Cinda Williams Chima’s Flamecaster is a sequel of sorts to her entire Seven Realms series, although it is not essential that you read the first series before starting this one. It takes place twenty or so years after the events of the Crimson Crown, and while it does not follow the same characters or take away anything from the enjoyment of the first series, it does occur in a chronological, sequential order. Flamecaster follows the story of Han Allister’s (who was the protagonist in the Seven Realms series) son Adrian, who because of certain tragic and unfortunate circumstances, flees from his home and pursues his passion of healing and revenge at Oden’s Ford. He is the son of the Fellsmarch queen Raisa, who is engaged in a war with the king of Arden- a person who is intent on eradicating the line of the Gray Wolf Throne. Adrian s’ul Han must keep his identity secret as he pursues his studies, while also ensuring that the Arden monarch doesn’t hurt any more members of his family.
Forgive me for comparing Chima’s two series, but since they are in chronological order, it makes sense that I make comparisons. The Seven Realms series was a triumph: it put Chima near the top of my auto-buy authors list just because it was so magnificent. In content and technique alone, it is arguably one of the greatest young-adult fantasy series at the moment. And perhaps one of the reasons why The Seven Realms just soared above and beyond its peers was due to the tremendous characterization Chima employed. Unfortunately, Flamecaster lacks the level of depth that I’ve come to expect of Chima’s characters.
I have always insisted that Han Allister is one of the greatest heroes I have ever read: a former thief lord and murderer, who grew up on the streets in a poverty-stricken area, who is dangerous and lethal but ultimately decent at heart. To make him the hero of the series was a ballsy move, and I admired Chima for it. She does the same in this one: she takes a character who is unlikely to be a hero and makes him the protagonist. Adrian is a healer; he knows very little of fighting or politics or the nitty-gritty of this world torn by strife and war. In the first few pages, I was excited to see who Adrian would navigate through this cut-throat world as a healer, but I found myself sorely missing Han’s level of intellect and danger. Because while Adrian being the protagonist is unexpected, I didn’t feel that he deserved that title. Han was a bad-ass, in every sense of the word. You knew he could do something fantastic with something very little, and it was always believable because of who he was. Yet, Adrian didn’t draw me in.
In fact, none of the characters drew me in the way they did in Chima’s previous series. I found myself wishing that the secondary characters were the protagonists instead because they were more interesting. Destin Karn, especially, was a multi-layered character who has something more to him that I’m sure Chima will reveal in the next book. I looked forward to his chapters more than the protagonists’, and that doesn’t sound too promising. Moreover, the romance between the protagonists felt so rushed: they meet, and within a few pages, they’re in love. I don’t think romance is Chima’s strongest feat- it didn’t do much for me in her previous series either, but coupled with the fact that I didn’t care for the protagonists, I found myself skimming much of the ‘romantic’ scenes.
But despite all this, Flamecaster is a solid start to the series from a storytelling viewpoint. The world is richer than ever with vivid descriptions and the portrayal of the intricacies of war and politics. We encounter a new area that we hadn’t previously explored in the Seven Realms, and new magic has come into play. The stakes seem to be higher in this series as well, which tells me that there’s going to be a lot more action in this series. But I won’t lie when I say wow, I miss Han Allister too freaking much to be fully invested.