gives too much information and too many characters to remember in a short space of time. The characters introduced in book 1 were important to the whole story, so that made sense. However, those introduced here – The Wraith Queen, The Stable Master, Naht’kah and Nahk’tesh – were minor characters that, despite having a huge impact on Lucky, really didn’t need an introduction in this way. It added nothing to the story whatsoever.
There was a heck of a lot of recapping in the first 50% that wasn’t strictly necessary. A lot of the big battle at the end of book 1 was recounted in both memory and dialogue, word for word and in vivid detail. Maybe the problem was that I came straight into this book having read book 1, but either way, it felt like overkill.
Also, I find a huge plot gap in the fact that Lucky spent most of book 1 and half of book 2 never once utilizing his “wish” talent in a way that would have been helpful. There was no explanation given as to why he never used it, except that it became this forgotten/ignored gift that could have seriously helped or saved lives in many situations, but was never used.
There were a few formatting issues – but this is an ARC, so I didn’t let that have any weight in my rating – with varying font and font size throughout, which made it a little hard to read and required some adjustment. (This was especially tiring during night reading)
Quite honestly, the whole kilt thing really got under my skin. Now, I’m Scottish, so the kilt is part of our history and tradition. However, the way it was represented was so misleading and infuriating. For 1; there is no way to confuse a kilt with leggings (which Lucky does), 2; a kilt is NOT worn under anything, as described in the story, 3; I have no idea WHAT Lucky was trying to imply here –
“Under that he wore a layer made of soft, thick cloth, but on second thought those didn’t seem like leggings so much because they went all the way up under his…” His what? A kilt is – for lack of a better word and using the term used in the book – a skirt. So, it goes UP where? What could he possibly have been trying to say, because going UP where it’s implied would NOT be a kilt.
Similarly, I hated the very stereotypical Scottish accent slotted in for one line that felt like one of those token Scottish characters, as though they were needed to justify the use of the kilts. I think it might have been more forgivable had he been wearing some kind of ‘skirt-like’ outfit, that was not specifically called a kilt, something that had the nature of what the author was trying to reference in the notes above, but without limiting it to a real, specific piece of traditional wear.
I also found it curious that Lucky remarked this – “he’d wondered a few times how he’d look in a skirt, but he’d never really felt driven to try it.” Really? So…Lucky has some tendencies we don’t know about, does he? Or is this an attempt to reassert the fact that he’s gay? Because, if so, that really doesn’t work for me. It felt like an odd, completely unnecessary statement unless he’s going to end up expanding on that thought with real skirt-wearing or cross-dressing action later. Besides – and this is SO important – a kilt is NOT a skirt. Let me repeat that – a kilt is NOT a skirt. EVER.
One of the many questions that was left unanswered for me, in fact, was why everyone was acting so strange. If it was because of their worry about the bad stuff going on in other parts of the country, then why take it out on Lucky? Besides, no one ever apologized to Lucky, bar Han, who at least explained himself and had a decent reason to be mad. And why does Thurlock and everyone else expect him to be the perfect Suth Chiel when no one has given him an ounce of warning of training on the subject until at least halfway through?
There was also an issue with really ridiculous conversations that almost turned Lucky into a whining baby – particularly in the cave, at the start, and when Thurlock is helping him navigate a baby blessing.
There was a disproportionate method of storytelling. In book 1, the multi-POV meant that we got a few little stories here and there, that all wove together into one big one. Here, it’s sort of the same, but a lot of the little stories – Thurlock and Henry’s in particular – had about one chapter worth of time, before being ignored again for 20% of the book and never mentioned once within that time. It got increasingly frustrating to read their very small POV chapters or scenes only to then never find out what else had happened to them because their story had become background filler that we never got to see.
The ending. Again, it was really abrupt, right in the middle of a scene. Not to mention that the story left me with even more questions than it answered, which is slightly infuriating.
Positives? The story picks right up from where the previous book left off.
I do, however, have a disagreement with the blurb. It states “Hurt, confused, and left to his own devices, Lucky makes unfortunate choices that put him and his friends, L’Aria and Zhevi, in dire peril.” I would have to disagree with the whole “unfortunately choices” thing. Because, to me, Lucky is reacting to a situation that makes him feel unhappy, unappreciated and unwanted, because that’s how people have made him feel. His choices are a direct reflection of how he’s been made to feel, so they’re not unfortunate, they’re perfectly justifiable in his mind. And, really, part of his destiny, so they were going to happen one way or the other, all along.
No one can blame Lucky for feeling isolated and wanting to escape. To him, he gave up a crap, but familiar life, with people he knew and understood, for a crap, unfamiliar life full of strangers and rules. The people he has learned to trust and love have begun turning against him or abandoning him entirely – again.
They treat Lucky like he’s an idiot. He’s 15 and doesn’t need to be protected from the dangers of the world – especially after having proven himself capable in book 1 – but I find it particularly telling and saddening when, in the first half, Thurlock does something to Lucky that means he doesn’t notice the army preparing to leave. It’s a gross violation of the trust and their friendship that they’d worked so hard on building, to use magic to protect him from something he doesn’t need protected from, but at the same time, could have seriously prevented his chance to say goodbye to Han, before his journey. Yet, no one says anything about it and Lucky is left to feel like a child.
In a similar vein, I hated the way Lucky was treated for the first half of the story – again, without explanation! – especially when Thurlock said he had “a case of the jitters”. I’m pretty sure that what Lucky has is much more than just ‘jitters’. I’d say it’s much closer to shock or PTSD, after the events of the first book, being kidnapped and torture. It felt so (again with no excuse or explanation given) dismissive of all the characters to just let him flounder for the first half, believing he was unwanted and in the way. This is the part that – though I hated how he was treated – brought me much closer, emotionally, to Lucky. I hadn’t felt a connection with him before, not really at all during book 1, but this is where I really understood him and knew that it wasn’t just teenage angst, but a real deep seated feeling of abandonment. After finding this perfect family, they just deserted him.
You might notice that rant above ^ and wonder why it’s under the positives? Well, it takes a lot to make me feel this strongly for a character, especially when I wasn’t so sure about Lucky after the first book. Yes, it’s ranty, but that’s how strongly I feel about it.
And can I just say how much I loved the whole love triangle? Or rather, square. I absolutely fell in love with Rio and I hope that he’s got a huge part in book 3 – right alongside Lucky. 😉 And I wouldn’t mind seeing his brothers and dad again. The whole Stable Master world and aspect was enjoyable and very much welcome back again.
Overall, for me, this story was so much more captivating than the previous one. Perhaps because a lot of time had to be spent on getting to know the characters and introducing Lucky to a world he didn’t understand, in book 1. Either way, this one was much more cohesive and emotionally grasping. The world building was more concise, with great attention to detail and characterisation.
My problems were focused on the plot format – the disproportionate storytelling of the various POV’s, the fact that important events were ignored for up to and over 20% of the story, leaving us in the dark; the fact that I’m left with more questions than answers and the stereotypical nature of the Scottish aspects.
Unanswered questions I hope will be addressed in book 3 –
- Who killed Lohen and Han’s parents?
- Why did Thurlock keep Lucky at a distance?
- What’s going on with the children?
- How did Henry do what he did?
- Where did Thurlock end up and how did he get out?
- How in Behl’s name did Lohen appear to Lucky after he’d crossed over?
- Will Lucky ever learn to properly utilise his “wish” talent in a way that makes sense?
“Han crossed his muscular brown arms over his chest. Deadly calm and quiet, he said, “Not everything is about you, Luccan.”
He might as well have punched Lucky in the gut.”
“Since when did Han talk to him that way? His sarcasm had a cruel flavor that Lucky had never heard from him, and never would have imagined.
Though he knew the danger, he let something like threat seep into his own voice. “You’re right, Uncle. I’ll definitely be all right. I don’t need you to tell me that.” Pivoting o his heel and stepping away, he raised his voice and added, “Or for anything else.”
He immediately wished he hadn’t set those last words loose, but he couldn’t take them back. If his heart felt shredded, so be it. I’ll wager I don’t need that anymore either.”
“I know what makes him happy, sad, laugh. I know what scares him too. It’s like he poured his whole self into my brain and my heart, and it fits perfectly. And he knows me like that too.”
Meet Lou Hoffmann
Lou Hoffmann has carried on her love affair with books for decades, yet she hasn’t even made a dent in the list of books she’d love to read—at least partly because the list keeps growing. She reads factual things—books about physics and history and fractal chaos, but when she wants truth, she looks for it in quality fiction. She loves all sorts of wonderful things: music and silence, laughter and tears, youth and age, sunshine and storms, forests and fields, flora and fauna, rivers and seas. Even good movies and popcorn! Those things help her breathe, and everyone she knows helps her write. (Special mention goes to (1) George the Lady Cat and (2) readers.) Proud to be a bisexual, biracial woman, Lou considers every person a treasure not to be taken for granted. In her life, she’s seen the world’s willingness to embrace differences change, change back, and change again in dozens of ways, but she has great hope for the world the youth of today will create. She writes for readers who find themselves anywhere on the spectrums of age and gender, aiming to create characters that live not only in their stories, but always in your imagination and your heart.