Brand closed his eyes. He kept his thoughts to himself but, in his brain, I had no doubt he was filing the swear jar like it was a slot machine.
― K.D. Edwards, The Hourglass Throne
This is the second book in The Tarot Sequence trilogy, and it picks up a couple of months after the end of the first book. There is a novella, “The Sunken Mall,” which takes place between books one and two. However, since I did not learn about it until I’d finished reading the trilogy, that review is pending.
After gaining a bit of notoriety for rescuing Adam and defeating his captors, Rune and Brandon have more than enough work to keep them busy. When an attempted kidnapping of their adopted little brother Max is thwarted, Rune and Brand wholly focus their efforts on finding out why Max is wanted by the much-feared Hanged Man. Together with Addam, who is now Rune’s boyfriend, they explore the seedier side of New Atlantis to try to understand what happens to all of the young men and women who are ‘gifted’ in marriage in exchange for a family alliance with the Hanged Man (THM).
Because they cannot accuse him directly, they find a way to legitimately investigate by using the disappearance of another boy as a way to look into The Hanged Man’s business dealings. Layne, a fifteen-year-old boy, disappears shortly after one of his close friends is linked to THM. Layne’s guardian, Corinne, asks Rune to look for Layne as her deceased partner was a member of Rune’s father’s court.
Max, Brand, and Addam will do whatever is necessary to rescue Layne and prevent Max from being claimed. Now that Rune has a bit of a reputation, he is quickly sucked into the court dealings of the Arcanum. He needs them to pursue THM, but their secrets and bureaucratic tendencies do not help him find Layne any faster.
The politics of the Atlantean court are necessary for the world building but became tedious quickly, as did the overly-detailed description of a relic on which the majority of the action took place.
However, like almost all of the books I end up reading again and again, the characters and relationships are phenomenal. The evolution of existing relationships between Addam and Rune, Rune and Brand, and Rune and The Tower are gorgeous. And a tender scene with Max in the epilogue had me in tears and easily moved this from a three-and-a-half-star to a four-star rating.
Content warnings for the mention of selling a minor in exchange for a marriage alliance.