(2010) Cinda Williams Chima, Harper Voyager, £7.99, pbk, 506pp, ISBN 978-0-007-32198-8
Han Alister at 16, has left has left his position as head of the street gang, the Raggers in the city of Fellmarch. While hunting deer with his friend, Fire Dancer, a member of the mountain Clans, they come across 3 wizards their age. The wizards are starting fires to drive down game for a hunting party. During a confrontation, Alister sees off the wizards, forcing the leader Micah Bayar, to surrender his amulet, which lets him casts spells. Alister takes the amulet hoping to sell it.
Meanwhile, the princess Raisa, has returned to Fellmarch. Facing her sixteenth birthday, she is about to be courted by an abundance of suitors. But she faces new feelings for her childhood friend Amon Byrne who has become a member of the Queen’s Guard. Meanwhile the High Wizard Lord Bayer, Micah’s father is planning to increase his power in the kingdom…
This narrative does contain familiar tropes, I’m going to try and avoid them giving them away as spoilers. While they do seem very familiar to me, they may be less so for the young adult readers, this is intended for.
I found the strongest parts of the narrative to be those following Han Alister. Chima invests the scenes with the mountain clans and in the alleys of Fellmarch with a lot of convincing detail and good touches. However the other part of the narrative, with Raisa and Amon has a lot of detail about social occasions and upper-class families which does start to get dull after a while. There is also the drawback, that in places, Raisa and Amon can come across as too noble and valiant and start becoming less convincing.
The structure of the story was really the difficulty that I found with the narrative. There are some good action scenes, but the overall pace feels slow. There is a sense that the need to explain the detail of this world and how it works, gets in the way of the story being exciting.
The problem may be due to the narrative being published as a trilogy. As the first book, the novel is spending too much time explaining things. While I realise this had to be done, if you are aware of the novel doing it, there is a problem. This reaches a critical point in the last few chapters which just become a long lot of explanations about the background of a character. The last third of the book basically is the main characters being pushed out so that they can all presumably meet up at some point in the second novel.
It is not that the novel is not interesting in parts. It is just the narrative assumes that we will all be automatically desperate to see what happens next. Just because a story can be put into three volumes, it does not mean that it needs to. As such, the pace of the narrative suffers, leaving you wondering how long the novel really needed to be.
In case of confusion, this title was previously published in America by Hyperion in 2010. This review is of the edition published in England by Harper Voyager in 2011.
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