Hidden truths. Hidden power. Hidden destiny.
On the shores of a rusty sea, in the streets of a starving city, a young man named Áed scraps to build a life for himself and the makeshift family he loves. Scarred by a trauma he cannot remember, and haunted by the brutal damage it left behind, he has no idea of the courage his future will demand.
When tragedy strikes, a desperate Áed risks a treacherous, life-changing journey in his last chance to save the only family he has left – but an ancient legacy smoldering within him is about to turn deadly. Neither he – nor a kingdom – will ever be the same.
The Hidden King is the first book in the Coming of Aéd trilogy, a YA Dark Fantasy series by E.G. Radcliff. I dived into this book almost blind, just knowing that it had good reviews, and now I want to read the full series, because I think there’s so much potential in the world of the Coming of Aéd, being darker than I expected.
Aéd, a humble person, lives with his partner, Nian; and their adopted (well, more or less) son, Ronin. A tragedy that makes Aéd lose Nian acts as the catalyst that will make the story advance; as Aéd will need to escape from the Maze, the city where they lived, taking Ronin with him, searching for a better life in the nearby White City. To this mix, we need to add a mysterious letter let by Aéd’s mother, whose content has never been revealed totally to him, as he’s unable to read.
All these elements are used to write a great coming-of-age story, with a strong focus on the characters and on the feelings of both, Aéd and Ronin. For him, Ronin is his son, and will do whatever is needed to be sure nothing harms him; leading to some violent situations, and showing that when he gets angry, mysteriously he can call the fire and use it as a weapon (despite he is not able to really control it).
The pace is fast, happening many things in such a short book. That doesn’t prevent the author from having really beautiful prose, showing her strength in the craft. There are several scenes that feel really impactful, and honestly, I didn’t expect to appear in the book, making it darker than the usual YA book. Again, I think this enriches the novel and is one of the reasons I want to return to the world. Probably, the only aspect I didn’t find as compelling as the rest was the ending, as for me it was kinda predictable and too easy to reach, but again, this is just a matter of personal taste.
In summary, The Hidden King is an excellent introduction to The Coming of Aéd Trilogy. The mix of Fae myths with dark fantasy made me enjoy it, and I think it is a recommendable read even for grimdark enjoyers (despite it being lighter than the genre usually allows). I hope to be back reading this saga in November and December, so we can see together what the trilogy still has for us!
E.G. Radcliff IS A PART-TIME pooka and native of the Unseelie Court. She collects acorns, glass beads, and pretty rocks, and the crows outside her house know her as She Who Has Bread.
Her Coming of Áed fantasy series was crafted in the dead of night after offering sacrifices of almonds and red wine to the writing-block deities.
You can reach her by scrying bowl, carrier pigeon, or @egradcliff on social media