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Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith {4 Stars}

Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith is the first in a fantasy trilogy that breaks the mold in so many lovely ways. I wasn’t expecting a ghost story when I picked up Radiant, but was thrilled with the fascinating magic system, the friendship between a heroine and a ghost, and the beautiful writing. Definitely a great choice if you don’t want a romance in your YA fantasy.

Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith {4 Stars}

Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith (Towers Trilogy #1)
Published by Talos on Sept. 30th, 2014
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Dystopia, YA
Page Length: 400 pages
How I got my copy: Publisher
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Xhea has no magic. Born without the power that everyone else takes for granted, Xhea is an outcast—no way to earn a living, buy food, or change the life that fate has dealt her. Yet she has a unique talent: the ability to see ghosts and the tethers that bind them to the living world, which she uses to scratch out a bare existence in the ruins beneath the City’s floating Towers.

When a rich City man comes to her with a young woman’s ghost tethered to his chest, Xhea has no idea that this ghost will change everything. The ghost, Shai, is a Radiant, a rare person who generates so much power that the Towers use it to fuel their magic, heedless of the pain such use causes. Shai’s home Tower is desperate to get the ghost back and force her into a body—any body—so that it can regain its position, while the Tower’s rivals seek the ghost to use her magic for their own ends. Caught between a multitude of enemies and desperate to save Shai, Xhea thinks herself powerless—until a strange magic wakes within her. Magic dark and slow, like rising smoke, like seeping oil. A magic whose very touch brings death.

4 Stars


  • The economic system of the citizens in Radiant is based completely on magic and it is so cool. If you’re born with magic, you’ll be able to produce more and therefore spend more. If you… aren’t so much, then you’ll have a tougher time, but you can still make a living. But if you can’t even hold on to magic, it’s pretty darn hard to buy anything!
  • Without giving too much away Xhea is the only person who can’t hold on to magic at all, but she has her own special skill set and it involves seeing ghosts. Don’t want the ghost of that person you cheated hanging around and haunting you? Xhea can help you with that.
  • There are lots of little bits of the world Xhea lives in that I can’t wait to find out more about. There are creepy corpses that walk the land at night, there are a lot of ruins, there seem to be remnants of our civilization. I need book two!
  • Instead of a romance being the driving relationship of Radiant, we get a wonderful friendship between two teenage girls :D. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a YA book without any sniff of romance, so awesome.
  • The writing of Radiant really surprised me. I was expecting a fast and fun read, and instead I got these really eloquent sentences that I just had to pause and enjoy. The writing is subtle in its beauty, but that just enhanced my enjoyment.


  • Parts of Radiant got a bit slow and it took me longer to get through than I expected. Don’t go into it thinking it’ll be a fluffy and fast read just because it’s YA.
  • The story and world were also much darker than I expected. I guess you can’t really be surprised after hearing about ghosts and corpses haunting the night, but Xhea also deals with the harsh realities of poverty and being at a disadvantage in the world. This all isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I wasn’t expecting it, so it impacted my experience.
  • While we got a few details about the world, I really would have liked to know more for a first book. I have no idea what time this story takes place in or what happened to the previous world that made it into what it now is. There is no reference at all to history and how things came to be and it felt like a gaping hole that a first book should have filled at least a bit.


Radiant is a great start to an imaginative fantasy trilogy. It is so refreshing not to worry about a romance overtaking the plot, since it means I got to focus on the awesome magic and lovely writing :D. If you are looking for a YA fantasy that is a bit dark but very much different from the mainstream, this is the book for you.

Anya from On Starships and Dragonwings

Have you read this one? What did you think? Are you excited for it if you haven’t gotten to it yet?
– Anya


 Radiant by Karina Sumner-Smith

© 2015, Anya. All rights reserved.


  1. I feel like I hardly see any reviews for Radiant, which is sad because I think a lot of people will love it. I loved how different from the mold Radiant was. The plot was so slow and I’m glad I’m not the only one to come across that problem.
    Sarah J. recently posted…What We Left Behind by Robin TalleyMy Profile

    • Yeah, that’s the problem with smaller presses, awesome books get forgotten D:. Definitely slow, but the broken mold made me quite happy :D

  2. This was a great trilogy! I just finished the last book in November. I’m glad you enjoyed Radiant :)
    Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum recently posted…Orbit’s Call to Adventure with Battlemage Excerpt & Giveaway!My Profile

  3. This sounds like an AWESOME read – totally grabbing it from my library tomorrow! Thanks for putting it on my radar! :)
    Skye @ Skye’s Scribblings recently posted…Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree This YearMy Profile

  4. Yay! I’m glad you enjoyed Radiant, Anya. :) I also thought it was slow in parts; it was probably because of the literary writing style. But it’s such a creepy, fascinating world, and a neat mash-up of speculative genres. I’ve never read anything else quite like it.

    Btw, Defiant does delve into the City’s history some more, and Xhea learns more about her past and her powers. ;)
    Sara L. recently posted…The “Be Thankful” ChallengeMy Profile

  5. You reminded me that I have all three books in this series and I NEED to start reading. I may try to squeeze Radiant in this month.
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  6. I had a hard time with this one and ended up DNFing it. :/ Despite having a really engaging and wonderful first chapter, the best I’ve read in a while, it just started moving glacially slow with no real plot. Maybe I should have stuck it out.
    Anne @ Lovely Literature recently posted…Monthly Wrap-Up: NaNoing through NovemberMy Profile

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