Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Review: The Exiled Queen, Seven Realms #2 by Cinda Williams Chima

The Exiled Queen, The Seven Realms #2 by Cinda Williams Chima 
Release Date:  September 24th 2010
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Source: Library  
Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean that danger isn't far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden's Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.

Everything changes when Han and Raisa’s paths cross, in this epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction
**There are spoilers for the first book and this book! Read further at your own risk! You have been warned!**
Have I told you guys that I bing read this entire series? The Exiled Queen clocks in at 586 pages all of which I read in one day because I was so utterly absorbed with what was happening that I could not wait to get back to reading if I had to stop. The Exiled Queen had more action than I had anticipated but it went away after a while but the world building, character development, and plot development kept me engaged. 

The book picks up a little after the events of the second book with Raisa on the run and Han on his way to Oden's Ford. Honestly, I'm going to say that Gavan Bayar is a crazy person like no other. I really, really don't like him. Anyways. There is so much adventure and danger in this book that I can't even handle it! Raisa will arrive in one place, think she's safe, and then BAM! something comes out and almost kills her! And this time, she's not alone so the lives of many others falls in her hands so I was exited to see how Raisa's emotions were incorpated into the plot. Honestly, the book becomes slow once Raisa and Han arrive at Oden's Ford but then of course it picks up at unexpected places! 

Furthermore, Raisa and Han grow and develop as the book progressed. The Exiled Queen shows a different side of Raisa because this is the first time she's not simply at the castle but in various parts of the world she is to one day rule and the other realms. Raisa truly realizes that she hasn't seen as much of the world as she had thought and there was more to ruling a county than simply knowing the boundaries of a country. Han, on the other hand, has to deal with the aftermath of his sister and mother's murder which really, takes a toll on him. Han is a much more different character and you truly feel for him. While he was aloof and strong in the first book, Han in The Exiled Queen is sad and angry and in need of vengeance. But he's also very smart and gifted and it's a pleasure to see how he grows as a wizard. 

I love me a good romance and the romance between Han and Raisa makes me so, so happy. While they're not just friends, they're not really more than friends. Han is too upset about the loss of his family to consider a girlfriend and Raisa is still hurt by the revelation that she and Amon can never be anything more than friends. Their friendship and gradual attraction is perfect because it doesn't happen all at once but at the same time, they're not completely in love either. There's more room for their romance to grow and I love that they're not an established couple already. 

Overall, yet another win for this series! While The Exiled Queen was faced fasted then The Demon King, it still lagged at times. But like the first book, I was too invested in the characters and their lives to truly let it bother me. I love the world too and I think Cinda Williams Chima has a gift for writing because as much as I love the world and the characters, her writing is what really brings the book to life! 

**I borrowed this book from the library. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for my review.**

Monday, February 03, 2014

Series Review: The Demon King, Seven Realms #1 by Cinda Williams Chima

The Demon King, The Seven Realms #1 by Cinda Williams Chima 
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Source: E-book via OverDrive via Library  
One day Han Alister catches three young wizard setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet away from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won’t use it against him. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.

Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battle to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of riding and hunting with her father’s family. Raisa aspires to be like Hanalea, the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems that her mother has other plans for her—plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima.
I've heard a lot about this series. From bloggers to my brother, everyone has talked about how much they love this series. But this hype scared me away. What if I didn't like it? So I didn't read it until I decide to pick up this book when I was browsing my library's catalog on OverDrive. Needless to say, I read this entire series (this book is 506 pages; the entire series is 2207 pages long!) in about a week. In my opinion, The Seven Realms Series has everything I'd want in a fantasy novel: a kick ass main character (in this case, TWO!), romance, the world building, politics, danger, adventure, magic, and you know, everything else! To be fair, The Demon King was a slow book but it was wonderful none the less. 

In terms of plot, this book is very, very slow with it. Even though it's 500 pages, a lot of it is establishing the two main characters and the world in which they live. There is some action and adventure and the first few pages gets your really excited but the majority of The Demon King kind of felt like a prologue. I would have been bothered by this but for some reason, it just worked with this book. It's probably because the world building takes center stage and it is one heck of a world (AND THERE IS A MAP OF THE WORLD IN THE BOOKS; I LOVE MAPS IN BOOKS!). With clan people and wizards and the people of the Fells, not to mention the others of the Seven Realms and all of the politics, there is a lot going on in this book but it never feels overwhelming. I loved every big of it! 

Oh Han and Raisa, how I loved both of you! While they're so different, Han and Raisa have some characteristic in common: they're both stubborn, brave, flawed, occasionally impatient, don't always think before they do or say something, and they're both very passionate about the things they care about. Han is a thief and a street lord but there is something regal about him. He has a tough exterior and does not always seem like a nice guy but he has his moments. Raisa, too, is three dimensional and has her own issues to deal with. In many fantasy novels, the main character is the rich, powerful one with zero power and while Raisa fits into this mold as well, her attempts to go beyond a pretty face and a princess do not seem cliched. Instead, I rooted for her all the way through this series. 

And this is going to get it's own paragraph but I love, love, love how Raisa's sexuality is portrayed. Too often in this situation and in YA books especially, girls who kiss multiple boys or have had a few boyfriends in their past are branded as sluts. But Raisa, the future Queen of the Fells has kissed more than one boy. Raisa describes kissing more than one boy on more than one occasion and it doesn't seem ridiculous or slutish. I love that kissing is just that: kissing. Raisa knows her own limits and she refuses to be judged for her actions. 

Overall, I loved this book. I won't lie: it is slow. Like S---L---O---W. But it is so worth the read. I know people will give up a little ways but believe me when I say that you'll come to appreciate all of the world building and set up Chima does in The Demon King. It left Chima plenty of room to add as much action in the next three books as she wanted. I honestly hope fans of high fantasy or fantasy in general will give this book a chance!