Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

Published April 1, 2007.

Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high-schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts.

Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: He is Weirlind; part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At the head of this magical society sit the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game. A magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death, the winning house ruling the Weir. As if his bizarre magical heritage isn't enough, Jack finds out that he's not just another member of Weirlind, he's one of the last of the warriors at a time when both houses are scouting for a player. Jack's performance on the soccer field has alerted the entire magical community to the fact that he's in Trinity. And until one of the houses is declared Jack's official sponsor, they'll stop at nothing to get Jack to fight for them. (

You know, with how big of a fan of THE SEVEN REALMS series I am, it really pains me to say that I wasn't too big of a fan of THE WARRIOR HEIR. I mean it really does. I tried. I really did. But I didn't love it like I do THE SEVEN REALMS. Considering THE SEVEN REALMS was written later, giving Chima time to hone her craft, and considering how effing awesome it is, maybe my expectations were too high. It's not often I start out with books that came out later in an author's career. But in this case I'm glad I did because I honestly don't know if I'd keep reading this series, let alone more of Chima's work, if I had started with THE WARRIOR HEIR.

It's not the writing. Not really. I found the same type of prose in THE WARRIOR HEIR as I did in THE SEVEN REALMS but the former was missing something. Heart, maybe? The story was decent enough but it felt like it was skimming the surface of what Chima is truly capable of. Again, something else that could be chalked up to higher expectations. It just felt kind of done before. There were some good original elements in there, like the sleeping dragon stone and the portrayal of the underground magical society and the whole battle between the Roses and the lengths they go to in order to sabotage each other. But I wasn't really into it. I found it kind of difficult to pick up the book again once I put it down. It was hard for me to get into.

Maybe it had to do with Jack. I think I felt him more like a pawn than an actual character. I felt the plot move him more than he moved the plot, like he was just coasting along and going with the flow. He wasn't a stand-out character to me. I found him blending into the background too easily, getting pushed out of the way for the big kids to handle it, getting a somewhat easy way out. I wasn't too big of a fan.

I was far more interested in Ellen, for all her standoffishness. And I was hoping there would be more going on with Will and Fitch. I will avoid spoilers but I think shifting into their POVs, in some cases more often, would have benefited the story, given it a little more depth. I did like Longbranch. She played her role well and came off as quite a likable villain. A bit cookie-cutter but I liked her attitude. And Linda was pretty cool too but I felt she was shunted to the side a little too easily. I would have liked to have seen her be more prominent in the story than what she was. She would have provided a good balance for female strength in the story.

Don't get me wrong; it's not a bad story. There's an excerpt of THE WIZARD HEIR at the end and that looked pretty interesting. Just the excerpt made me feel like I'd connect with it just a little more than I did with THE WARRIOR HEIR. But it's not THE SEVEN REALMS. I don't want to say skip the first series and go to the second because this one definitely has its merits. As opposed to what it's not, what it is is a really good fantasy story. If Chima does nothing else, she builds her worlds marvelously and even though I think we're cheated out of some of that world here, what bits and pieces you do get are exceptionally vibrant and stand out on their own. Plus I don't want what happened to me to happen to you: you read one of the most awesome series ever and then go backwards to the author's debut work which, while still good, still provides a pretty big gap.

I think it'd be neat to see Chima's writing improve through the series. I still don't think I'd continue with this particular series because I wasn't thrilled with it but it's not lacking in writing. That's for sure. THE WARRIOR HEIR is very well written and deserves applause for that. So if you, like me, weren't thrilled with THE WARRIOR HEIR, hang in there. I can't vouch for the rest of this series, although I do want to read it at some point, but I can vouch for THE SEVEN REALMS, which is amazing and so totally worth it.

But, you might like this one just as much. They're two different types of fantasy, this one being more urban while THE SEVEN REALMS is more high so you need to take those genre differences into account when reading them because if you lean to one or the other, it's obviously going to color which one you'll like more. But give THE WARRIOR HEIR a try. It definitely deserves it. Not my favorite but it could be yours.

Ban Factor: High - A fantasy world with no Christian godly influence. Big banner fail.
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