Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy
Synopsis: 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.
Check out my review of the first book in the series: The Demon King.
Check out this book’s Goodreads page!
I read the first book in Cinda Williams Chima’s ‘Seven Realms’ series a month ago, and I was blown away by the story, the writing and the fantastic world-building. Although this series has received tons of critical acclaim, I haven’t seen a lot of people blogging about it or talking about it on their YouTube channels- which is a shame, because it deserves much more attention than it gets. My love for the first book was so great that I went into this one with pretty high expectations. The first book reminded me of the Name of the Wind in more ways than one, and I was expecting to feel a heightened similarity in this one since much of it is set in an academic setting.
While I was not disappointed, the book did take some time to pick up the pace. Much of the beginning revolves around travel- Raisa trying to get to Oden’s Ford, Han and Dancer encountering trouble along the way. The journey definitely contributed to the world-building, but it was an incredibly slow start to an otherwise action-packed book. When Raisa and Han do get to Oden’s Ford, I was hooked, and I flew through the book. The academic setting was richly developed, and reading from the different perspectives was especially interesting, since both Han and Raisa had such different things to offer to the plot.
Speaking of the characters, I grew much more attached to them. I remember really liking both Han and Raisa in the first book, and my appreciation increased in this one. Han is such a complex character; his heart is in the right place, but his past as a criminal drives him to do some morally ambiguous things. This adds a new layer to his character and paints him with shades of gray- he is such a wonderfully unlikely hero, but that is what I love about him. Raisa is feisty, considerate, smart and extremely compassionate. While I did hold some reservations regarding her when it came to romance, I still really enjoyed her character.
As for the romance itself, I thought it was a little rushed, but I grew to like it as time progressed. I like how you’re unsure, even now, who Raisa is going to end up with- it’s a love triangle, but it doesn’t feel tropey, which I liked.
I did hope for more character development for Dancer, but alas, that didn’t happen. He was more of a plot device than a character, which is a shame. I would love to see more development in his character in the next books. Amon is a great character, but I feel like Cinda Williams Chima is putting him through unnecessary torment. Nothing seems to be going right for him, and I’d like to see that change.
The world building was wonderful. The writing was just as scrumptious as I remembered, and I cannot wait to read the next book, because I am sure it’s going to take me to a completely different side of the world. And although the beginning was unnecessarily slow, the novel was a solid sequel and stood its ground with its predecessor.