Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: The Exiled Queen

The Exiled Queen
Seven Realms: Book 2

Cinda Chima Williams
Hyperion, 2010

The Exiled Queen falls into the “school” or “training” type of fantasy story.  Harry Potter was primarily in that setting - other examples include the section on Roke in A Wizard of Earthsea; Kvothe’s time in the university in The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear; Alanna’s training in Alanna: The First Adventure; and many others.  “School” is a setting that gives the author a chance to train and develop their young protagonist, showing the reader their character, creating their friendships and rivalries and shaping their strengths and weaknesses.

One of the elements of William’s version of this tale that was different and fresh was that many of the characters entering the school were already connected to each other through friendship, enmity, or other bonds.  In many ways, it was less about them making new connections, then about how their old connections developed and changed through the course of their schooling.

Princess Raisa, disguised as Rebecca Morely, has the opportunity to broaden her education into tactics, history of warfare and cultural studies that were not available to her in the Fells – or were not permitted her.  She also has the chance to make friends with her unwitting guards, led by Amon.  He is the only one who knows who she really the Princess-Heir.  Williams is not very subtle that these experiences are going to make her a better queen and leader – or I suspect that she is going to have some very loyal guards once her troop finds out who they have been guarding.

Across the river in another school Han Alastair and his friend Fire Dancer, both under clan sponsorship, study magic.  Given Han’s propensity to get himself into scrapes his is perhaps the more exciting side of the story – particularly because his bitter enemies and rivals the Bayar twins are studying in the same year. Additionally, the instructors at the Mage school frequently have an agenda of their own, and Han finds himself being recruited from all sides.  This is somewhat amusing, as the reader is aware that Han is a player who has devoted himself to his own agenda and may slip and slide around other promises if they interfere.  Anyone who knew something of his background should be more distrustful of a sweet smile of agreement from Han.

The Exiled Queen was a fun continuation of the Seven Realm’s series.  It comprises a time for all the characters to prepare for coming events: build friendships, get training, decide on loyalties and gain power.  Again the pace is quick and the story stays interesting.  The narrative ends on a note of uncertainty, pointing the reader toward the next installment: The Grey Wolf Throne.

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