While out hunting one day, Han and his Clan friend, Dancer, discover three young wizards using a magical amulet to set fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han wrestles it from them, but without realising that his heroism has put him and his family in great danger. For the young arsonist is Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, and the amulet a treasure with immense power; it once belonged to the Demon King, the legendary wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. The Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, Princess Heir of the Fells, has just returned to the city after spending three years with her father’s Clan in the mountains. She aspires to be like Hanalea, the legendary warrior-queen who vanquished the Demon King and saved the world, but her mother has other plans for her – plans that will put both the queendom and Raisa’s future in great danger. The Seven Realms will tremble when the adventures of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning new page-turner from bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima.
· a drifter and a grifter
· a life of perpetual uncertainty
· a home he can't visit and a foster camp he can't call home.
· a princess
· a life planned for her before she was even born
· a home she can't leave, far from a camp she calls her real home.
Han and Raisa are about to meet - in a world brought down by wizards but where wizards rule from the shadows, and in queendom run by a queen who circumvents conflict. They'll meet in street-gang territory where street gangs are the least dangerous denizen. And though Han and Raisa's worlds are about to collide, their stories will unveil separately.
Needless to say, The Demon King is a wonderful mass of contradictions. Its biggest contradiction to date is how good it is, and how it never quite got the acclaim that it deserves.
(Based on book one, at the very least.)
Before I get into any aspect of the story, I will be kind and generous and impart this great advice - STAY AWAY FROM THE SYNOPSIS. This, of course, varies depending on which edition of the book you have (or which edition you look up on Goodreads). But the synopsis on the back cover of my book (bought as a box set, to whom it may concern) was so needlessly detailed that it revealed half of the book's plot, and pretty much gave me a rundown of all the plot twists meant to take me by surprise. If ever there was a series where knowing less is more, this is it. The synopsis is your enemy. If you aren't best friends with spoilers, at any rate. Now... *clears throat* Moving on to the book praise.
First off, I am biased. I am biased as heck about this series. Fantasy is my literary home. It's where I run when things get really scary in other genres (only to be re-traumatized by fantasy in turn - but that's a self-inflicted, masochistic sort of thing). This is mostly because I find that when fantasy fails, it doesn't often fail as dramatically as other genres. A fantasy book/series can go wrong, of course. There are almost mapped pitfalls where it can hit a snag and drag, drag, drag.
The Demon King, needless to say, didn't. And witnessing it swerve around the pitfalls was beautiful.
· Some of the time, the world and the overall plot in fantasy serve as a kind of muted, faded backdrop for the rampant romance in the forefront. The Demon King doesn't. (If you're noticing a theme here... the theme is noticing you back and winking. It's wearing glitter, so you know it isn't going for subtle.) Sometimes I will still read a romancey fantasy series, because I'm a hypocrite who basks in their own hypocrisy. But most of the time, I'll feel cheated. The Demon King follows two separate protagonist in same, yet vastly different worlds, as they fight their vastly different battles. The natural assumption is that they will naturally meet and interact. And so they shall. But if you're expecting awkward teenage sexual tension and dream sequences where that was the first night Raisa dreamed of Han Alister - HA. That's my professional assessment - HA. Make of that what you will.
· Alternatively, fantasy can be slow. The Demon King... you guessed it, isn't. In the interest of not spoiling you to anything beyond chapter one, I will say that in this first chapter alone, there are wizards, a forest fire, a standoff, a making of arch nemeses, cursed talismans, and a mention of demons. So there.
These, incidentally, aren't even the highlights. The highlights, in my fantasy-loving heavily-biased opinion stand thusly:
I love the worst thusly and it's a
highlight in and of itself.
· Queens, wizards and shamans are in power. Cue epicness Wizards and shamans lowkey hate each other. Cue epic power struggles.
· QUEENDOM! MATRIARCHY! Not only is this land ruled by a long line of QUEENS, all from names to titles and status is inherited from mothers. Even in camps which adhere to very few rules of the queendom, the matriarchs are in charge, and women are beyond respected.
· The story touches on some themes explored in The Giver - the curse of one who sees the world for what it is clearly, and who knows it for what it was.
· NO ONE writes teenagers like Cinda Williams Chima. Even in this charged, epic fantasy setting, the teenage characters read like teenagers! They aren't precocious fifty year-olds in teenage bodies. They are, you know, sixteen years old, with all its occasional awkwardness and poor decision-making. Han's relationships with his friends and his inability to find his own independent identity at times should resonate with just about every human being, if only in retrospect. Seeing Han laugh at the urban legends surrounding him and exclaiming that "[He is] only sixteen, how could any of [the legends about him] be true?" was a new high for me. Raisa's constant questioning and occasional spite are also quintessentially sixteen. The easiest thing to get Raisa to do something is to inform her that it's forbidden. She disappears in a poof of smoke like a cartoon character, and she's off doing it right now, immediately, this very second. She isn't every sixteen year-old, but she is in no way a wise, sensible adult.
in case such people exist. I've heard rumors. Scary, scary rumors.)
As for the bad? Well, I saw the plot twists coming from about page five. But I'm almost certain that this is the oversharing synopsis's fault far more than the book's. The synopsis is that one aunt at a family gathering who never stops talking, usually about unsightly moles and surgeries. During meals. In glorious detail.
So avoid the synopsis, really. But absolutely give this book a chance. I hear the series gets better with each installment, too, not that that's even possible. But I dare you, in an official-challenge capacity, to find out alongside me. *throws down the gauntlet*
Word to the wise: Cait @ Paper Fury is even wiser. Take her recommendations and run with them into a glorious future full of fantasy, cake and dragons. So far, this first book in the Seven Realms series covered 2/3, and I'm a happy, happy camper. (I meant it about that challenge, too - this book; me and you guys; asap.)
Leave us a comment below and let us know if you've read this or any other series by Cinda Williams Chima, and how you liked them. If not, pledge your intention to do so in the future in exchange for praise, glory and potential Nutella. You know you want to. ;)
BOOK REVIEW: THE DEMON KING BY CINDA WILLIAMS CHIMA
4/ 5Oleh The Honest Bookclub