Thursday, August 25, 2011

Review: The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

From the Back Cover:

Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that nothing matters more than saving her. The costs of his efforts are steep, but nothing can prepare him for what he soon discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. Han is hurt and betrayed. He knows he has no future with a blueblood. And, as far as he’s concerned, the princess’s family killed his own mother and sister. But if Han is to fulfill his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.

Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the thief-turned-wizard Han Alister can be trusted. She wants to believe it—he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive—and even that might not be enough.

My Thoughts:

It's hard to review The Gray Wolf Throne without spoiling anything, so I'm going to try to keep my comments general and tell you why I love the Seven Realms series and how it just keeps getting better. If you read young adult and you like fantasy, you should give this series a try because Cinda Williams Chima can really spin a fantastic tale! These books are full of adventure and excitement, plots and schemes, secrets and betrayals, and a slow-burning romance that leaps into full flame in this latest installment. The Seven Realms is a fantasy world, but its fundamentals are very realistic. It's a diverse world torn apart by culture clashes, border disputes, poverty, and famine, and the story revolves around two young adults who could be the hope of a generation, the descendents of the most powerful rulers in the realm's history, and the saviors foretold in an ancient prophecy. Raisa ana'Mariana, princess heir to the Gray Wolf throne, and Han Alister, a hardscrabble ganglord who recently discovered he has magical abilities.

Chima brings her story world into focus through the eyes of some great characters, and I love how these characters are changing as the series progresses. Raisa is maturing from a spoiled princess to a wise and selfless queen, preparing to take on the burdens of ruling a realm, and making the decisions and sacrifices that come with great power and responsibility. She's actually the perfect choice to bring peace to the people of her realm, if her opposition would open their eyes and set aside their personal ambitions long enough to see it. She's going to be a great ruler...if she lives long enough. Meanwhile Han's character is going in a different direction. He seems to be taking a bit of a dark turn. He's gotten a taste of power and influence. He's getting more ambitious, and his intentions are a little murky. And these two still haven't figured out how they gel together, or if their futures even include each other.

They've got a great supporting cast, too. The chivalrous Amon Byrne, Raisa's first love, who put his feelings aside to become her sworn protector and captain of her guard. Micah Bayar, dark and brooding son of the powerful High Wizard. He tried to force Raisa into marriage but claims he just wants to protect her from his father. Fire Dancer, Han's best friend, a clansman born with a wizard's magic, and faced with the prejudices of both races. Dancer's girlfriend Cat Tyburn, Han's former girlfriend and leader of his old street gang. And a slew of councillors, teachers, healers, courtiers, soldiers, clan warriors, rival kings, and scheming wizards to fill a complex and compelling fantasy world.

All of the events and storylines of the first two books have been on a collision course that explodes in The Gray Wolf Throne, as Raisa and Han are called upon to step into the roles that destiny has prepared for them. I was on the edge of my seat through the entire book, and put through the emotional wringer, too. The stage is set for the ultimate showdown for control of the realms, and I can't wait to see how everything plays out in the final book. If you're looking for something different in young adult, pick up The Demon King and give this series a try. It reads very maturely for young adult, and it's really good storytelling with great characters. Incidentally, the audio versions of these books, narrated by Carol Monda, are also very good.

My Rating:  5 Stars out of 5

*Please Note: This title will be published on August 30, 2011, and this review references an advance digital copy received from the publisher via NetGalley, and therefore the final published copy may differ. Though I received this book from the publisher, these are my honest and unbiased thoughts, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.

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