Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

Pub date: August 30th, 2011.

Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that nothing matters more than saving her. The costs of his efforts are steep, but nothing can prepare him for what he soon discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. Han is hurt and betrayed. He knows he has no future with a blueblood. And, as far as he’s concerned, the princess’s family killed his own mother and sister. But if Han is to fulfill his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.

Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the thief-turned-wizard Han Alister can be trusted. She wants to believe it—he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive—and even that might not be enough.

Holy crap. Absolutely fantastic. Crap, crap, crap. Why crap? Because after THE DEMON KING and THE EXILED QUEEN, what do I have left to say?

The world is still as utterly fantastic as it's always been. Richly colored and full of life, Chima hasn't let it slip by as a sacrifice to the greater plot. It still plays its role magnificently, hanging out just on the edge of the background and foreground, being its own character but knowing when not to be overwhelming.

I'm all for Han and Raisa but there was a piece of me that rooted for Raisa and Amon too, despite how implausible (even more so than her and Han) the relationship was. It did end up going down the route it was destined to go down (as intoned in the second book, the Byrnes are not about to break the line any time soon, 1,000 years of history supports that). Even though it went where it was supposed to go, I couldn't help but feel a little bit sad. For as long as it was pushed off, the harsh reality could be ignored. No more and it was a bit of a hard pill to swallow. But they both swallowed it because they had to.

The mounting tension between Raisa and Han is just phenomenal. When he finds out just who Raisa is, it's heartbreaking. You want to tear through the pages and slap some sense into him but it's Han. He's far too steadfast for something like that. But they're forced together anyway (in a more professional manner) so any ill will Han does have towards Raisa he's forced to swallow it back for the greater good.

But Han's resilient. He knows full well he's being used but he flips the situation to his advantage. He finds all of the holes that would end up benefiting him while performing his duties and he takes them. He makes sure that he plugs those holes with his desires first and foremost. You can't help but be impressed by someone like that. He holds his own against the bluebloods and he deserves some respect for that.

Raisa is still infinitely awesome. After multiple attempts on her life she continues to land on her feet. Like Han, she's fully aware that she's being used by everyone around her, not to mention being underestimated constantly (bad on those doing it) but she's had enough political upbringing to view things from all sides. She doesn't make hasty decisions and knows strategy like no seventeen-year-old does. I don't feel like I'm reading about someone so young but about someone even older than me for how she holds herself. I love her more and more with every book.

And the ending? Cruel to the point of barbarism. If I'm not mistaken there's one more book in the series yet to come out. How long do I have to wait for that one???

If you haven't started reading this series yet, you really need to get on it. It's such a relatable, engaging high fantasy novel that I think even someone that isn't the biggest fan of fantasy will get pulled right into it. Sure there's magic and wizards and a whole new world but it's about the people, first and foremost. And the people are just so dynamic and intriguing that you won't want to take your eyes off of them. THE GRAY WOLF THRONE is a fantastic piece of the SEVEN REALMS puzzle. This series just keeps getting better and better. I'm going to have to create a sixth bite rating for the next one.

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