Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for himself, his mother, and his sister, Mari. Ironically, the only thing of value he has is something he can't sell. For as long as Han can remember, he's worn thick silver cuffs engraved with runes. They're clearly magicked - as he grows, they grow, and he's never been able to get them off.
Han's life gets even harder after he takes a powerful amulet from Micah Bayar, the son of the High Wizard. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, the Bayars will stop at nothing to reclaim it from Han.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana'Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. Although Raisa will become eligible for marriage after her sixteenth name day, she isn't looking forward to trading in her common sense for a prince with a big castle and a tiny brain. Raisa aspires to be like Hanalea - the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems that her mother has other plans - plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the queendom stands for.
The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning new page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima.
From the first page, I was swept into the world of the Seven Kingdoms. It was incredibly vivid and detailed, with so much history and culture. I loved the dynamics between the clans, the flatlanders, the royalty, and the wizards, and although not a lot of time was spent on the relationship between the Fells and the other kingdoms, enough detail was given to make it seem incredibly lifelike. It was as if this book took pieces of all my favorite fantasy worlds and combined them into something truly amazing.
Then there were the characters. I absolutely loved Han and Raisa and the way their stories intertwined. They lived in such different worlds and had such different personalities, but at the same, time, were so similar - they're both trying to figure out what they're supposed to do, how to deal with the difficulties life throws at them, and who they can trust, and they both try to do what's right, even though their opinions on what that is differ.
Of course, the supporting characters can't be overlooked either: this was one of those rare books where absolutely every character was fantastic. I loved Fire Dancer from the start, and the relationship between him, Han, and Bird was incredible, and its complexity was handled well. Amon Byrne was so unique - he seemed pretty straightforward, but there were hidden complexities to him and I loved the way he interacted with Raisa. Willo, Elena Demonai, Margret, and Raisa's father Averill were all incredible characters with so many hidden depths. Even the antagonists, Micah and Gavan Bayar, were complicated and intriguing, and I loved reading about them - they became some of my favorite characters in the books.
The plot was also incredible. It was gripping and interesting without being over-filled with action, complex without being confusing and perfectly paced. The only flaw I found was the revelation of the history behind Han's cuffs - although it was great, I felt like it could have been a bit more foreshadowed. Still, with so much else going on in the book, it might have cluttered up the storyline, and looking back, there were definitely some hints I just didn't pick up on at the time. Other than that, the plot was fantastic - it made me laugh, it made my cry, and it kept me up way too late to finish "one more chapter", which always turned into a hundred pages or so.
Overall, I adored this book and would definitely recommend it. I can't wait to read the next in the series and check out Cinda Williams Chima's other books.