Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Length: 586 pages
Source: Library Book
Haunted by the loss of his mother and sister, Han Alister journeys south to begin his schooling at Mystwerk House in Oden’s Ford. But leaving the Fells doesn’t mean that danger isn't far behind. Han is hunted every step of the way by the Bayars, a powerful wizarding family set on reclaiming the amulet Han stole from them. And Mystwerk House has dangers of its own. There, Han meets Crow, a mysterious wizard who agrees to tutor Han in the darker parts of sorcery—but the bargain they make is one Han may regret.
Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna runs from a forced marriage in the Fells, accompanied by her friend Amon and his triple of cadets. Now, the safest place for Raisa is Wein House, the military academy at Oden's Ford. If Raisa can pass as a regular student, Wein House will offer both sanctuary and the education Raisa needs to succeed as the next Gray Wolf queen.
Everything changes when Han and Raisa’s paths cross, in this epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.
Protagonists: When we left off on this journey both Raisa and Han were travelling to Oden's Ford to seek schooling there and escape their lives in the Fells. Raisa finds that she likes not being treated like a princess every day and actually having to work hard to get the things she wants. Her drive to be a better leader and Queen than her mother grows as she learns new things in Oden's Ford. She becomes a stronger character both physically and mentally learning the hard truths about her people's suffering and doing all she can, while doing her best not to expose her true identity, to help them. Han is on his way to learn magic alongside his best friend Dancer. but crossing paths with the Bayars isn't what he had hoped for. While in Oden's Ford Han makes a lasting impression on some of the staff. Soon he finds himself caught in a dangerous game as the Wizards and Clan folk try and use him as a puppet. I love both these characters, once again their paths don't cross quite as much as I would have liked and they do have completely separate stories from each other, but the times where their paths do cross, they're good for each other, they challenge each other and help the other grow as an individual.
Romance: To say the romance in this series is complicated is an understatement. Honestly I'm not sure where I stand. There are a lot of complications with any of these romances. First off, Amon and Raisa can't be together due to the vows Amon made to protect the Gray Wolf line and the measures put in place that keep them apart. That won't stop the attraction however, an attraction that can only lead to heartbreak. Then there's Han and Raisa, who at first only have a subtle romance, like the first book, commenting on the other's features, but as the story goes on something begins to develop, but it's not like they could get together either, Han's a wizard, and while his intentions might be pure and he has, at least for the most part, the love of the clans, he's still a wizard. Plus there's the whole fact that both parties are keeping secrets from the other, and that too con only spell disaster in the end. Again, I don't know where I stand, hopefully there will be some sort of way everyone can have a happy ending, but as it looks now, I don't know if that'll ever happen.
World-Building: One of the things I love best about this series is that the world-building is so expansive. There are seven realms in this land and as of this book we've only really gotten a good look at two of them. Going into this book I thought it'd be a quick trip to Oden's Ford for both parties, but it turned out to take longer than I expected. On their journeys, specifically Han's, we see a lot of Arden, and learn about the prejudices there against wizards, and find out more about the civil war among the princes. War is coming to this world in many ways. First there's the war between the realms which looks to be getting ever closer to becoming a reality, and then there's a war that hits closer to home in the Fells, between the wizards and clan. Unfortunately our heroes somehow find their way right in the middle of everything. What we learn most about though are the schools in Oden's Ford, about the magic the wizards carry, and we are given some particularly intriguing foreshadowing to future installments.
Predictability: So I'm kind of mad. There is a huge mystery at the heart of this book, something with what looks to be a lot of foreshadowing surrounding it, something I'm convinced I know the answer to, and there's no reveal in this book. Now, I'm not mad enough to start knocking off stars for it, but it's really evil to keep readers in suspense like that. Plus, again, while my theory would probably sound crazy, I'm convinced I'm right and that just makes waiting to find out all the more aggravating. As for everything else, the author does an amazing job of weaving in foreshadowing without making anything too obvious, as well as add in those twists from no where that begin to make sense the more they're digested. I'm also not completely used to high fantasies apparently, or it's a genre that has no real set patterns or story telling formula, which makes it harder to predict where things are going.
Ending: This ending is one gigantic ball of chaos. Granted it's organized chaos, but chaos nonetheless. As this installment winds down, it also starts to build up again to prepare for the next book in this series. In fact there isn't really any cooldown in this ending. There are lulls, sure, but for the most part this ending is high intensity chaotic goodness that works to set up the next adventure in this series.
I love this book to pieces, much like the first installment, the pacing starts off pretty slow, but once the ball gets rolling it's hard to stop. I'm cursing myself for thinking I could wait about a month between installments, I guess I'll have to do some adjusting to my July TBR because there's no way I'm waiting two months to complete this series!