Book Review: The Demon King
Annnnnd here's another must-read review!
Book: The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
Synopsis: There’s something rotten in the state of The Fells. Ancient tensions between the mountain clans, wizards, and non-magical valefolk are about to explode in a bad way, and two very different teenagers appear to be at the center of it. Raisa ana’Marianna, Princess Heir of the Fells, wants nothing more than to become a great queen. But her mother, oblivious to problems both inside the realm and out, isn’t making things easier. Ex-gangster Han Alister just wants a normal life, but trouble has a way of following him, and lately his luck has been worse than ever. Meanwhile, young soldier Amon Byrne struggles with a sudden conflict between his duty and his heart.
Is this a “must-read”?: Technically…
Why? (mild spoiler alert): The Demon King is what I call an “intro book.” It builds up tension and introduces us to the situation, backstory, and characters, but the conflict isn’t clear until the last few chapters, which are a set-up for the sequel. Up until then, it’s basically the characters going about their lives, albeit with a few unfortunate occurrences. Still, the characters and the world are interesting enough that it can more or less hold its own. The protags, Raisa, Han, and Amon, are very different—both in terms of personality and background—but the overlaps in their personalities allow for some fun moments while foreshadowing possible future friendship.
Demon King sets itself apart from most fantasy novels by not giving us an obvious quest-to-save-the-world situation. There’s definitely a villain, and he definitely must be defeated, but you get the sense that an army of rebels won’t quite do the job here. Our evil villain isn't killing muggles in the street or kidnapping promising minor characters and turning them evil; his agenda is more subtle, but if he succeeds in his plan the consequences could be disastrous. I’d say the series might appeal to Game of Thrones fans (or to Sparklers who are too young to be GoT fans) because the focus is more on politics than underdogs-turned-heroes, and even the good guys have hidden agendas. Don’t get too excited though—Seven Realms is good, but it’s not A Song of Ice and Fire.
The “technically” rating comes from the fact that the sequels, The Exiled Queen and The Gray Wolf Throne, ARE must-reads. Cinda Williams Chima is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the world of teen fantasy. Her characters are riddled with complexity, there’s no lack of crushable guys, and the thematic ties to contemporary life are striking. I would advise anyone who enjoys The Seven Realms series to also check out her Heir Trilogy, even though the last book is disappointing (to say the least).
Next time: Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
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