(2010) Cinda Williams Chima, Harper Voyager, £14.99, hrdbk, 586pp, ISBN 978-0-007-38422-8
This title has been previously published in America by Hyperion in 2010. This review is of the British Isles edition published by Harper Voyager in 2011.
Part 2 in this series picks up from the ending of the first volume. The princess Raisa and her childhood friend, Amon Byrne now a guard, bound to protect her through a ceremony are travelling. They are heading to Wien House, a military academy in Oden’s Ford. There Raisa will hide under an assumed name and learn skills. Also in Oden’s Ford, is Mystewerk House, the academy for wizards. This is the destination for Han Alister and Fire Dancer, where they can learn to use their magical powers for the struggles predicted. But the Bayer family wants to know were the princess is to force wedding plans on her and where Alister is, to kill him to get back the amulet, he took from them.
The journey to Oden's Ford is interesting with the sense of the landscape and the effects of the warfare within the other kingdoms. However, once the characters arrive at their destination, the story starts to fall apart.
The character arc for Alister is supposed to be him trying to find a way around all the forces that want him dead or to manipulate him. However, this means a lot of talking about how he is important and training from a secret mentor. The sense of threat gradually dissipates.
Raisa despite being thrown in the deep end of the academies education appears to adjust very quickly. To the extent that she is offered a promotion next term, because she is so great at everything. Then Raisa and Amon try to have a relationship and learn that because of the mystical oath on Amon, they can not. Cue a lot of dull teenage angst, because he only took the oath to protect her.
Then under her assumed name, Raisa winds up training Alister how to pass in polite society. So they have to start falling in love so that they can be more romantic angst at more annoying length. It is as if the success of ‘Twilight’ means that we have to have these elements in young adult fiction, regardless of whether they harm the story or not.
Meanwhile, the sense of danger and political manipulation in the royal court, gets pushed off stage, to be mentioned in the odd letter. As with the previous novel, there is the sense of dragging out the story to make it fit in three books. When the narrative does start reasserting itself, after a magical fight scene, it turns out to just step up things for the next book as opposed to a proper ending.
I realise that this is intended for younger readers, but had I been the target age when I read it, I would have raised these criticisms as well. Tension is pushed aside in favour of annoying romances among teenagers who appear to be brilliant at anything they do and a need to build up the page count.
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