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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Enchanter Heir (The Heir Chronicles #4) by Cinda Williams Chima

They called it the Thorn Hill Massacre—the brutal attack on a once-thriving Weir community. Though Jonah Kinlock lived through it, he did not emerge unscathed: like the other survivors, Jonah possesses unique magical gifts that set him apart from members of the mainline guilds. At seventeen, Jonah has become the deadliest assassin in Nightshade, a global network that hunts the undead. He is being groomed to succeed Gabriel Mandrake, the sorcerer, philanthropist, and ruthless music promoter who established the Thorn Hill Foundation, the public face of Nightshade. More and more, Jonah’s at odds with Gabriel’s tactics and choice of targets. Desperate to help his dying brother Kenzie, Jonah opens doors that Gabriel prefers to keep closed.

Emma Claire Greenwood grew up worlds away, raised by a grandfather who taught her music rather than magic. An unschooled wild child, she runs the streets until the night she finds her grandfather dying, gripping a note warning Emma that she might be in danger. The clue he leaves behind leads Emma into Jonah’s life—and a shared legacy of secrets and lingering questions.

Was Thorn Hill really a peaceful commune? Or was it, as the Wizard Guild claims, a hotbed of underguild terrorists? The Wizards’ suspicions grow when members of the mainline guilds start turning up dead. They blame Madison Moss and the Interguild Council, threatening the fragile peace brokered at Trinity.

Racing against time, Jonah and Emma work to uncover the truth about Thorn Hill, amid growing suspicion that whoever planned the Thorn Hill Massacre might strike again.

Released: October 1st 2013    Pages: 458
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion     Source: Library

It's safe to say that I'm a fan of Cinda Williams Chima's books.  I've read every book she has published to date, and I've loved all but this one.  I adored the Heir Chronicles series in late elementary and early middle school, when I was that kid who read way above her level, all the time.  (But what kid was ever harmed by reading above her level?  Nobody.  Go at those YA books, kids, and become more awesome.)  More recently, I read her Seven Realms series, which I loved even more.  When I heard that there were two more Heir books coming out, I was excited.  And confused.  It was like hearing about the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean movie.  I was thrilled, because, well, PotC.  I was also suspicious, though, because the trilogy had finished.  Everything was wrapped up, so why were they making a fourth?  I felt the same hearing about the fourth and fifth Heir books.  

While The Enchanter Heir has its moments, I'm thinking that the Heir series should've stayed a trilogy.  It brings back familiar characters like Jack Swift and Ellen Stephenson, Madison Moss, and others.  I appreciated how easy it was to get back into this series after being away from it for so long.  Most already-established characters make only minor appearances, though, and it introduces a new cast.  It alternates between the points of view of Jonah and Emma, neither of whom are characters that feel three-dimensional.  I kept wanting more from them, but it never came.  I wanted more depth, more exploration of their characterization, more complexity, but I never got far below the surface.  Their romance develops quickly and awkwardly, with little apparent chemistry.  Both of them spend more time brooding and/or moping than actually doing anything, and are more reactionary than catalysts of their own story.

The plot itself takes a long time to develop.  Either the entire first half is setup, or it just feels like it.  I waited longer than I wanted for things to truly start happening.  After that, the plot gets more interesting, but it keeps changing focus.  First it's all about killing (or reaching a truce with) the undead/spirits.  (Is nobody going to talk about the fact that the undead's ringleader is named Lilith?)  Then it's about politics between the wizards and the underguilds.  Then it's about Jonah and his band.  Then it focuses on the relationship between Jonah and Emma.

Because of this, it was hard to care about the plot.  It was interesting, in places, but I couldn't figure out where it was going, which made it hard to be invested.  Besides, some aspects felt unnecessary, and this book could've easily been much shorter without losing anything vital.  Did we really have to include so many chapters about the drama within Jonah's band?  Probably not.

My review is full of criticism, but really, I didn't dislike the book.  I didn't necessarily like it, as a whole--it's somewhere in the middle.  Parts are genuinely interesting, but other parts just left me bored.  I'm most likely being a bit harsh on it since I had such high expectations.  Still, it's not a bad book, and it's always possible that my tastes have changed enough that I'd no longer love the rest of the Heir series if I reread it.  If you loved the Heir Chronicles, it's worth a read, but you miss nothing, story-wise, if you stop after The Dragon Heir.  Overall, my opinion balances out to three stars.

Similar Books: It's a fantasy novel set in modern times with a plot that focuses on magical politics, like the Bartimaeus series.  It will appeal to fans of Chima's other series, the Seven Realms series.  It also reminds me of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series (though I'm not really sure why).

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