Saturday, December 29, 2012

Book Review: The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima

A thousand years ago, two young lovers were betrayed - Alger Waterlow to his death, and Hanalea, Queen of the Fells, to a life without love.

Now, once again, the queendom of the Fells seems likely to shatter apart. For young queen Raisa ana'Marianna, maintaing peace even within her own castle walls is nearly impossible. Tension between wizards and clan has reached a fevered pitch. With surrounding kingdoms seeking to prey on the Fells' inner turmoil, Raisa's best hope it to unite her people against a common enemy. But that enemy might be the person with whom she's falling in love.

Through a complicated web of lies and unholy alliances, former streetlord Han Alister has become a member of the Wizard Council of the Fells. Navigating the cutthroat world of blueblood politics has never been more dangerous, and Han seems to inspire hostility among clan and wizards alike. His only ally is the queen, and despite the perils involved, Ha finds it impossible to ignore his feelings for raisa. Before long, Han uncovers a secret believed to be lost to history, a revelation powerful enough to unite the people of the Fells. But will the secret die with him before he can save his queendom?

A simple, devastating truth concealed by a thousand-year-old lie comes to light at last in this stunning conclusion to the Seven Realms series. 

This was a superb ending to Cinda Williams Chima's Seven Realms series. The action that had been building up over the past three books came to a climax here, and it made the book exciting and impossible to put down. The plot was exciting, well structured, and perfectly paced, and the world was as rich and vibrant as ever, made even more so by the additional details about Aediion, earth magic combined with High Magic, and the true history of Queen Hanalea and Alger Waterlow. 

What really made this book stand out to me, however, was the character development. There was not one character in this story who had not undergone at least some change since the beginning of the first book, The Demon King. Han's was the most pronounced; it was incredible to see him finally determine what he wanted and go after it, and it made me root even more for him to succeed. Han discovered a lot of truth about himself, Raisa, and the world in this book, and it made him a very different character, even more likable and compelling than before. Micah also changed drastically, from the reckless, charming, spoiled young man he was in The Demon King to a much more mature person who'd learned a lot of humility and patience - as much as any Bayar can learn those traits. Moments like when he and Han worked together to keep Raisa safe when the temple was burning and when Micah proclaimed to his father that he would "Get in bed with the bloody copperheads if I have to," showed that just like Han, Micah finally has something of his own that he believes in and is willing to fight for. 

Micah and Han weren't the only characters to change. The moments where Raisa finally allowed herself to be weak helped her to see the path forward. Amon reestablished his friendship with Raisa while learning to trust Han to protect her. Adam Gryphon stepped out of his parents' shadow, Night Bird learned to see a future where clan and wizards worked together, and maybe most thrilling of all, Fire Dancer stepped up to claim his legacy and his place as both a wizard and a member of the clans and exposed Gavan Bayar for what he did to Dancer's mother. The revelation of the truth about Alger Waterlow and his love for Hanalea was beautifully done. Even Fiona's character became more complex in this book - even though she's ruthless and dangerous, she's also clearly attracted to Han, and the scene where her father refused to help her because of his desire to find the armory of the gifted kings was actually one of the saddest scenes in the book. All of this was done without making the antagonists too likable or the heroes too flawed, instead striking the perfect balance. 

Aside from a few minor flaws - Reid Nightwalker's character was not as well-executed as the others and Elena and Averill Demonai could come off a little too warlike at times - this book was incredible, and I loved every page. The most amazing thing about this book is that it's about magic, wars, politics, nature, right and wrong, justice, history, and lies, while at the same time remaining, at its heart, a love story. Once again, a perfect conclusion to the incredible Seven Realms Series. 


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