The Demon King and The Exiled Queen are the first two books in the Seven Realms quartet. The third book, The Gray Wolf Throne, is due out in September, and the fourth book is being written. So this series ought to finish up in the next year or two, which is infinitely preferable to some of the other YA series I've gotten involved in.

Long ago, the Seven Realms were one realm ruled by the Gray Wolf Queen in the north. The upland clans, a pseudo-American Indian people, possessed a type of green magic, but the impression is given that no one else had magic. Then the wizards came from the Northern Isles and conquered the realms, marrying one of their own to the Queen, and creating the rule of the Gifted King. This lasted for some centuries until Princess-Heir Hanalea fell in love with a young wizard named Alger Waterlow. Instead of marrying the consort chosen for her by the Wizard Council, she ran away with him.

The wizards were not pleased, but Alger Waterlow was a vastly powerful young wizard. The battles were hard, but in the end, he was betrayed and tortured to death, and she bowed her head to duty and married a man she did not love.

Waterlow had the last laugh, though, as these events led to the Breaking of the World. It's never entirely made clear what this consisted of, but when the dust settled, the wizards and clanfolk had hammered out an agreement wherein the wizards would not enter the Spirit Mountains, only the clans would make the amulets needed to control wizard magic, many types of magical devices were outlawed, the High Wizard was magically bound to serve the Gray Wolf Queen, and the Gray Wolf Queen could never marry a wizard.

The wizards had to accept the short-end of the stick in this deal as the clans would not use their magics to heal the Breaking, otherwise.

This has all been back-story. The actual story of the Seven Realms novels starts a thousand years later. Spoilers for The Demon King )

The way I'm telling this is somewhat misleading, as I am trying not to a) tell you the book, and b) spoil the book completely. This was an enjoyable bit of YA, though I found the ending rather abrupt. Definitely unsatisfying - it didn't feel like a complete story had been told - but fortunately the second book was already out for me to easily get.

However, let's take a moment to talk about Princess Raisa's father, Averill Demonai.

He's amazing.

He's pretty much a tertiary to secondary character, and I love him to death. He's the son of the Matriarch of the Demonai Clan. He used to be a Demonai warrior, who are pretty much the warriors par excellence around here as well as the people who keep the wizards in line when wizards need to be lined up in graves. He's currently a trader. Yes, he's the Queen's Consort, and he actively goes out and does trading. He's warm and loving, and I just visualize him as Hakoda whenever his name comes up. So awesome.

He also doesn't show up at all in the second book. D:

In The Exiled Queen, Spoilers for The Exiled Queen )

Surprisingly, things go better for Han this book than they did last book. Which just tells you how much last book sucked for Han. Raisa kind of comes out even on all of this, in my opinion.

The second book had a much more satisfying ending, and it convinced me that I wanted to stick around for the next two books.

Some thoughts on the overall story so far:
- I am really annoyed with the way Han's friends keep getting shuffled off-stage. Okay, in the first book it made sense. Han and Fire Dancer aren't going to be hanging together in the city, and most of his city-friends are people he knew from when he was in the Raggers. However, in the second book, he's got Fire Dancer and Cat both very close by, but they're pretty much shoved off-stage for most of the story. They're there but they never seem to be as important in his life as his enemies and dubious allies are.
- All of the people who keep coercing Han to work for them really aren't going to like what happens by the end of the series, I am sure.
- The second book kind of reads like the author invented more world-texture as she was writing it. We see things like a slightly different slang, for instance. No one called the clansfolk copperheads in the first book, but it shows up all over the place in the second book. Not really irritating, but it was noticeable.
- I really like it that the author gives all the characters a dosage of racism, sexism, or classism. No one's pure and shining, they all have their prejudices. Also, even the bad guys have nuances - the author does an excellent job of showing us that not only is the enemy of our enemy our enemy's enemy, she shows that just because someone is scum on this particular aspect doesn't mean they're scum in all aspects. I definitely appreciate that.

Book three should takes us back to Fells and hopefully back to Averill Demonai.
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Rebecca Hb.

December 2011

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