seven realms

Flamecaster: a solid series starter, but far from Chima's best

flamecaster review


flamecasterCinda 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.

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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.


flamecaster rating

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Book Review | The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms #3) by Cinda Williams Chima

gwtTitle: The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms #3)

Author: Cinda Williams Chima

Genre: Young Adult | High Fantasy

Synopsis: Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that nothing matters more than saving her. The costs of his efforts are steep, but nothing can prepare him for what he soon discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. Han is hurt and betrayed. He knows he has no future with a blueblood. And, as far as he’s concerned, the princess’s family as good as killed his own mother and sister. But if Han is to fulfill his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.

Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the thief-turned-wizard Han Alister can be trusted. She wants to believe it—he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive—and even that might not be enough.

Final Rating:

4 purple

Check out this book’s GOODREADS page

Check out my book review for BOOK 1: THE DEMON KING, and BOOK 2: THE EXILED QUEEN

Aimal's Review purple

I knew I was going to love this series as soon as I picked up the first book, and I was right. I’m a huge fan of this quartet. I love Chima’s writing, I love all the characters. I think the plot is dense and well-constructed, and the world-building is well thought-out, not to mention that the books just keep getting better as they go along. The first book was action-packed and it set up the various plot-points that were going to be explored in the future books. The second book expanded the world, and tied together a lot of the character arcs that were reasonably separate in the first book. And this third one further expanded upon the world-building, and Chima gave her characters miles of development.

Here’s the thing. A lot of people gave this book low ratings because it was so slow, and I’m not going to deny that. This book was incredibly slow, and it was incredibly long! The first hundred or so pages were exciting, and the plot was twisting and turning and doing things you didn’t expect it to do. Raisa was in a difficult, dangerous position and it was very interesting to see how she maneuvered herself out of these situations, if she managed to do so at all. Han was desperately looking for Raisa, and he was full of rage and ready to turn the world inside and out to look for her, because he would not lose yet another person he cared for. And everything is terribly exciting. But when that excitement dies down, this book becomes slow. And usually, I would complain about that, but not in this case- because Chima is incredible even when the story is slow.

There was so much political, romantic and psychological anticipation and tension throughout this book. Much of it involves dense conversations, hushed whispers, long trains of thought. Much of it is devoid of any fast action at all, but I think this lack of action was important. It helped direct the series towards the events of the last installment (and I already know the final book is going to end with a bang.) The slow plot was made up for with the absolutely marvelous character development happening. Raisa is trying to transition from being a green princess into someone who’s ready to take the throne when the time comes. Han is trying to deal with every single crappy hand he’s being dealt (including finding out about ‘Rebecca’s’ actual identity). Dancer plays a much bigger part in this book, and so do some of the older secondary characters.

This book brought out a whole new side of Han Alister. I really, REALLY liked him in the first two books, but this book took him to a new level for me. I think Chima made a super clever and unique decision with making Han her protagonist– he’s an ex-crimelord, for God’s sake. He’s had a criminal past; he’s thieved, he’s murdered, he’s done some pretty horrible things. She started off the series with his ‘redemption arc,’ but I love how she shows that despite him being a much better person now, his criminal past is a thing he simply cannot ignore or completely leave behind. You get to see the influences his past has had a little more in this installment. Because of how angry he is, you see a different layer to his personality. I think he’s a very strong male character– one of the strongest I have ever read. Also, can I have one for myself, because WoOooOooOoW *fans herself*

I really enjoyed the romantic aspect in this. This series has a love-triangle, but it is not angsty at all, unlike most love triangles found in young-adult literature. You’re completely invested in the different love interests, and you know that Raisa’s not going to change her mind every two seconds. The love triangle between Han-Raisa-Amon exists, but it’s not overly dramatic. Romance exists, and it’s done very well, but it doesn’t overshadow the more important plot details.

Cinda Williams Chima is a phenomenal writer. She doesn’t embellish even though her writing is a lot denser than a lot of people’s. She utilizes her words to the best of her ability- you won’t find a word in the book that isn’t supposed to be there. Every thing she writes serves a purpose, so even though her novels are long, all the information there is important. That’s the sign of a good writer, and I don’t say this often, but I learn a lot about writing by reading her books.

“She had never felt more alive than when she lay dying in Han Alister’s arms.”

Review | The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2) by Cinda Williams Chima

teqTitle: The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2)

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.

Final Rating:

4blue

Check out my review of the first book in the series: The Demon King.

Check out this book’s Goodreads page!

Aimal's Review blue

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.

Review | The Demon King (Seven Realms #1) by Cinda Williams Chima

Title: The Demon Kitdkng (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: ★★★★☆

Check out this book’s Goodreads page!

Interested? Buy it now on the Book Depository & get free worldwide shipping.

Aimal’s Review:

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.

Plot:

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.

Characters:

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.

Writing Style:

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.

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