Snapshot: The Seven Realms Quartet by Cinda Williams Chima

Photo Credit: http://www.eayounker.com/2013_06_01_archive.html
Photo Credit: http://www.eayounker.com/2013_06_01_archive.html

The series was released by Hyperion.

The series follows the adventures of Han Alister, former street gang leader and current wicked wizard in training and Raisa ana’Marianna, kickass princess and queen-in-training. Or the more official synopsis:

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.

Reasons to Read This Series

Han Alister

Photo Credit: http://albi777.deviantart.com/
Photo Credit: http://albi777.deviantart.com/

I mean…

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Okay, seriously though, without giving anything away:

  1. The protagonists of this piece are fully individuated characters who have relatable motives and act in ways that are logical and if not logical then understandable. They are flawed people and do not always make the correct (or perfect) choices but they are so extremely well realized that the reader is able to accept their actions immediately.
  2. Which doesn’t really sound too exciting but is so important. The series is high fantasy and utilizes (very well) many tropes common to the genre. One trope is…well, I don’t know the name of the trope but let’s call it Mirroring where the actions (or fate) of the protagonists is either preordained or foreshadowed by the fates of people in the past. In this case, the Demon King, a wicked wizard, dared to love the future queen of Fellsmarch and broke the world when his love went unfulfilled. As such, wizards (wicked or otherwise) are not allowed to fall in love with queens (or future queens) of Fellsmarch. So the reader starts off the book imagining that she will immediately be inundated by romantic pathos of the kind usually found in romance novels. Instead, to her immense surprise, she isn’t.
  3. In fact, for most of book 1, The Demon King, Raisa and Han don’t meet. In fact, they only see each other once and though that once is extremely eventful and establishes the tone of their relationship to come, romance takes a back seat to worldbuilding, character building, and just darned good storytelling.
  4. Once the pieces are in place, The Exiled Queen takes off and the reader gets a more trained focus on Raisa ana’Marianna. She is the mixed child of a Clan Patriarch and the current Queen and has to deal with discrimination veiled though it may be. She starts off as a flighty character though no less likable for her personality. But she grows in leaps and bounds as she comes to terms with her own power and conversely the lack of agency she has where her life is concerned. Her responsibilities as a future queen and the realization that her enemies are right at her doorstep sobers her up very quickly and throughout the series she becomes a politically savvy leader who needs no one to hold her hand and walk her through leading a queendom. The politics of court and country are fascinating and the reader learns along with Raisa about the consequences of rebellion, warranted though it may be.
  5. The pacing is on spot and the prose smooth like butterscotch (if indeed butterscotch is smooth) (I think it is but I haven’t had it recently so I could be mistaken).
  6. Now, the romance. What I loved about this series is that both characters come to their relationship having experienced love with other people and knowing what heartbreak feels like it. I like the thread of realism woven through their relationship; they have feelings for each other, yes, but both are cognizant of their limits and when they do decide to go beyond they do so knowingly and ready for the consequences.
  7. It is so refreshing to have protagonists who realize and respect that the other is an intelligent person and who actually converse instead of being tight-lipped about their motives. Not that their relationship does not have its ups and downs. There is the little bit about how congress between wizards and queens is Forbidden (yes with a capital F). I just…shipped it.
  8. The side characters are freaking amazing. Even the villains. My favourite was Dancer: angry, glorious Dancer. Not like Ronan Lynch but with the same darkness slumbering in his depths. Swoon. Cat was amazing as well and I love that Chima spends time developing her side characters so wonderfully.
  9. I also love that Raisa can be warm and coldly pragmatic at the same time. She behaves like a queen which is, sadly, not as common as you’d think (despite the genre running rife with queens).
  10. The series is not without its fault and Yash has a wonderful article on Book Riot (coming soon!) about admitting that your faves can be problematic and why it’s okay to do so. But still, the writing, the characters, Han Alister, Raisa, everyone–just read it okay?
  11. (I’m looking at you, Janet.)

NB: The above article may contain incorrect grammar. I apologise if this offends your sensibilities.