There is something about Cinda Williams Chima's promo photos that make me really like her. She seems so warm and friendly in them, and sometimes she's posing in a field of flowers. But I digress. For those of you who have come here for the first time I give fair warning, I don't write about books I don't like (I usually don't finish reading them either). I don't feel it's my place. Rather I want to bring attention to books I really enjoy in hopes that someone else out there might really like them to, and I feel that Chima is a writer to enjoy now and watch closely for the future. I have high hopes for movies!
"The Demon King" and "The Exiled Queen" are the first two books in a new series called "The Seven Realms." It appears there will be four books in the series, and Chima (according to her website) is working on the fourth book now. The seven realms are a world of seven kingdoms, one of which is the Queendom of the Fells, where the queen rules and chooses a consort but he does not become king (girl power!).
There is an interesting mix of cultures in the seven realms, as well inspiration from native people's that I found refreshing and fascinating.
I enjoyed the first book The Dragon King, I really did. I fell in love with our main hero Han, who has lived in two worlds, right away. He is the quintessential bad boy of hard knocks who turned his own life around. He is street smart, funny, and yet had been handed such tough life lessons at such a young age. But I wasn't completely swayed by our heroine the princess heir Princess Raisa. I liked her boldness. I liked that she took action and when she learned how ill many in her city had it did something about it. But still she needed to grow up a bit for my taste (most likely because I'm a middle aged adult, I need to be fair!). And guess what? Chima answered my prayers in book II, and very likely that was her intention in the first place.
I feel like book II has better rhythm and flow. Our main characters Han, Raisa (and to some degree the noble Amon), are leaving the growing strife in the Queendom to venture forth into new territory - but unbeknownst to them they're running to the same place - Oden's Ford. Han has found out (much to his original dismay) that he has the gift of wizardry and is being sent to the Mystwerk Wizarding school. Raisa is fleeing a forced and illegal marriage and is now pretending to be another cadet eager to enter Wein House. The book is full of the challenges of being a teen - the highs, the lows, and the questions that hormones bring brewing up. But it is also a book of taking responsibility at a young age, of the dark force power can call forth, of egos and differing agendas, views and personalities. It is also a story, which Chima handles so well, of how life has a way of bringing us love we never thought we'd have - if we're open to it.
Do you need to read book I for book II to make sense? Yes! But you'll enjoy every minute of both.