cover image Radiant


Karina Sumner-Smith. Skyhorse/Talos, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-940456-10-2

Inequality, economics, and postapocalyptic necromancy combine persuasively in Sumner-Smith’s ingenious, insightful debut. Born without the “bright magic” commonly used as currency and power, 15-year-old Xhea is a nonperson in a sharply divided society of floating Towers and earthbound ruins, forced to scrounge a living from her unusual ability to see and manipulate ghosts. Shai Nalani is the living ghost of a “Radiant,” one of the wellsprings of raw bright magic who serve as “part mint, part power plant” to the constantly competing Towers. After Xhea takes possession of Shai’s ghost, fast-paced intrigue between Towers follows, as does the awakening of Xhea’s own “dark magic” with its complex power over death and the tantalizing promise of sweeping social change. With a clean, evocative style (“Outside, the world was the grey of fishing weights and galvanized nails”), a clever transposition of corporate warfare into a feudal future, and a strong, complementary pair of protagonists, Sumner-Smith’s Towers Trilogy is off to a captivating start. Agent: Sara Megibow, Nelson Literary Agency. (Sept.)