Cinda Williams Chima's high fantasy series is nothing like any high fantasy you might imagine. What high fantasy about a hunted princess ends up in a school. It's such a strange combination. Like you don't really expect there to be high school-esk teen drama when there are such high stakes, and yet here we are in the Exiled Queen, following our cast of characters all attending the same academy-- whether they know it or not. Yet, Chima still managed to blend these two very different categories seamlessly. Somehow they work.
I'm going to be really honest with you all right now. This is not going to be the review that you deserve. I read these books back in August and have altogether forgotten the minute details that would make this review wholesome. This is just going to be a basic overview of how I felt about these books-- and a little spoilers below to discuss some of my particular feelings on events that happened during them.
Similar to the first book, these three all had the same strange feeling of while you're reading it, it's intriguing, but when you put them down there's no magnetic pull forcing every thought to be around the plot and characters.
One issue that I took note of with these books (literally, I took a note, which is why I'm mentioning it right now.) was that the stories are all really more plot driven, not relationship. As we all know, a good story has a balance of both, unfortunately I found the Seven Realms' novels a little lacking in the relationship section. For example, there's this instantaneous OUT OF NOWHERE attraction/obsession one character apparently feels for another, and just... wow. I can't really say anything other than WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? WHERE? Certainly not anywhere in the Milky Way. There were just tender or relationship building moments I felt like could've really elevated these novels, and that I really would've liked to see.
Still, I don't want you to think these were bad reads-- I actually really enjoyed them. I gave the Exiled Queen 7.5/10 stars, The Gray Wolf Throne 7.8/10 stars and the Crimson Crown 7.9/10 stars, ( and if you forgot, I gave the Demon King 7/10 stars), so yes, this series actually just gets better and better as it continues on, which is fantastic. It will never be one of my all-time favorite books that I reread once a month (yes, I do do that with some), but they were definitely fun and enjoyable reads. I would recommend if you enjoy fantasy with a hint of teen drama. These novels are certainly unique, as I mentioned earlier. They use tropes but then turn them on their heads by placing them in an unimaginable setting.
There are some very predicable big "reveals," but somehow I didn't find that hindering my experience. What really bothered me was the relationship thing that I mentioned above. Though the next big bothering factor is truly just personal. WHY ISN'T THERE MORE MICAH BAYAR IN THESE BOOKS? I'm in love with him and have been since book 1. It wasn't his fault his father was evil and had evil marriage plans for him and Raisa! He's such a complex character (and I'm in love with him), I think the lack of Micah in all the novels is a waste of an intriguing character. (side note: one of my notes literally says Micah Bayar? I think you mean Micah Bae-yar). I think he has a bad exterior but is good underneath, (and we all know that is SO my type), and I truly believe that poor Micah was wronged by his lack of presence in any of the novels. I also would've liked to have seen more of the Micah-Fiona dynamic. There's a moment in one of the books (I don't fully remember it) but Micah says something along the lines of she's (something, I forget), but we protect each other and just, my heart. If you couldn't tell, playing with the relationships is something that is really important to me, and all together I would've liked to see more of Micah and his as I find them intriguing. (Half my notes are on Micah ahaha). Don't get me wrong, I do really like Han, and I really like the idea of him with Raisa, I just love Micah, and I wanted to see more of him, I didn't want him to end up with Raisa, though, I did want him to have a happy ending.
Okay, one last negative about the series before I get back to the positives. This is a slight spoiler, but not intense. THE ENDING OF THE NOVEL WAS NOT A F****ING ENDING. It resolves the BIG plot issues, but staying true to a theme seen throughout the entire series, the closure on the people and their relationships was woefully lacking. The only closure you get is on the main characters, all of the side characters' fates are just left behind, not resolved. In fact, the novels bring up several issues and rifts between characters that are never resolved in the series, which, sure I guess could be interpreted as realistic, but let's be real here, I'M NOT LOOKING FOR REALISTIC IN MY NOVELS ABOUT MAGICIANS AND STOLEN CROWNS. Really, though, the ending of Crimson Crown really pissed me off because of how abrupt it was, all the side characters were really just forgotten, and that irks me even now, months later. Here's the literal note I wrote (with a little bit of censoring) (MILD SPOILERS, SKIP BELOW QUOTE IF YOU'RE SENSITIVE TO MILD SPOILERS, NOT MAJOR)
"F***K EVERTHING. THERE WAS NO CLOSURE ON _________....... (spoilers) MAYBE SIDE ******* CHARACTER.... BUT [they're] IMPORTNAT TOO.... Like this is really not okay. The ending was just shoved together and only [the main characters] got full closure and a happy ending. I am so angry and upset right now."
And before you go, Anji, there's a sequel series. I know there is, that's actually why I started this one in the first place, so I could read flame caster, but now I'm just salty. This was supposed to be a finale novel, yet the only "final"-ness came to the main characters, and none of the plethora of side ones. And you'll note earlier that The Crimson Crown had my highest rating-- it could've made it to the 8 if not higher if not for the ending that was thrown together and pissed me off, because before the ending the novel was phenomenal. And I have to admit, the ending scarred me about this series a little. It would've never been one of my all-time favorites, but I think I would've left it with some fonder memories if not for this last bit of the novel.
Back to the positives. The two components I loved the most about this series were its intricately crafted world and political aspect. I love novels that play with the political games of court (if you know any good ones, please contact me), and the world was beautiful with all its details and careful set up of tensions and different cultures (clans, wizards, humans).. YES these novels truly did have good aspects to them, I promise, for some reason it's just easier to go on about the negatives. Maybe because I take the good stuff for granted unless it really stands out whereas all the flaws stand out to my critical mind?
Anyway, sorry for the random, branching review. Here's the synopsis for Exiled Queen, and below are some real spoilers on my thoughts (or maybe just my notes) from reading these books.
Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean that danger isn't far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.
Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden's Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.
Everything changes when Han and Raisa’s paths cross, in this epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.
SPOILERS FOR EXILED QUEEN
Basically how these are going to go is that I will just copy over my notes, unless I feel I have something else to say on them.
"lol where did this Fiona attraction come from" (this is what I was talking about earlier) "[most] Relationships created in this book are instantaneous-- not a relationship driven story."
"Give me more Micah, like chill the marriage wasn't his idea."
"SO AWKWARD Amon caught her spying."
"FINALLY HAN AND RAISA MEET AGAIN." See, I did ship them and love them together, I just also LOVE Micah and want my baby to find happiness, just not with Raisa.
Here's a thought from now me. Was anyone else actually surprised that Crow was Alger? Because I sure as hell wasn't. It was pretty obvious.
SPOILERS FOR GRAY WOLF THRONE
"Why does everything have to go wrong, ugh."
"Also Han get over it, she clearly loves you."
"MICAH KNELT FOR RAISA. I'M CRYING." See what I mean? Micah really does have a good heart. Yes, I'm biased, shut up haha.
"Alright Mellony time to get your ass outta here." Seriously, I barely remember anything, but I do remember how ANNOYING this girl was.
"HE GAVE HER HANALEA'S RING."
"Loved the political aspect."
SPOILERS FOR CRIMSON CROWN
"Such an intricate world."
"Yay Alger knows his line continued."
"Han slightly possessed? Outburst to Fiona."
"Micah threatening Han for Raisa. Bae." I forget what this was about, but pretty sure it was in regards to Raisa's safety which was a real turn on for me, haha.
"The flash piece Fire Dancer had-- I knew it! It's a trigger or something."
"Ugh, still haven't seen enough of Micah."
"Jt was Lucius, not Hanalea, who betrayed Alger. Calling it now." -- and I was right.
"Glad there's not the typical turning on each other plot." That was enjoyable about these books-- they weren't typical.
"Him only remembering the tavern song. I'm dying." That was a pretty funny moment.
"FINALLY A MICAH CHAPTER." and I had hope for nothing, because there was only one.
"Yo, dude, Micah deserves to know his family is dead." This really made me angry at Han. No matter how much Han may dislike Micah, don't you think he has the right to know that they're gone? Especially Fiona, his twin-- this was when that quote I cited earlier happened. Wow, I really wish we'd gotten to see more of their relationship.
Okay next quote was one where I was getting mad at Han about him preaching about getting over the past and then going to to think of all the things he resented Micah for and wouldn't be helping him with... But he didn't say Micah, he called him "a Bayar." It was something like he wouldn't be "teaching to a Bayar." Which just goes to show that Han is still chained by family prejudices-- literally what he was just saying that Micah or someone should get over.
"Micah just getting his heart broken. My poor baby."
"Micah thought Han was dead, okay? HE DIDN'T KNOW." Really, Micah's fam did wrong him by lying to him. He thought he was telling Raisa the honest truth by saying Han was dead and trying to help her by proposing a marriage. I hate that this was never resolved and the novel ended with Raisa thinking Micah had lied and resenting him for it. I waited for a last scene just between the two of them clearing things up, imagine my disappointment when that never happened. If you couldn't tell, I just want my baby to be happy, haha.
"Lol Raisa is my age and getting married." And yet I still haven't had a boyfriend... hmmm...
"I KNEW IT. ALGER AND HANNALEA REUNITED." yeah, this was actually one of the perks about the end of the book. I'm glad they got to see each other again.
And then there was the quote about lack of closure in the ending. You guessed it, it was Micah I was raging about. But also Fire Dancer and Cat and the rest of them didn't get a happy ending or closure or anything. Only Raisa and Han did, so I rest my point. Not the best ending.
Anyway, thanks for reading this scattered review, sorry it took so long to come out
Love you all,