This is one of those instances where it was clear that the author’s writing has really grown from their first series to the their second. Cinda Williams Chima’s first series (The Warrior Heir) was anything but weak. I liked it a lot when I read it. But where that trio didn’t quite flow or feel quite right, this one felt like a more complete world.
We follow Hans Allistair, the former street lord who is trying to go straight, and Raisa Marianna the headstrong and insulated Princess Heir of the Fells. Hans lives in a world that requires careful negotiating with the city guards (bribes and avoidance are the best methods), carefully saving money to get by, and a particular divide between wizards and others. (People are particularly wary of wizards after the Demon King broke the world and careful rules have been in place to keep this from happening again.) Hans tries to fit in and stay out of trouble but trouble seems to follow him, in particular because he has a pair of silver cuffs that he cannot remove and does not know where they came from. Raisa lives in the castle, carrying out her every whim (which mostly involves making out with boys she knows she can never be with because as the heir she must marry for the good of the realm), when she realizes that there is more going beyond the castle. She discovers how poor people, how much resentment there is towards the royal guards and the wizards. Her mother is a particularly weak queen and the succession is being threatened. Removed as she is from her queendom, Raisa knows she must do something to help her people and keep those who wish to steal her birthright from succeeding.
One of the things I really enjoyed was how separate Hans and Raisa’s lives seemed, yet they were deeply intertwined in more ways than they could ever imagine. Sure, they run into each other for a few chapters, but those chapters are only the most obvious ways that they are connected.
Another one of Williams Chima’s great skills involves surprise. No matter what you expect or who you think is important, there is always a little more going on than is originally apparent.
For once I can’t think of any particular complaints I had while reading. I like all of the characters, the story is interesting, and there is nothing in particular that stands out as a weak spot. If I had to come up with a complaint, it’s that it seems like Hans and Raina seem to be headed in the direction of being a couple and for some reason that rings false to me. (There’s nothing to really prove that, but that’s the sense I got.) In fact, I feel like we’re just getting to the best part. If this book is any indication of where her writing is going, I can’t wait to get the second book (though I may have to wait until it comes out in paperback since I can only afford so many hardcover books.)