The Exiled Queen The Seven Realms, Book Two

This review does not contain spoilers for The Exiled Queen, but it does contain spoilers for the first book in the series, The Demon King.

None of our heroes are welcome at home anymore. Princess Raisa is running from an arranged, unwanted, and illegal marriage, and Amon is trying to keep her safe. Fire Dancer and Han, newly aware of their wizard heritage, are no longer welcome in the camps of the tribes, their childhood home/refuge. Both pairs set off for Oden’s Ford, a university city unaffiliated with any of the Seven Realms, and therefore free of the civil wars and ethnic strife plaguing the area. As our villains, Micah and Fiona Bayar, are also young wizards, it’s hardly surprising that they appear in class with Fire Dancer and Han. All the important people from the Fells—all the important people of the rising generation—are assembled.

In Oden’s Ford—or rather, in the Dreamworld that Han learns to access—Han meets Crow, a mysterious stranger who refuses to divulge his identity but offers to teach Han advanced magic he won’t learn at the school—fairly nasty magic, truth be told. It’s pretty clearly a bad idea, but Han is eager to prove himself as a magician, eager to gain power, and extra-eager to protect himself from Micah and Fiona Bayar. Plus, Crow is going to be important in later books. We don’t know how, yet, but he will be. Meanwhile, Raisa—known as Rebecca Morley, her classmate unaware of her royal status—is learning military strategy and other useful royal skills, plus some of the unfortunate practicalities of life as a Grey Wolf Queen and Amon and Dancer are each trying to figure out how they can live their lives and be happy, after something important to them has been taken away.

It’s almost 600 pages of character development, and it’s damn good. The writing is excellent, it moves along at a good clip, everyone is interesting and human and, well, developing. The politics and interpersonal relations started in the first book continue to expand in interesting and promising ways. So far, I’m really enjoying this series.

September 2010

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The Exiled Queen ~ Cinda Williams Chima
My review of Book One, The Demon King

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Demon King Cinda Williams ChimaPrincess Heir Raisa is trapped: expected to behave well and not make a fuss, to make a politically expedient marriage, to be politically and socially close to wizards but not to marry one, to balance her mountain clan-bred father and her flatlander mother. Han is also trapped: by his mother’s low expectations, by lack of money, by the temptation to reenter a lucrative but dangerous criminal lifestyle, by the silver cuffs on his wrist which make him instantly recognizable and are impossible to remove. The summer they both turn sixteen—and thus become adults—things get worse: the political intrigue thickens, gang members are found tortured to death. Even in the clan’s camps, where both Raisa and Han have found comfort and friendship, there is dissension and strain.

This is another book that I read two-thirds of the way through and then realized that it had to be the first in a trilogy. Seriously, people who write copy for ARCs, if it’s not a standalone, the ARC copy should say so. Seriously. I checked on Google; it’s listed as “Volume 1 of Seven Realms Trilogy.” Good to know.

It’s solidly written, with characters who are true to type but still interesting. The society is also well done, with the city and its economic inequality countered by the clan camps, which are more egalitarian on the surface but have their own immutable rules. Though city and camp societies are well-drawn, the wizards are quite flat; luckily, the direction she seems to be taking the story at the end of this volume leave open quite a bit of potential for interesting wizard-development in the second and third books. Issues of loyalty, personal choice, and the imperfect way events are remembered as history give the fantasy some extra depth.

I was given an ARC by my mother, who works at a bookstore.

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The Demon King ~ Cinda Williams Chima
My review of book two, The Exiled Queen