Saturday, April 16, 2011

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

The Demon King (Seven Realms, #1)
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister Mari.  Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell.  For as long as Han can remember, he’s worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes.  They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.

While out hunting one day, Han and his Clan friend, Dancer catch three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea.   After a confrontation, Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won't use it against them.  Han soon 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 relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai camp – riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets.  Although Raisa will become eligible for marriage after her sixteenth name-day, she isn't looking forward to trading in her common sense and new skills for etiquette tutors and stuffy parties.

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 it seems like her mother has other plans for her--plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for.

The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning new page-turner from bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima.


 First Look: ***** First of all, you should probably know by now how much I like epic fantasy.  So how could I not pick this up?  And, that is a rather cool-looking amulet on the cover.  My only problem right away is that the cover is almost identical to those from the Heir series.  The two series aren't connected, so why make them look the same?  This is also a rather hefty book, and I love big books.  So of course I picked this up.

Setting: ***** 
For me, the sign of an awesome fantasy setting is when I want to live in that world.  Okay, maybe not if it's an awesomely messed-up world, but still.  I was almost to that point with this book, but it lacked a little bit of uniqueness to make it stand out from other fantasy worlds.  And this has nothing to do with the book itself, but it bothered me that I couldn't see the full map.  The library jacket got in the way.

Characters: ***** Han Alister makes for an interesting protagonist.  A reformed street thief?  Awesome!  Street thieves almost always make great characters.  *hugs Char*  My problem was that he seemed to be doing well on the streets, but then he suddenly reformed, and his reasons didn't seem quite clear to me.  Also, Raisa lacked some uniqueness.  She was just your typical tomboyish princess.  For me, it was the secondary characters that really made this book.  Dancer and Micah, especially.  And let's not forget Amon, who was probably the best character in the book.

Plot: *****
Well, high fantasy plots are almost always have high star ratings from me.  I mean, what's not to love about this book?  Street thieves (and feuding ones, at that), court intrigue (gasp!), magic and wizards and magical wizardish objects, and more.  I loved the conflict between the Raggers and the Southies.  Actually, if I had written this book, I would have spent much more time with that conflict.  It was crammed with action and magic.  Yay.  Also, the ending shocked me.  In a good way.

Uniqueness: ***** 
Tomboyish princess?  Been done before.  I'm convinced that there was somebody called "the Demon King" in another book, but I can't remember which one.  And towards the end I could almost hear Dumbledore saying "It is our choices that make us who we are, far more than our abilities."

Writing: *****
I found a typo.  A pretty bad one, too.  One sentence was missing a period, and I thought at first it was supposed to be like that.  But then I couldn't figure out why the next word was capitalized, and I got really confused, and spent a good three minutes trying to figure it out.  Not good.  There was also some inconsistency with the way characters talked.  Sometimes they'd be all old-fashioned with "what is" instead of "what's" and so on, but then they'd suddenly switch.

Likes:
I liked how the plot was intertwined with the legend of Hanalea and the Demon King.  I always like when books do that kind of thing.  And *sniffs*...are those biblical references that I'm detecting?*

Not-so-great:
I'm not going to lie.  I saw the forced marriage thing coming a mile away.  And Han kept carrying that amulet around like it weighed nothing...but for some reason, the cover makes it seem like it's actually rather large.  Like how Indiana Jones kept tossing around that gold statue that should theoretically have weighed three hundred pounds.  But it really doesn't matter.  I'm just pointing it out.

Total Score: *****
Fantasy fans will definitely enjoy this.  It's got action, intrigue, romance, and more.  Add in a good dose of magic and street thieving, and you're good to go.  There's plenty of action for the impatient readers, despite the large page count. A country is falling apart, a princess wants to escape, and a young man is trying to deal with a legacy that he'd rather not carry. Don't let a few writing inconsistencies keep you away from this book.

*Cue Goyle: "Is that crosshatching I detect?"  Haha. 

Reviews of other Seven Realms novels:
The Exiled Queen (Seven Realms #2)
The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms #3)

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