by Cinda Williams Chima
(First published September 28, 2010 by Hyperion)
THE EXILED QUEEN by Cinda Williams Chima is some FINE fantasy, guys. I just recently read the first book in the Seven Realms series, THE DEMON KING, and loved it, so I wasn’t really surprised at all to find myself LOVING the second book just as much. Maybe more. In fact, I loved THE EXILED QUEEN so much that I could barely wait longer than a few hours before cracking open my ARC of the third book, THE GRAY WOLF THRONE, which I’ve also just finished. I am devouring this series, guys. It’s LEGIT. I’m both glad that I’m finally reading it and irritated that that I put it off for so long.
So, let’s get started off with a little recap, shall we? (OBLIGATORY SPOILER WARNING FOR THE DEMON KING. Seriously. Mad spoilers upcoming.) At the end of THE DEMON KING, Han and Dancer are heading off to the wizard school at Oden’s Ford at the behest of the clans, who are paying for their schooling in return for the two of them “agreeing” to work for the clans in the future. Han has also just found out that he is a descendent of Alger Waterlow, the Demon King himself yo, and that the amulet he stole from the Bayars was Waterlow’s. BOOM. Big things.
Raisa is ALSO on her way to Oden’s Ford, all incognito style, to attend the military school there under the protection of her bff/maybe love/captain of her guard, Amon Byrne. She ran away the night of her nameday when Gavan Bayar tried to force her to marry his son, the tool Micah Bayar–forbidden though it may be for queens and wizards to marry–so that Micah might one day be king. SHADY BIZ, y’all, and Raisa gets the hell out of dodge before it can all go down. OH AND ALSO: Han still things Raisa is Rebecca, the girl he met in Ragmarket. Identity = MISTAKEN.
Now that that’s out of the way, THE EXILED QUEEN begins, as you might be able to tell, on a road trip. Well, two road trips, as Han and Raisa et al. make their way separately to Oden’s Ford. The first half or so of the book details both of their journeys, where some SHIZZ goes down. But as much as I LOVE road trips–and Han and Raisa’s are both action-filled and important–the beginning dragged just the teensiest bit in some parts (obviously NOT the parts where the aforementioned SHIZZ was going down). Raisa is dealing with her burgeoning feelings for Amon, who is forbidden from ever being with the queen now that he has taken the official oath to be the head of her guard. (That oath is NO JOKE. Amon experiences physical pain and the occasional seizure when the two of them make out. SAD FACE.) And Han and Dancer meet one of Han’s old crewmates on the road, where they all promptly step in a pile of you-know-what, but everyone eventually makes it to Oden’s Ford in one piece.
I can only guess that some of the slower parts in the first half of THE EXILED QUEEN serve to introduce us to some new areas of the Seven Realms and to also set some things in motion for down the line, and I can always get behind that, guys, slow or not. I LOVE a well-placed set-up, friends. LOVE IT.
It’s in Oden’s Ford where the bulk of the action in THE EXILED QUEEN takes place, though, and once we get there, the few slow moments from the first half dry up. Cinda Williams Chima really steps up the action and we see some great, emotional moments, juicy reveals, and awesome tension. Both of the political and romantic kinds. One of the things I love about the Seven Realms series is the way it melds both of those things to great effect. The politics are twisty and dangerous and multi-layered. The emotions are heightened and real. The romance is tense, dramatic, and fun, and the making out is HOT. But this series manages to make none of those things more important than the others. There’s GREAT balance, although I always personally find the scenes with Han and Raisa the most enjoyable. OBVS. They are SUCH great characters, with magnetic personalities and flaws, and they have the SPARXXX. I looooove the SPARXXX.
Guys, there’s lots that goes on in THE EXILED QUEEN by Cinda Williams Chima. I know I spoiled THE DEMON KING up top there, but I don’t want to spoil this book for you, obviously. Because even when we spend a solid half to two-thirds of the story in one place, THINGS are always happening, moving the story along, raising the stakes for Han and Raisa and their friends and enemies. Keeping everyone on their toes. And the end is basically awesome, raising the stakes AGAIN. I know that it’s going to have far-reaching ramifications, and I can’t wait to see where Cinda Williams Chima goes with everything. If you love great fantasy, you should not let this series linger too long on your shelves, guys. It’s a winner.
Rewind & Review is an AMAZING new meme hosted jointly by two fabulous ladies, Ginger from Greads! and Lisa from Lisa Is Busy Nerding. This meme is all about mining your TBR piles and finding some long-lost gems (from 2010 or earlier) that you meant to read and somehow passed over. I KNOW, but it happens. Each month, each participant picks a few oldies but hopefully goodies to read, reviews ’em, and spreads the word. Huzzah!