The Shining Court by Michelle West. ★★★★
Michelle West’s Sun Sword series is a six book long epic fantasy series starting with The Broken Crown. The Shining Court is the third book in the series, and you most definitely need to have read the previous books.
The third book returns focus to the Dominion. The focus is on Jewel as she travels south, the Voyani, the Shining Court, the conspirators, and Diora. The cast list that appeared in the beginning of the previous two books has mostly been removed, aside from two pages listing out the Voyani (many of whom are new characters). Perhaps you’re expected to know who everyone is by now? Or perhaps the list of characters got two long for a list.
I found The Shining Court easier to get into than the previous two books, probably because this time I knew who most of these people were right off the bat. Unlike the previous two books, it didn’t start off with a lengthy section from some new and minor character. I missed some of the characters from the Empire, especially Kiriel, but I’m glad the story has returned to Diora.
The Shining Court takes place roughly six months after the end of the first book, when the Festival of the Lady is almost arrived. The demons of the Shining Court have some plan involving the festival masks and they demand that the conspirators name the Dark Lord as a “consort” to the Lady for the duration of the festival. Pretty much all of the human characters suspect that whatever is going on with the masks won’t end well, and the conspirators are realizing that allying themselves with the denizens of Hell may not have been the best PR move.
While the masks may be the overarching plot for this installment, there are plenty of smaller threads. Margret of the Voyani is stepping into the role of Matriarch after her mother’s death. Diora is a prisoner, awaiting an arranged marriage. Kallandras and Teresa are working with the Voyani, as well as to their own ends. Jewel’s travels have led her along a strange path not entirely of this world. I have warmed up to Jewel as a character, but I did find this plot thread of hers slow going. And if Avander ever becomes her love interest I will be mightily angry.
Three books into this massive series, I’m still invested. I particularly love the complicated family ties between Diora, Sendari, and Teresa, but more generally, I love how this is an epic fantasy series with such a wide variety of important female characters. That’s something I’ve talked about in my reviews of the previous books, so I’m not going to go into it any farther here. Besides, if you’re at this point in the series, you should already have noted the strength and quality of Michelle West’s female characters.