My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Han Alister, once the famous streetlord of the Raggers better known as Cuffs, is trying to go straight for his sister Mari and his mother. He is out of the gang life, but leaving trouble behind isn't as easy as leaving the gang and changing professions. While hunting with his friend Dancer out on Hanalea he encounters three young wizards with a powerful amulet. Afraid that the wizards might try to use the amulet against him and Dancer, Han demands that they give him the amulet before they leave. Since taking that amulet, Han has known nothing but grief. Now street thugs are dying mysteriously and Han is the prime suspect.
Princess heir of the Fells, Raisa ana'Marianna, has discovered that she has lived a sheltered life, and doesn't know enough about the kingdom she will eventually help inherit. With the help of her friend, now a guardsman, Amon, Raisa hopes to find out more about life in her kingdom. But something bigger is going on. The wizards have too much power over the queen, and as Raisa's nameday approaches, the day she will be eligible to marry, she suspects something more sinister may be going on.
This is a long book, and at first seems rather daunting, but Cinda Williams Chima has a way of pulling you into the lives of her characters. Soon after starting, I found that I couldn't put the book down--it was simply addictive.
Chima's character development is outstanding. You are pulled into the lives of her characters and she makes them so believable you feel like you have known them for years. You root for their successes and you can feel their losses. Her characters are believable and well drawn, they act like you would expect them to, and are very real.
Chima has created a world of fantasy that is hard to leave. You want to understand the politics and the history of the Fells, and how they find themselves where they are now. The world building is rich and vibrant and invites you in to stay.
The audio version of this book, produced by Recorded Books and narrated by Carol Monda, is one of the best audio books I have listened to in a while. She does an excellent job with the individual voices and setting the mood of this fantastic fantasy novel. I was loath to stop listening to this book when it was time to get out of my car.
If you aren't a fan of high fantasy with a lot of world building this book might not be what you are looking for. It kind of reminded me of Kristin Cashore's Fire, with the same type of involved world building. I felt that Chima did an excellent job with the world building and introducing this world through the characters that you grow to love. But I do understand that this type of fantasy isn't for everyone.
Overall, I loved this book and couldn't put it down.
The sequel, The Exiled Queen, is available in both hardcover and in audio CD format.
Cautions for sensitive readers: No language, no sex, some violence.
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