Friday, January 25, 2013

Book Review: The Seven Realms


The Seven Realms
By Cinda Williams Chima


I have been wanting to review this series for a long time. It has turned into one, if my top, favorite series of all time. Cinda Williams Chima molded a genre that can typically be overrun with what feels to be a standard set of cliches. She took over the YA Fantasy and made it her own. Chima does not follow the "standard set of cliches"that has started to muddle down the YA-Fantasy genre. Instead she gives each character, twist, drama, and plot-loop a breath of refreshing air only to then take it right back out of the reader from each of the intense, emotional, and nail-biting punches within the story. So far in my reading experience, there is no other book or series that has so many well blended and well balanced elements together and done so well.
The Demon King US cover

The series The Seven Realms takes place in the Seven Realms, a fantasy world split into seven different kingdoms. It is a land filled with magic, history, and a terrible war. But the main focus narrows in on the Queendom of the Fells and the political plots, the hidden past, and the destructive romance between two characters and the people connected to them.




I cannot fully review each book because of the chance that spoilers would be given.This is a series people need to take the time to read without anything given away. This review will look more so at general aspects of the book overall as a way to tempt people to come in a read. Because some details will be overlooked it will hopefully entice people to go out and see about the first of the series. Because that will be the best way for you to learn anything that will come from this review.

General: As previously mentioned, this series is phenomenal. It is something that takes you by your shirt and shakes you. You are thrown into a dramatic world where each chapter leaves you as breathless as a cardio workout does. There are so many secrets, twists, and moment of overwhelming emotions it feels like it would be difficult to keep up. But the switching POV of the focus characters, the detailed writing, and the focus on movement and feeling makes everything work. The reader doesn't get suffocated or confused to the point they are drawn out of the story. Chima plays each move as delicately as moving a chess-piece. You feel that everything has been strategically placed and the author did not feel lost in her work. The movement and decisions are clear, focused, and always well-placed. It is a surprise how detailed the book is and how it never, once, falters from the main point. Any detour from the plot always comes back in the most tantalizing or unexpected way.

Plot: It is amazing how something that by summary sounds cliche and simple and overdone can be done in a brand new amazing way. It is a fantasy romance story concerning magic, racism, and war. It is a blend of realistic characters and action. The story follows a former street lord named Han and a warrior princess named Raisa. Due to mistakes, misunderstandings, and unforeseeable twists the two are thrown together and need to resolve a hatred that has been poisoning the land for over a thousand years. With everything collapsing around them, the two form an unbreakable bond that just may be everyone's saving grace.

Demon King"When 16-year-old Han Alister and his Clan friend Dancer encounter three underage wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea, he has no idea that this event will precipitate a cascade of disasters that will threaten everything he cares about.
Han takes an amulet from one of the wizards, Micah Bayar, to prevent him from using it against them. Only later does he learn that it has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. And the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back
Han’s life is complicated enough. He’s the former streetlord of the Raggers—a street gang in the city of Fellsmarch. His street name, Cuffs, comes from the mysterious silver bracelets he’s worn all his life—cuffs that are impossible to take off.
Now Han’s working odd jobs, helping to support his family, and doing his best to leave his old life behind. Events conspire against him, however. When members of a rival gang start dying, Han naturally gets the blame.
Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battles to fight. As heir to the Gray Wolf throne of the Fells, she’s just spent three years of relative freedom with her father’s family at Demonai Camp—riding, hunting, and working the famous Clan markets. Now court life in Fellsmarch pinches like a pair of too-small shoes.
Wars are raging to the south, and threaten to spread into the high country. After a long period of quiet, the power of the Wizard Council is once again growing. The people of the Fells are starving and close to rebellion. Now more than ever, there’s a need for a strong queen.
But Raisa’s mother Queen Marianna is weak and distracted by the handsome Gavan Bayar, High Wizard of the Fells. Raisa feels like a cage is closing around her—and an arranged marriage and eroded inheritance is the least of it.
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. With the help of her friend, the cadet Amon Byrne, she navigates the treacherous Gray Wolf Court, hoping she can unravel the conspiracy coalescing around her before it’s too late."

Characters: The substance of the of any book. Character is an area where Chima excels. She takes the standard character of a main male and a main female and throw them into drama that leads them fated to keep meeting. The idea feels safe and cliche, but the people are anything but. They have become real figures that go through monstrous and fantastic events. Without these figures, the story (while good) would not shine near as much as it does now.

Han Alister: The main male of the series and would probably be considered the main character too. He is a former streetlord trying to start over in his life and do good. But his fate seems determined to make things difficult for that well-meaning goal. He feels to be a rather conflicted character, but one who is accepting of that. He is not a pure light in the book, he is a young man with dark characteristics and a dark past. He is dangerous and is often described as wicked (modern term = bad boy). He is willing to do anything for love and friendship even if it means to kill. And though he would rather avoid dark paths, he doesn't weep over less than righteous actions he must face if it means something better for someone else. This is a man who will get his hands dirty but still feels like he deserves good in life, and he will take that good if he can. Strong, intelligent, a bit sarcastic, devilish, but has a very sweet and protective side this is a character that feels like he should be boring but is anything but. He charms everyone around him along with the reader. Be careful ladies, you might just get swept off your feet along with everyone else.

Raisa ana'Marianna: The main female of the series. She is a princess with a bite and a flirting streak a mile wide. She desires freedom and to be a warrior more so than a princess. But she accepts her role and wants to become the best queen the Queendom has ever seen. She loves her people and her family and is willing to do anything to keep everyone safe. She is lady-like and poised when she needs to be, but rough and tricky like her warrior family (father side) as well. She is a blend of politics and beauty with power and a sense of the wild within her. She goes after what she wants with a purpose, and perhaps a sense of naivety, but it is always for the best of others. And when something is targeting her she will always makes the toughest, but usually the best, choice that will do the most good for all. Though she has a desire for freedom and a partnership with actual love, Raisa is not someone who will simply cry and wait for any hero to rescue her. She is no ordinary princess and anything but a damsel. She is out to save herself and thousands of people and if needed, she is more than willing to do it on her own. Move over ladies of the romance genre, there is a new girl in town and she knows how to throw a punch.

These are the two main focused characters and what is so interesting is that the book follows both of them. Almost every other chapter switches from one POV to the other so you are totally immersed in both of them before they finally meet. These characters call for you to read more. You need to know what happens to them. 

Romance: Despite this being a fantasy/romance book, the love between the main protagonist are not the only love that is highlighted. Characters are shown to dearly love family despite the trouble and exhaustion they bring. Each character loves their friends and comrades who protect them and help become driving forces in such a bleak world. And there is love for the land and people. Many are willing to sacrifice everything for the Queendom out of pure loyalty and love. Love is what started all the sorrows and distasteful hate, and love is the only remedy for it.

But this doesn't feel like a stereotypical teenage romance despite how poetic I painted the picture. Chima gives it more meaning than that. And she also gives it less. Both of the main characters Raisa and Han are not the pure-hearted, misunderstood heroines and heroes of other books (at least not with romance). Both of them have had lustful flings and are physically burning for each other. Yet there are others...but why doesn't this feel like a sloppy, aggravating love-triangle that we may get in other types of YA fiction?

I think it is because of the way Chima writes. The love isn't happening to please the readers. This isn't a love to try and have the reader fit themselves into. This love belongs to each of these characters and each of these characters are feeling all the joys and pains that come along with it. Despite there being lustful connections and passion driven moments, all feelings on love feel anything but shallow.

The romance is also a perfect dramatic force that opens up floodgates for betrayals, battles, heartbreak, racism, and epic reveals.

Strengths: There are a lot of strengths within the series. Most focus on the previous mentioned categories such a plot and characters. 
The Exiled Queen cover
1) The writing is fantastic. This will be bias since I am not fond of 1st Person Point of View. Because she keeps it 3rd Person it becomes a winner for me. But she does not keep it focused on Han. The chapters switch from following Han to following Raisa until they finally connect. This allows for the plot and the world to expand more. There is just not only one primary focus character. We are introduced to different customs, people, and drama because of this. It also makes the writing very well balanced. The moment one might feel a little tired of following Han and his misadventures we are taken to Raisa and her political warfare and suffocating life. It keeps the pace going very smoothly and everything very interesting.

2) There are so many secrets within the series it is almost impossible to remember them all, and yet you find yourself able to because each one is so vital to the story that moves it forward. It is impressive to see so many twists and turns within a series and have them all work together and not completely overwhelm everything else. It is like a soap opera, but better.

3) It is fun to get cliches that are woven into something brand new and powerful and fun. The dramas, romance, and characters are so powerful but realistic to the world they are in. There are flaws and internal-conflict within so many of the character that isn't for the purpose of making them attractive, but to just be a human in a world that feels like it is losing its humanity.

4) Racism. Sounds a bit weird, but the fact that the hateful racism is so thick and full of aggravating ignorance it just makes the book better. I wanted to start screaming at the characters and different moments for what they were doing to each other when everything around them was starting to fall apart.

5) The constant need to pull my hair out. This is not a book for those who want a simple, laid-back read. Once you start you are invested and you start to physically react to what is happening. My cousin and myself would talk to the book, make faces, scream, and get ready to pull our hair out. I don't know of many that can constantly make a reader react so often. Very big compliments.

In all honesty, there could be a long list of things I found very strong within the writing and the book. But I am afraid I would start to dip into the spoilers and we simply cannot have that, can we?

Weakness: In all honesty, there are not too many weakness I can speak of for the series. Each book is very well formulated and structured but filled with a lot of emotion and drama. However, to be fair I can say there are a few things that were not as perfect (though still close) to everything else.

1) This is a personal one of mine, but there were times I literally had to put the book down to take a breather. The drama and the intense emotions could be suffocating and there were times I was getting teary-eyed. When you feel so connected to the characters and when they are going through so much pain and betrayal it can actually hurt to read. Though a talent, I will admit I was emotionally drained reading at times and wanted to throw the book down and scream in misery for what was happening.

2) At the end, there did feel to be some loose ends. These loose-ends cannot be specified without spoilers, but there are some items that are not yet resolved and some characters who have not really met their true potential. However, I can't a 100% call this a weakness because of how the book worked overall. It wouldn't make sense if everything was tied up with a clean bow at the end of such a series. But while fitting, some might be a bit unsatisfied with that. I believe Chima, however, has said there are many stories within the Seven Realms and only one of them has been told.

I feel like I am being a bit biased because I am so fond of this series. But I simply struggle in finding really any more weaknesses (as if what I mentioned were actually weaknesses at all). This series was quite near perfection that it I don't see how I could ever dissect it deep enough to find flaws to bring up.


The Exiled Queen coverCover: This might seem like a shallow attack at a lot of genres for the YA age group. However, every time I am in Barnes and Noble and I am just overwhelmed with the mundane blandness I see on most every single cover that is there. Each one appears to have almost the exact same cover with minor differences. Even within the Fantasy genre it feels like I am being stared back by a perfect teenage model (drawn or otherwise) who appears flawless and stunning. As if it is the outer beauty of the person which is most important about the contents within the book. Of course, this is not the case with each one and nor does every one of the covers with a person give off a shallow impression. However, it doesn't show for much originality.

Chima's covers are stunning. I was attracted to each cover by the graphics, the colors, the placement of everything...it feels like a work of art that fits in with the story and  what is happening within the cover. The cover not only grabs my attention in a sea of the same but it makes me question. What are these objects? It doesn't match the title of book (like a crown for king or queen) so what does it mean? It draws me in instantly and makes me want to touch it on top of reading it. Which is another smart thing that is done with the covers; they have texture. Perhaps not as much as some others may have but there is another that it feels different from others and it feels like the words and the item on the cover are trying to break free. If that alone doesn't earn a peek at what lays within (or at least a gander at the summary) I don't know what cover will.


The Author: Chima herself is also a standout figure when concerning the desire to read her books. While she might not be the most in-touch author with her audience (I have not done near enough research to make such a bold claim yet) she is definitely opening up opportunities for her readers to feel connected with her. On her website she has a section made for growing, potential writers filled with articles and questionaries for the most famous of questions. But in them she not only answers them, she can really get down and explain them. She goes in to explain the payment an author receives and even does example math for readers to get the idea. She doesn't just tell, she even shows when talking to her fans. It feels as if she knows how important this dream is for so many and is helping out as much as she possible and fairly can. It is a big plus when the readers allowed to feel a connection with the author outside of their writing. To know that they are looking out for those who are following in their footsteps. It really stands out and just makes me want to spread the word of her books and who she is.



Crimson Crown coverThere is also so much time and passion given to each book of her series. It feels like one of the most thought out series I have had the pleasure of reading. Much like Rowling, there is so much that happens in the first book or from history that intertwines everything that happens afterwards. Nothing should be overlooked when reading each book of the series. I must take my hat off to her for just how many details and connections were in the series. I feel it is one thing to write a book (that alone is rough) it is another thing to write one that is great and it is another thing entirely to write one that is fantastic. And to me, Chima has written a fantastic book.

To learn more about Cinda Chima Williams and her series please check out her site: 

Overall: I would rate the series 5 out of 5. The characters, plot, writing style, and emotion from beginning to end was pretty much near perfect that it would feel like a disservice to give her anything less.

I look forward to reading her first series The Heir Series which is going to be the next review I will do.

4 comments:

  1. :) she does sound like an interesting author. Thx for providing such a balanced review. I'll be sure to check it out once I have the chance.

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    1. Awesome! I really hope you enjoy it :)

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  2. I've nominated you for the Liebster Award. Check out my blog for details! :)

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    1. Oh wow! Thank you!! :) That is very wonderful and kind of you!

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