Title: The Demon King (Seven Realms #1)
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy
Synopsis: 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. Raia 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.
Would I recommend? Yes! To fans of adult high-fantasy who want something lighter. Also, for people who enjoy Patrick Rothfuss.
Final Rating: ★★★★☆
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I’ve heard so much praise for this series and this author. I’ve been wanting to read it for the longest time, because I wanted some high-quality fantasy but something lighter than, perhaps, Brandon Sanderson. I’m so glad that I finally dove into this series, because this first book was exactly what I wanted: high-quality, light, enjoyable and fun, fun, fun.
If you’re not into high fantasy much, and you want to start off with something relatively light, I would suggest that you pick this book up. If you’re very into adult high-fantasy, but you want an entertaining, quicker read, I’d suggest picking this up. This book was highly reminiscent of Patrick Rothfuss’s ‘the Name of the Wind’ for me, and I have a strong feeling that this resemblance will get stronger in the next book, since it’ll be set in a highly academic (magical) setting! I’m stoked!
This is a big book; a little over five hundred pages in the paperback edition, but I flew through it in a day or two. I was absolutely absorbed in the story, despite the first few chapters being a little slow. I was invested in the characters, and the lack of romance was refreshing beyond belief. I am so glad that I decided to give this series a go, and I cannot wait to read the next novel.
Like many of my favorite fantasy series, this book follows a set of different characters, whose paths sometimes collide, while at other times they seem completely distinct. Meet Han, a young former-gang-thief who’s trying to make a living for himself and his family with honesty and decency. One day, he comes across a trio of magicians who try to bully him; one thing leads to another, and Han finds himself in possession of one of these magicians’ powerful, emerald amulet. Meet Princess Raisa who’s just about to turn sixteen- meaning she will be eligible for marriage, something she absolutely does not want. Raisa aspires to be like the legendary Queen Hanalea, strong, powerful, independent and kind. Will she be able to escape her duties as a princess? Dark things begin to happen all over the Queendom as Han and Princess Raisa try to combat these lurking forces themselves.
Let me start with the world; Cinda Williams Chima has created a fantastic world. It was completely believable. She has built a strong history for said world, a strong form of government with complicated politics that you find yourself entangled in with the characters. There’s magic – the good kind, and the bad kind. There’s an academy that hones warriors and wizards – we’ll see more of this in the next book. There is a very distinct class system, and we get to see both of these classes since our main characters are both from completely different class backgrounds.
I also loved how there wasn’t a distinct love-interest going on in either perspectives. Typically, I would’ve thought that Princess Raisa and Han would meet and fall in love, and that’s not the case in this novel. Some romantic drama exists, but it is pushed deep under the multi-layers of the world and the developing plot. This is something I rarely see in Young Adult fantasy, so it was a delight.
The pacing was great. I did think that the first few chapters were slow, but this is forgivable because Chima was setting the scene for the rest of the novel. I did think that there was some info-dumping going on towards the middle, but the info in question was so interesting that I wasn’t much bothered by it.
The characters were extremely well-developed. They had distinct voices, and I was never confused by their voices, as is usually the case in multiple-perspective novels. Both Han and Princess Raisa were lovable in their own right, but both had flaws, which made them realistic.
Han is a fantastic main character. He’s not your typical hero; some might even argue that his past as a thief makes him an anti-hero. I get where these people are coming from, but I disagree. Anyhow, he does some extremely questionable things in this novel, but everybody’s aware that his heart is in the right place. He’s multi-faceted, nuanced, and a wonderful character that I’m curious to read more of.
Raisa was a strong character as well. She’s hot-headed, has a temper, and is impulsive and stubborn; but, she’s also kind and generous and empathetic. I was so invested in her storyline that I found myself trying to give her advice, which is something that very rarely happens. I’m interested to see how, after putting Raisa in such a difficult position, Chima will deal with her character development in the next novel.
The secondary characters were also great. I enjoyed Willo and Dancer, and not only did they contribute to the world-building but also to the character development of Han. I enjoyed Amon, perhaps because I’m always drawn to soldiers in fantasy novels. The antagonists are fascinating, which is always good.
This was the first Cinda Williams Chima book I’ve ever read, and as you can probably tell, I was not disappointed. Chima is a wonderful, imaginative, creative writer who has the power to draw in her reader with her words. She’s a sorceress; she wields her language and its devices with magical precision- everything she puts on the paper serves a purpose, which makes her book a delight to read. I’m so excited for what she has in store for me in the next books, in her other series, and whatever else she puts forward in the future.