Series: Seven Realms #1
Published by Hyperion Books on 10/6/09
Genres: YA High Fantasy
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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 returning 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 - including marriage to a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.
The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.
This series was recommended to me by two of my book club friends, Vania and Sarah. They were talking about it one night, and I loved what I was hearing. They told me it was epic YA fantasy, on the scale of books like Graceling and Fire. I really, really love epic YA fantasy and want to read more of it, so I immediately purchased the book.
I loved the opening of the book! The author slammed home the danger of magic in this world immediately. The setting was superb, though I wish a map would have been included in the front or back of the book. This world is vast and I personally love to look on a map to “see” where the story is taking place and where other places in the world are located. Regardless, I was wrapped up in the scenery and anytime a character would venture out into the world on a trip, I soaked up the details.
The world-building in this book was just incredible. The political minutia and secrecy, the clans, the gang warfare, the mayhem, magic and betrayal. I loved the details about what happened in Seven Realms history, or what everyone thought happened, anyway. I would truly love to see the world from the perspective of The Demon King, since there seems to be such conflicting opinion about this historical figure. I wonder if a prequel is in the works. Or, maybe future books will fulfill this need…
Raisia, blooded princess heiress to the Fells queendom, is someone I can get behind. It took some time to get to know her because the book is on the long-side and it bounces between a few perspectives, but her true colors shined brightly. She has solid morals and a quick wit. She likes to play the field, so to speak, and she does this with gusto. She loves to kiss boys, but thankfully, keeps her wits and doesn’t take it any further than that. Hey, kissing is FUN! Who can blame her? Regardless of her kissing fetish, she realizes that the time will come for her to marry for political reasons and she has accepted this in a mature fashion.
Raisa’s friend and personal guard, Amon, was so admirable and I really adore his character. He and Raisa have been friends since childhood, and while they are of different status, Raisa adores and depends on Amon in a big way. He is very protective of her and puts his ass on the line to save her a time or 5. Raisa and Amon share some romantic tension, since she loves kissing boys, but he does his best to remain professional, though it’s obvious he loves her dearly. Raisa’s other love interest is even more off limits, however. He is a young magician, but as you will learn, magicians are forbidden to marry royalty in this world.
Han! I just loved me some Hanson “Cuffs” Alister. Stuck between two very different worlds, Han is feeling lost and alone. A former gang streetlord, he has turned a new leaf in order to provide safety and comfort to his mother and younger sister. Unfortunately, an honest living pays a lot less and requires a lot more sweat. Not to mention, when you have a reputation like Cuffs, your past has a way of interfering with your present and future. Han has connections both in the city and up in the mountains with the clans. I loved being able to see both of these groups of people, and how very differently they live. Han grew on me more and more as the story progressed, and by the end, I was feeling both scared for and proud of him. Han and Raisa’s paths cross in a less than savory way but they both make an impact on one another. I foresee their paths crossing again.
While it took me a while to get into the story due to detailed world-building and characterization, I eventually fell head-over-heels with the plot and characters and spent all New Year’s Day reading it. I loved all 506 pages!
“Well, I believe she went in to rescue some Raggers from the pits,” Cuffs said. “She wasn’t all that specific.”
“She went in to rescue — why would she do that?” Amon gripped the ironwork, studying the streetlord’s face. Was he lying? And if so, what was the purpose?
“Guess she’s kind of taken with us,” Cuffs said. “You know, the glamor of the gang life and all. Getting beat up every other day, arrested for crimes you didn’t commit, long nights in gaol, sleeping in the cold and wet. It’s…seductive.” He raised an eyebrow.
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