Read this if you’re in the mood for: YA historical fantasy, supporting characters, feminism, magic, dual POV, romance, world-building, series
Summary of THE DEMON KING (Book 1 of The Seven Realms): Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can't sell—the thick silver cuffs he's worn since birth. They're clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.
One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana'Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She's just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. 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. But her mother has other plans for her...
The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.
Read this if you like:
BITTERBLUE by Kristin Cashore (links to Sara's recommendation on previous blog)
Both Bitterblue and Raisa are struggling to handle the responsibility of inheriting a monarchy at a very young age, and they're figuring out who they can trust in a world full of deceit...at the same time they're figuring out who they are.
THE GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS by Rae Carson (links to my recommendation on previous blog)
Unlike Elisa, Raisa doesn't have the burden of being a magical chosen one... however, she does have the weight of being next in line for a famed, mystical queendom. Both royals struggle to find their own path in the shadow of those who came before them. Also, romance is present, but it doesn't overwhelm the plot.
The (Spoiler Free) Series Rec: In order to stay spoiler free, I'm going to highlight the top three overall strengths of the series.
First off, the world. The queendom (oh how I love that it's a queendom!) of the Fells includes three groups of people: the wizards, the Valefolk, and the clans. The wizards have magic, but their power is limited by the clans, who control their amulets and magical objects, and who have their own earth magic. The poor Valefolk are just trying to live normal lives in the never-ending wizard/clan tug of war for power and influence. And the Grey Wolf queen, gifted with intuition and a connection to the Grey Wolf line, rules them all. Needless to say, the layers of politics and prejudice are complex and awesome.
Secondly, the characters. We get to know Princess Raisa and former streetlord Han Alister best through their dual POV, and their character development is excellent throughout the series, though I can't go into detail because...spoilers. But a book is made by its supporting characters, and this series has SO MANY wonderful, diverse, multi-dimensional characters (Magret! Fiona! Cat! Fire Dancer!) both "good" and "bad." And I use those quotes purposefully, because this series emphasizes the shades of gray in all of us.
Third, the overall plot. The first book is a little slow, but it seriously pays off in the other three books. The plot moves forward seamlessly from book to book, weaving details together with increasing complexity, but it never gets confusing, and each twist and revelation feels completely natural and earned. That takes skill, people!
The Caveat: THE DEMON KING was actually my least favorite in the series, but I use that term loosely, as it's like pointing out my least favorite cupcake. (It's a CUPCAKE.) But compared to the amazingness of the rest of the series, THE DEMON KING isn't quite as strong, and it had an "intro" feel, setting up everything in the series. Still well worth it!!
You should read this because: It's an excellent fantasy quartet with a world that just begs to be explored. The cast of characters is strong, with a heroine who stands among the best in YA fantasy.
Plus, you'll catch up on the world just in time for FLAMECASTER, the first book in the upcoming Shattered Realms series, set 20 years later in the Seven Realms world.