Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Length: 458 pages
Source: Purchased Book
Sixteen-year-old Seph McCauley has spent the past three years getting kicked out of one exclusive private school after another. And it's not his attitude that's the problem. It's the trail of magical accidents-lately, disasters-that follow in his wake. Seph is a wizard, orphaned and untrained--and his powers are escalating out of control.
After causing a tragic fire at an after-hours party, Seph is sent to the Havens, a secluded boys' school on the coast of Maine. At first, it seems like the answer to his prayers. Gregory Leicester, the headmaster, promises to train Seph in magic and initiate him into his mysterious order of wizards. But Seph's enthusiasm dampens when he learns that training comes at a steep cost, and that Leicester plans to use his students' powers to serve his own dangerous agenda.
In this companion novel to the exciting fantasy The Warrior Heir, everyone's got a secret to keep: Jason Haley, a fellow student who's been warned to keep away from Seph; the enchanter Linda Downey, who knew his parents; the rogue wizard Leander Hastings, and the warriors Jack Swift and Ellen Stephenson. This wizard war is one that Seph may not have the strength to survive.
Protagonist: Seph McCauley has had trouble follow him all his life. As an untrained wizard, he can't quite control his powers which have led to him getting kicked out of quite a few boarding schools. Then after an incident where his powers get extremely out of control, he's transferred to the Havens, an elite boarding school, where the headmaster promises to train Seph in wizardry, but after learning the steep cost Seph isn't willing to play in Leicester's political games. Leicester then resorts to less pleasant tactics to push Seph onto his side, how long can Seph hold out before he gives in? I really loved the change of pace with main characters this time around. In The Warrior Heir, we have a main character completely oblivious to the magical world, whereas here Seph at least has a remedial knowledge of the Weir. I loved seeing the comparison and contrast between both main characters as the story goes on. They're both extremely loyal to those who prove themselves worthy, but where Jack has always been a bit cautious Seph takes greater risks, usually getting himself into trouble along the way. Overall, I really liked Seph and as with the first installment this isn't just told from his point of view, we get a great array of fantastically written characters to show off this wonderful story.
Romance: There is a bit of a romance in this book, I don't want to get too much into detail because if I say too much I will spoil something, but I do want to just talk in general about how this author handles romance, or maybe more specifically how she handles it with this series, though this is really applicable to her Seven Realms series as well. I love how this author writes romance, it's not some race to a finish line, it's realistic and complicated. This author doesn't resort to tropes to move along her romances, though there isn't necessarily anything wrong with that, I just enjoy the breath of fresh air. In this book, the romance is very light yet still a rather large presence in the plot, quite possibly even more than the first installment. Like I said before, I don't want to spoil anything so I'll just sum it up by saying that I love how this author shows this couple getting to know each other, showing how they care for one another, instead of trying to cram a bunch of milestones into one book and hoping that will convey the characters' feelings.
World-Building: With the previous installment in this series ending in a fairly tied up way I was interested in seeing how the plot could be moved forward. When this story begins not that much time has gone by since the end of the previous book, and while it takes a while to truly get there, after a while the main plot begins to form and thicken. Telling this story from the main point of view was interesting, though, with Jack's mixed situation, it was a rather smooth transition. We learn more about the wizard guild in this book, not too much mind you, but more what's happened since the spectacle at Raven's Ghyll. The wizards are in disarray as they don't know how to allocate power anymore. The really interesting part is how this story ties in with the story and the characters from Book 1, which it does. Again, I don't want to give away spoilers, but I will say that it doesn't happen right away but eventually this story begins to feel less like a companion novel and more like a sequel as things are revealed and this story comes to a head.
Predictability: I'm sure I've said it before, I've probably said it a hundred times by know, but Chima really knows what she's doing in terms of foreshadowing. Even the stuff that's incredibly obvious seems to be orchestrated that way. It feels almost like a trap so you don't see the really twisted stuff that comes up later on. As this story unfolds it becomes obvious what the major secrets are, maybe not the answers but you know what things are most likely going to be answered by the end of this book. That being said there were a few things that I instantly knew once the smallest crumb of foreshadowing was revealed, and there were things that I either didn't know or didn't think about hard enough that really caught me by surprise.
Ending: Going into the home stretch I expected things to be a bit more like the previous installment, where everything wraps up well enough, but there are still problems to face in the next adventure. That being said, while the final climax does wrap a few things up it opens up the story so much more. There are far more cliffhangers at the end of this book than I expected. I do know that originally the third book in this series was meant to be the finale so that being said I should have figured a much more intense ending to this story. the ending itself is a great way to finish off the main story going on in this installment, while at the same time showing that there is still more to come by foreshadowing some things that I'm sure will be addressed in the next, and originally final, installment.
This wasn't necessarily a surprise to me, I expected to love this book, however I think I actually loved it more that the first one and I cannot wait to see what adventures await our heroes in The Dragon Heir.