Published by HarperTeen on April 5, 2016
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A burning vengeance.
Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. The son of the queen of the Fells, Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it?
A blood-based curse.
Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.
Destiny’s fiery hand.
Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.
Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series a generation later, this is a thrilling story of dark magic, chilling threats, and two unforgettable characters walking a knife-sharp line between life and death.
Some things Flamecaster contains: spies, blood-drinking assassin priests(!!!), magic, dragons(!!!!!), intrigue, deception, and heartbreak.
Oh, that heartbreak. It’s interesting both that the author chose to return to the same world as a previous series, and also was not at all afraid to wreck some heavy damage in the lives of previously established and beloved characters. Things have not been happy for Raisa and Han in recent times. Their eldest child, and heir to the throne, was killed in combat not too long before the start of the book. You wander along thinking, “Yes, this is pretty bad.” And then it gets worse: View Spoiler » Han is murdered in the very first chapters « Hide Spoiler Yes, she goes there. But I admire this for the boldness of it, if nothing else. And also, View Spoiler » it wasn’t that personally devastating to me since I was always Team Amon anyway. Ugh! Still upset about being on the losing side of that triangle. But speaking of, it looks like Amon’s son was also killed alongside Raisa and Han’s. Many sadfaces. « Hide Spoiler
When I saw the first synopsis for this book, and its heavy mention of Adrian sul’Han, I must admit I was worried! One of the things I enjoyed so much about the original Seven Realms series was that this was a story about a queendom. Only women are inheritors of the Gray Wolf throne! “What is this Adrian nonsense?” I thought to myself. I needn’t have worried, though. Even though Adrian (Ash) actually is wonderful, there are just as many awesome female characters in this new series as they were in the first.
This is character-driven, yet intricately plot forward YA fantasy. It’s also quite full of politics and intrigue. I tend to associate political fantasy more with drier, adult fantasy works. But in every scene all of the political information is conveyed through action or a character’s internal revelation. Everything we see moves the plot forward and nothing is lost in dry descriptions. There wasn’t a moment where I felt like there was a pointless scene or chapter. This is a book written and delivered with deliberate and careful intent.
We have multi-POV’s and, while this book is very long, I actually appreciated that as it allows for the reader to truly connect with the characters and to understand their intricacies and nuances. Ash and Jenna are our more obvious “good guys,” and they are good and worthy characters. Heroes to root for! But I found myself much more drawn to the ambiguous, more unknowable characters of Lila and Destin. Neither character is clear in their motivations, and their actions are much less black and white. I can forego losing the nuances of good and evil with the archetypal evil king when we have main characters who bring all that nuance and more.
I can’t forget to mention that this book is downright funny. Cinda Williams Chima has a wonderful sense of humor and that really shines in this volume. I particularly enjoyed her sly reference to the “TSTL” criticism often leveled at characters. At one point when Lila is caught in a jam she reflects, “I really am too stupid to live.” The self reflection and internal narrative of the characters is like that. The interaction between is also writ with such humor. Banter city, my friends.
There is a little bit of romance in this book, but it is not prominent. The two characters don’t even meet until more than halfway through the book! And while it is a little bit on the instalove side of things, Williams Chima is an author of enough talent to make me find that I don’t even mind. It’s cute and banter-y so I’m on-board. I’m actually very interested in the ship potential of Destin and Lila. The wary, mysterious spy master and his erstwhile, sarcastic, bad ass unknowable spy? Sign me up.
I will say that you do not need to have any familiarity at all with the previous series before jumping into this one. I think it definitely helps provide more of an emotional gut punch for the opening chapters, and there are little touches throughout that readers of the previous series will enjoy seeing. But overall, newcomers are welcomed!
This is one of the best YA fantasy novels I’ve read in ages. The writing is level and capable. The characters are fully realized and engaging. The plot has constant forward momentum. It even manages some narrative surprises that I did not see coming! This is especially saying something considering the presence of so many traditional fantasy tropes. The author makes what is often rote fresh and enjoyable. When you’re next looking for a YA fantasy to dive into, this the one you’ll want to grab.