Source: purchased (paperback).
Genre: YA high fantasy.
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell—the thick silver cuffs he’s worn since birth. They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.
One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana‘Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her…
The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.
I am intensely grateful to this book because it ended my reading slump that lasted almost two months. It came highly recommended by Maraia, whom I’ve come to trust implicitly when it comes to fantasy recommendations. (She also told me to read Daughter of the Forest, one of the best books I read in 2015.)
I like the fact that this series is already finished so I can read it at my leisure. There are four parts, which seems perfectly manageable – I’m not fond of extremely long series because they almost always start dragging after a while.
I was impressed by the world building of the Seven Realms. Even though most of the action is divided between the city of Fellsmarch and the Marisa Pines clan camp, the history, the geography, and the society are all very well constructed. I dislike massive infodumps when it comes to the description of worlds and magic systems but Chima does a good job incorporating the setting into the action.
The protagonists were great, too. We meet Raisa, the princess and future queen of the realm, as she’s nearing her 16th birthday, which marks her eligibility for marriage. She was fostered with her father’s relatives, the Demonai camp, who are fierce warriors, so she finds the courtly life chafing and boring. But she begins to realize that a lot is happening in her country that she doesn’t know about and wonders whether she can be a good queen without knowing her land and people.
Han is the former streetlord of a district in Fellsmarch, but has left the illegal life behind him and is trying to keep his mother and sister alive by honest means. He spends a lot of time living at the Marisa Pines clan camp though he’s not sure why the clan would welcome a boy like him. He wears silver cuffs that nobody seems to be able to remove from his hands – he’s had them ever since he can remember and they seem to be growing with him.
Their stories seem far removed at first but Chima does a great job of twining their fates together. I liked how Raisa realized that she’s been taking her royal status for granted and begins to think about what makes a queen. They both grow up and change, which is something I value immensely – YA novels (or any novels, really) where the characters never learn anything are never my favourites.
The villains of the story are believable, too, and seem horrible enough. The mood of both Han’s and Raisa’s point of view corresponds well to the imminent danger – and the sense of doom is palpable. It made for a very fast read and made me finish the book in three days.
I’m looking forward to reading the second part, The Exiled Queen, as soon as possible. I’ve heard it’s really good!
Have you read The Demon King (and the rest of the series)?
What did you think?
I’d love to hear from you! :)