The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima (Seven Realms #2)
Released: September 2010
Publisher: Hyperion Books
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Synopsis: Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean that danger isn’t far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.
Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden’s Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.
Everything changes when Han and Raisa’s paths cross, in this epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.
It’s a rare occasion when I read the first book in a series and I enjoyed it enough that I consider reading the second book in a series. It’s an even rarer occasion when I actually pick up book two in a series. Remember when I declared my love for Matched by Ally Condie, The Candidates by Inara Scott, and Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel? I never actually continued those series, and I probably never will now. Then, there are these anomalous events where I find myself not just reading book two but then scrambling to get my hands on book three and four. There is the Harry Potter series (duh!) and the Twilight series (I can’t explain this one), and now there is the Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima. I reviewed the first book, The Demon King, two years ago, and believe it or not, I just finished the second book in the series. OH. MY. GOSH.
In The Exiled Queen, we find our two heroes, Han and Raisa, separated once more. Yet as the tides of war lap at the Seven Realms, both are traveling to boarding school, Oden’s Ford, to seek refuge and to perfect skills that may aid them in the battles to come. I don’t know why, but if a story involves a boarding school, there is a 97% chance I’m going to love the book. I am such a nerd that I’m excited to learn about my favorite characters’ school day (please ignore the notes on how to travel to Aediion that I’ve jotted down in my own composition notebook). I just get really absorbed into the surroundings. Plus, there are so many unsupervised opportunities to mingle with one’s peers, and in such close quarters, there are so many opportunities to bump into love interests. Despite taking place in a fantasy setting, the romantic elements seem more realistic in this novel than in most other YA novels I’ve read. The passion without obsession. The mind’s hesitation to start a relationship, when the heart wants nothing more than to jump in with abandon. The crushing force of seeing the person you’re falling in love with doting on another. There were moments when my heart was screaming for two characters to kiss, but instead they were both stuck inside their own heads filled with doubt, too afraid to make the first move. Won’t we all experience this at least once in our own lives? And kudos to the author, who wasn’t afraid to write about hormonal teenagers and birth control (ie. maidenweed).
The characters continue to grow and develop in The Exiled Queen. Just when I thought I understood a characters motives, they are thrown into situations that challenge their values. I was always eager to turn the page so I could discover what caused the change of heart. Raisa continues to be my favorite character because she’s learning to become a warrior without sacrificing her femininity, and characters like that seem so rare. There are also a handful of new characters, who I don’t quite trust. Dean Abelard is introduced as the head of Mystwerk House. She holds dinners during the school year that are reminiscent of the Slug Club from the Harry Potter series– only the most gifted students are invited, and they take turns teaching each other valuable lessons. I sense Dean Abelard is loyal only to herself, and she has a few tricks up her sleeve to ensure she comes out on top (a true Slytherin!). Then there is the mysterious mage, Crow, who is a master of illusions, and I’m dying to know his true identity.
My only issue with the Exiled Queen is the pacing, and that may be more of a result of preference than anything. During the first half of the book, both Han’s and Raisa’s parties were traveling through the realms. Of course they ran into trouble and excitement along the way, but I found myself wanting to fast forward to their adventures in boarding school instead. For someone who claims she loves traveling, I’m definitely not a huge fan of it in fantasy novels. Mostly, I just view it as an opportunity for retrospection and world building, but book one was full of that and I wanted more of the plot to be revealed. This does begin to happen near the end of the book, and I found myself staying up way past my bedtime…during the work week. The Exiled Queen ended with a cliffhanger, and it left me asking a million questions that I just know will be answered in the next installment of this series.
So far, the Seven Realms series is incredible, and if it’s not on your reading list, you should definitely add it– especially if you’re reluctant to read high fantasy books. I was too, but this series made the genre more approachable because Cinda Williams Chima created the perfect balance of world building and character development.
I won this book in a giveaway hosted by Proud Book Nerd