The Hidden King, by E.G Radcliff is a magnificent, Celtic inspired fantasy full of faeries, magic and danger.
Synopsis: Aed has built himself a life, a family, in a run-down city full of starving and violent people. He has very little memory of his past, but the trauma is forever with him buried in the physical damage it has caused.
But, when terror and tragedy strikes, Aed must risk everything to save the family he still has. Desperate for a better, safer life Aed takes his family on a dangerous journey, one that become more deadly then he could ever have imagined. A legacy is stirring and nothing will ever be the same again.
This YA fantasy draws inspiration from the Celtic myth of Aed (also known as Aedh and Aodh) and of faeries. The inspiration is light and subtle, most notably because the faeries in this story are all of one kind, sharing the same physical traits as well as having an affinity for the same type of magic. And Aed himself also only draws lightly from the myth, since it is relatively complex and there are a few different versions of the story but they all have one thing in common, Aed is always related to a specific element. I don’t want to give too much away but if, like me, you are familiar with Celtic mythology then expect light but impactful influences – which I think were done extraordinarily well!
— Incredibly Strong And Descriptive —
The Writing Style And Narrative: Radcliff’s writing style is incredibly strong and descriptive, I was easily immersed in the world she had created. It was incredibly evocative and rich, I connected well with the characters due to the amazing writing and was eager to know more as I raced through the story. The additon of another language used for specific terms and exclamations added another interesting layer to the story and was fun and intiruging to read.
The Hidden King is written in the third person narrative, my favourite, and starts with the perspective of Ninian – an interesting and clever choice as he is not the key main character. A clever choice because it allows us to organically learn the reality of this harsh part of the world known as ‘The Maze’. Ninian’s perspective is effective as it very quickly establishes clear image of this world through its gangs, violence, starvation and structure. We immediately gain insight into the character of Ninian, the world he lives in and his motivations without any heavy information.
The third person narrative then switches to Aed, the main character. Again allowing a wider frame of knowledge of this world as well as getting insight into his thoughts of Ninian. Through Ninian’s perspectve we get his view of Aed, then we are able to build on that through Aed’s perspective of himself, as well as our own views of him as we are now able to see his ideas, emotions and motivations. The rest of the story is told from Aed’s perspective, a good choice as it allows for some mystery to be established. Aed is traumatised from his past, but cannot remember it allowing you to be curious and read on in order to unravel the truth. Aed also has limited knowledge of the place to which he is travelling, allowing suspense to build as we slowly learn about it.
The narrative choices are effective for this book, as it allows for mystery to be built and allows us to form a strong opinion of the main characters.
— Well Paced, It Is Fast And Action-Packed —
The Plot/Story: This book is heavily character-driven, so there isn’t much of a plot but this isn’t an issue because the story is done so well. We follow Aed as his life is turned upside down and he takes his family on a journey to The White City which is rumoured to be much better than the Maze, in the hope that he can build a better life there. But, Aed soon realises this will not be as easy as he first thought.
The story is well paced, it is fast and action-packed as many things happen to Aed or because of Aed but this dos not come across as passive because everything that happens does so for a reason, a good reason or a logical one that ties into the larger picture. This technique worked incredibly well for this story and allows for some fun twists. A little predictable at times, but there are enough shocks and suprises to keep you intrigued that it doesn’t take away from the story.
Moreover, the story has a good balance of action, comedy, and more serious moments. This was brilliantly done, the moments were well timed and effectively evoked the emotions intended. The comedy and clever sarcasm was a refreshing break from the tension of the action or the sad, serious moments which in turn allowed the emotional scenes to be more powerful. I thought it was incredibly well crafted and very powerful in the delivery – I was never bored and I was incredibly invested.
The story does use some well known tropes such as hidden power/hidden destiny/chosen one type tropes. But, it is done in an original and unique way that you can appreciate their uses.
— Incredibly Interesting —
The World-Building And Magic: I loved the world that Radcliff has built it is incredibly interesting.
The Maze, where the story is initially set, is a poor, run-down, filthy place full of gangs, violence, fights and thieves. The people are starving and have little care for their appearances because their goal is only to survive, and they are seen as incredibly unruly and volatile. The White City on the other hand is much better. It is where the King resides, as well as the rich and well looked after.
The two cities are polar opposites in almost ever way and clevery shows the power divide and the social structure of this society. The people have different beliefs and customs as well as limited knowledge about each other. It is an interesting way to divide the people and I look forward to seeing how this develops or changes throughout the rest of the series.
The two cities do both celebrate the same event, though very differently. They have a night or festival dedicated to the Fae. The Fae do not live among the people in this story they are on the other side of the veil but, magic in the world does exist. Though it is not explored much it is referenced that people can draw on the Fae’s magic for healing etc.. but they dislike to. Moreover, not much is known about them but it is clear the Fae are not liked, they are seen as volatile and manipulative creatures and the festival is an attempt to appease them and keep them happy.
I hope to see more about the magic aspect of the story because it seems incredibly intriguing. We do get an in-depth insight into some magic but you will have to read for yourselves to find out more!
— Complex, Realistic And Well-Developed Relationships —
The Characters: Radcliff has created quite a diverse cast of characters, though I hope to see more interesting and strong female characters like Boudicca in the rest of the series. While I would have liked to have seen a little more character development, Radcliff is a master at writing complex, realistic and well-developed relationships between characters. This book also features an m/m couple, found/adopted family, and disability.
Aed: Aed is Ninian’s partner, Ronan’s adopted dad (of sorts) and he has a disability – his hands are severely damaged. Aed is an intriguing character, he is kind, loyal and utterly devoted to his family, all he wants is what is best for them. His relationship with Ninian is pure, sweet and kind. His relationship with Ronan is also adorable, it is incredibly deep, Aed is desperate to protect him and they have an amazing bond between them. The relationships between Aed and the characters he knows/meets was one of my absolute favourite things about this book.
Aed is a very determined character, he is clever and logical, and watching him come to terms with who he is was very interesting, the end of the story was a great way to complete this part of his arc and I am incredibly intrigued to see how his character develops after this.
Ninian: Ninian is smart, well read and a little more sarcastic than Aed. He is more snappy but equally as devoted to Aed and genuinely loves him. Ninian is interesting as he is one of the few from the city who can read, he is part of the ancient nobles and while that means nothing anymore I look forard to learning more about this and about his past. Ninian is witty and a charmer but also headstrong which gets him into trouble. I liked his character and his relationship with Aed was amazing.
Ronan: Ronan is the adopted child of Aed and Ninian. He is a bright boy, enthusiastic but also far too innocent for one who grew up in the Maze. Aed is determined to protect him and keep him safe and Ronan depends on him and adores him. Ronan is clever, a quick learner but also hesitant and looks to Aed for guidance, but he can be incredibly stubborn. I love Ronan he is sweet and has a fantastic relationship with Boudicca, it was amazing to watch it unfold and develop. Ronan is a character that has a lot of promise in the future books and I cannot wait to see where he goes!
Boudicca: Boudicca is clever, strong and funny, and a little chaotic. I loved her, she has a brilliant bond with Ronan and with Aed, she is fiesty and headstrong as well as logical and is overall a fantastic character. I adored her and cannot wait to see what she gets up to in the rest of the series.
There are a few more characters but I don’t want to spoil the book. They are all equally amazing though, with amazing relationships, and one who I am keeping an eye out for is Eamon – I liked him and predict he will be a great character to read about in the future!
Overall: The Hidden King, by EG Radcliff is an amazing YA fantasy with magic, danger and faeries. The relationships between the characters are phenomenal and the world is incredibly intriguing. I look forward to seeing how the series progresses! The Celtic influences are subtle but impactful and the story brings a unique and original perspective to the myth and some well known tropes. I loved this book and will definitely be reading the rest of the series!
I would definitely recommend this to fantasy lovers, particularly those who love faeries and magic!
CW: Violence, fighting, death, torture (not overly detailed)
*I received a kindle copy of #TheHiddenKing from the author #EGRadcliff in exchange for an honest review.*