The Exiled Queen

Rating:
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genres: Fantasy
Pub. date: Sep. 2010 (read Feb. 2019)
Series: Seven Realms #2

At the end of the day, I really liked this book, but similar to the first book, I struggled with some pacing issues. Overall, this month was a really bad reading month for me and I’ve been in a bit of a book slump, so I’m not sure if it was the book or just the timing, but it took me over a month to finish this! Granted, I put it down for a good chunk of time in the middle of the month, but that’s still a really long time for me.

I thought the pacing was odd because I was really into this at the beginning when I was fresh out of reading The Demon King, but the action quickly tapered off and it wasn’t really until the last 200 pages of the book that I really got into it again. For comparison, Raisa and Han don’t meet again until the last 200 pages, so I’ve come to the conclusion that this series is at its best when Raisa and Han are together. I like them both in isolation, but together they are wonderful! I was so much more invested in the plot once they were re-united. Until that point it was pretty much two separate stories being told in tandem, bringing the two stories together made for a much more interesting and dynamic plot.

In relation to this, my second complaint would be that this book was just too long. Oden’s Ford was fascinating and I liked the way the world building and magic system are expanded – I also love the whole magic/boarding school vibes – but I think a little less time spent on this part of the story would have helped with the pacing issues.

Anyways, let’s get on with what I liked about it, because despite my complaints, there was a lot I liked about this. The Exiled Queen starts right where The Demon King leaves off, with Raisa and Han both traveling to Oden’s Ford to attend different schools. Raisa believes Han to be dead and Han still believes Raisa to be ‘Rebecca’. There’s a fantastic cast of secondary characters – Amon, Micah and Dancer return in this book – and we are joined by several new characters.

Let’s talk about the main characters first. Consistent with my review in the first book, Raisa is hands down my favourite character! I really like Han and his story as well, but I was always a little disappointed when the narrative would switch from Raisa back to Han. Raisa doesn’t have a lot of power, but she is still an incredibly strong character. She is small and people are constantly underestimating her, to their own disadvantage.

Romance is definitely a side plot in this book, but it works so well! I find romance to be hit or miss sometimes in fantasy, but somehow Chima has me loving every single relationship in this book! All of these characters have such great chemistry together. I’ll be totally sold on one relationship and then Chima will switch it up in the span of a few chapters and have me totally shipping the new relationship. Raisa is such an inspiring character in that she’s not afraid to love, despite having been hurt, and in how thoughtful she is about the ways in which she might hurt people. I do think she is to be admired as a monarch because she is very thoughtful and intentional in her actions, even though she just wants to be a normal 16 year old and have a little fun.

I do love Han too. He’s pretty suave and I loved how much he grew throughout this installment. While I love Raisa, I do think Han was really the one to drive much of the story. Han arrives at Oden’s Ford as a poor street rat surrounded by wealthy aristocrats and he really doesn’t fit in. He is rejected by many of his classmates and teachers, but he is a quick learner and has an inordinate amount of magic, which helps him win over the dean. Micah is also a wizard at Oden’s Ford and he doesn’t hide his disdain for Han. Han is forced to constantly watch his back and is always at odds with the Bayars.

I have to say though, I kind of love the Bayars. Fiona is still a mystery to me because she’s definitely different than Micah and it’s really hard to know where she actually stands and what she thinks. I think there’s a lot of room to grow her character in future books and I’m interested to see what Chima does with her character. Micah is very confusing to me. He represented a bit of grey area in the first book. He had some shady morals, but you still kind of wanted to like him and he seemed to like Raisa. His character is much less grey in this book and acts as a huge foil to Han, but I still kind of loved him. He’s still complicated and I think he makes a great villain because of the chemistry he has with both Han and Raisa. He’s definitely evil, but it’s a delicious kind of evil if you know what I mean? I loved all the banter between him and the other characters and he did a great job in elevating the tension throughout the book.

There is definitely a lot of anticipation in this book. It was a little slow going in the middle, but I was always anticipating when Raisa and Han were finally going to meet and if Micah was going to attack Han or discover Raisa’s presence. There is always tension running throughout the story because the reader is first worried about Raisa being discovered and later the threat to her throne.

Again, I thought the last 200 pages of this book were delightful. After how long it took me to get through this book, I was planning to set the series aside for a little while, but I was way too intrigued to take a break and I ended up jumping right into The Gray Wolf Throne. I’m about 100 pages in already and it is proving much faster paced, so I’m hopeful that will continue for the rest of the series!

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The Demon King

Rating: 
Author: Cinda Wililams Chima
Genres: Fantasy
Pub date: Oct. 2009 (read Jan. 2019)

I’ve had the entire Seven Realms box set sitting on my shelf for some time and I finally got a chance to pick up the first book. I’ve been hearing really good things about the sequel series, Shattered Realms, which has the final book coming out this March. For this reason, it was a bit intimidating to start this one because if I liked it, I was pretty much looking at an 8 book commitment.

But I’m glad I finally picked this one up off the shelf, because I did end up quite enjoying it. It has a pretty slow start, so it did take me a bit of time to get into it, but around the 100 page mark it started getting really interesting!

I really like the characters in this book. It’s set in a fantasy world that is split into seven different realms, many of which are at war with each other. Our characters live in the Queendom of the Fells and are not currently at war, but fear war from the other realms. Queen Mariana is the current ruler and the throne is always passed down through the female line. The Queen is advised by wizards, who are closely watched over by the clans, who fear the wizards having too much power.

Our main characters are Raisa and Han. Raisa is the Princess Heir of the Fells and is approaching her 16th name day, when she will start courting and accepting marriage proposals. Her mother, the Queen, is caught up in planning a huge party and entertaining the guests, but Raisa is more interested in flirting with cute boys like the young wizard, Micah Boyar, and catching up with her friend Amon, who has just returned from soldier training after 3 years away.

Han is a reformed street gang lord who used to run with the Raggers, thieving to survive. But in an effort to protect his sister and mother, he gives it all up for a more honest life – until he runs into Micah Boyar using magic in the wilderness and steals the amulet that gives him power. Han has little interest in the amulet, aside from taking away Micah’s misused power, but he starts to wonder if the amulet may have cursed him when he repeatedly starts running into trouble.

It’s a bit difficult to explain the plot because there is a lot going on, but it’s never really confusing. The world building is slow, so you do have time to get acquainted with it. The only thing I found a little confusing was some of the history. Historical events like the Naeming and the Breaking are referenced throughout the book, but I’m still not really sure what they are and I hope it will become more clear in the next book.

Once this book gets going though, it’s a lot of fun and that plot goes in some really unexpected directions. Han is cool, but Raisa was totally my favourite character. I thought she was so feisty and I loved how she was just kissing boys all over the place without really developing any lasting attachments. She wants to have fun, but she also genuinely cares about the wellbeing of her queendom. I really liked Amon and their friendship and was super intrigued by Micah and what his motives were. My favourite part of the book was when Raisa and Han interacted together in the middle of the story. I thought that whole section and plot line was so fast paced and interesting! I was a little disappointed when Raisa returned to the castle because I thought it brought the energy of the book back down and I wanted to maintain the fast and fun pace.

So overall, a few criticisms with pacing, but I thought it was a great start to the series and I have a feeling the next books will be a lot faster paced. It takes time in high fantasy books like this to introduce all the characters, the magic system, and the world building, so I’m expecting the story to pick up a lot faster in book 2. Hoping to knock out this whole series over the next month or two and we’ll see if I feel like continuing on the the Shattered Realms series at the end or not.