Book Review: The Seven Realms, Series By Cinda Williams Chima


Raisa running through the canyon in The Grey Wolf Throne


With so many fantasy books out there, what’s a girl supposed to do? My favorite genre is fantasy, so when I find a new series I’m usually a little suspicious before I jump on board. Who wouldn’t be? No one wants to waste time in an imaginary land that’s poorly designed with characters who are less than lackluster. So when I was browsing around my local book store a while back and noticed the Seven Realms series,  I quickly looked it up and saw pretty positive reviews online. Good reviews = buy the book (and in this case the whole series). Once I started reading I couldn’t put it down (much to the dismay of my many comic books that I still have waiting for me). And so I offer you a quick and dirty overview of the series after the break (warning, spoilers included).

There are four books in the series, and the main storylines revolve around two main characters in general: Princess Raisa ana’Mariana and Han Alister. Both characters start off in a place where they are searching for more in life and throughout the series we watch them grow mentally, physically and emotionally.

Raisa is heir to the Grey Wolf Line in the Seven Realms. When we first meet her, she is portrayed as your typical princess floating from banquet to banquet in a kind of blind stupor. Over time we find that Raisa is a little more rebellious and headstrong than a first impression would suggest, and this really starts to unfold when Raisa and her Mother (the Queen) don’t see eye to eye about the duties of a princess. At this particular crossroad we start to see Raisa change. We see her become more aware of her surroundings, her people, her kingdom to inherit, and she’s not happy. In Raisa’s eyes there is a lot of work and attention that needs to be given to all parts of the realm – parts that her mother has ignored for too long. It’s the tiny source of contention between Raisa and her mother that soon escalates into more than just simple disagreement. And eventually Raisa is left wondering if her mother has lost her mind. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is when her mother (under the influence of the High Wizard Lord Bayar) tricks Raisa into getting married to Lord Bayar’s son Micah – which in this world is against the law – and that sets Raisa on a journey to escape the realm.  Her story is filled with politics, loss of love, and the struggle to fight for what is right.

At the same time that Raisa is going through the troubles with her Mother’s hold on the realm, we meet Han Alister. Han is considered a thief and street lord by those who know him. He lives in a poor part of the Kingdom called Ragmarket. It’s like any poor village where resources are scarce and morale is low. Han’s gang is a local group of scrappy teens and kids that look up to Han and do his bidding whenever necessary. Han’s made a name for himself by being clever and brave, and it doesn’t hurt that he also has iconic “Cuffs” on his wrists (which we find out later has prohibited him from using magic). The big secret with Han that unfolds over time is that Han is a wizard…and there are many secrets that revolve around this very fact. His story is filled with finding out who he really is, and becoming more than what people think of him. He is the essence of hope, but he has to find it within himself before moving forward.

The series starts out with telling the individual stories of Han and Raisa, but eventually their paths collide and nothing is the same. Chima does a wonderful job setting up the right amount of foundation for each character and side story so that you feel like you have known them forever. You never get the sense that the people in the story are throw away characters, because each person has a specific and purposeful role in the story. The characters that I consider “the good guys” are all given very specific points of view which carry through each book. Chima stays true to what each character should feel, do, and say no matter the situation (and I appreciate this aspect). I hate it when authors flip-flop a characters ideals around at the drop of a hat, it’s unrealistic. Chima is quite the opposite with her characters. If someone is going to go through a change (which most of her characters do in this series) it’s thoughtful and progressive, but not unrealistic.

Another thing I love about the story is that it’s mixed with a healthy amount of love, loss, politics, magic, and survival. Chima brilliantly blends all of these elements together so that you are left turning the page over and over to find out what happens next. Will Amon succeed in protecting Raisa as captain of the guard? As his best friend, will Fire Dancer continue to stay loyal to Han? What’s Cat and Nightwalker’s real angle for why they have sworn allegiance to the Princess? And will you ever find out if Fiona and Micah will ever stop being so evil? All of these characters, with all of their stories intertwined makes for a jam-packed action adventure that I’m sure you’ll love. As everything unfolds before you, you’ll eventually begin to see that it’s a story we’ve all struggled with ourselves – what do we do when we know we will hurt people no matter what decision we make? And what price are we willing to pay to protect the people we love? And, can we make the change needed to move forward and be better if not for ourselves, but for others?

If you haven’t yet picked up this series, I implore you to give it a try. And if magic and might is not your thing, then check out Chima’s other books, one of which is set to come out in 2016! Happy reading!

Images courtesy of Leabhariann.


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