Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Release Date: November 9th, 2009
Publisher: Hyperion Book
Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: 3 Stars
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.
I'm having a really hard time falling in love with this book. When I first came across it so many people were telling me great things about it. Like how awesome this high fantasy world is, how it's George R.R. Martin but for teens, how the strong the heroine is, and so on. I mean, there was so much that when I came across the book I knew I had to buy it.
But as the story got going and as the characters started to really open up to me, I found myself more and more annoyed with them. Let's start with Raisa. I understand what Chima is trying to do with her, I can see that she wants to make her this strong, stubborn girl who will make a great Queen. But the more I read of Raisa, the more I felt like she was just a little girl pretending to be grown. She plays with fire and at some point it goes from being a strong, independent character to simple childish games on, "How can I make my mother angry today." Not to mention for a girl who thinks about reputation she sure has no problem throwing herself at every cute boy she sees.
Then there's Han. Okay, he is completely different than Raisa, which gives me an idea on how the other side lives. Yet, he is also just another kid who keeps pretending to be an adult. He has good intentions, especially considering the background he came from, but there is just something about him that keeps nagging at me. Maybe it was that he has no personality what's so ever. I have not read of such a dry character before, since reading a certain novel years ago. There is no color to him. He's so mute. And Dancer is just the same way.
I feel like that is my problem when it comes to the main characters; they are too bland.
At first, when Raisa and Han first meet, I think, "Finally, we have some action going!" And I was all excited, but than Chima started to go backwards on me and go back to this monotone writing where the characters, again, express no emotions or give me some evidence that there is life in them.
Overall I was a little disappointed, and had to force myself to read through the ending. The ending was a little surprising, but I had already had some idea about the secrets of Han because of his silver cuffs, I mean, it was a little obvious, but Chima did surprise me with some character developments in the last few pages with all the characters. I mean, I never would have made the connection between Han and his ancestors. And as for Raisa, well, I actually saw some rational thinking on her side for once. I mean, I don't like that it took the book 400 pages before the character's started to get some life in them, but this leaves a wanting to read the second book.
I give this novel a three because despite heavy character flaws and some dull plot movement, this very complicated world that Chima created feels fresh and intriguing. Chima, no doubt about it, is excellent at creating worlds and making conflict that feels seriously disoriented in the beginning but as the story develops, slowly, the conflicts start to merge together and make sense. I also like how, despite her hints or best efforts, there wasn't much of a love story here. It was made obvious what the main point of the story was and not point it to finding romantic interest. Even if Raisa thinks otherwise.
An interesting tale that hopefully shows some promise for the coming novels in the series.