Cinda Williams Chima – The Exiled Queen

Spoiler Warning – Contains spoilers for Demon King and Exiled Queen

The second book in an epic fantasy series from Cinda Williams Chima. Adventure, magic, war and ambition conspire to throw together an unlikely group of companions in a struggle to save their world.

You can’t always run from danger…

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 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 soon 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.

The Exiled Queen is an epic tale of uncertain friendships, cut-throat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.

Like the first installment in this trilogy, The Demon King, I enjoyed this book and finished it in a few days. The second installment plunges straight in where the last book left off, and again finishes with a cliffhanger leaving you looking forward to the next book. But I am still finding the books slightly frustrating.

I mentioned the characters are slightly too perfect in the last review, and they seem to be following the same vein. While they’re being explored a little more in-depth in this installment, and are developing physically and skill-wise, emotionally they seem to be in the same place they were in the last book.

The books are also romance-heavy. While they should be centered on a political power struggle between the Queendom of the Fells and the Wizards,  the love-triangle between Hans, Raisa and Amon dominates the plot. I really enjoy the world that Chima has crafted, and the rich history to go with it, so I am starting to find Raisa’s “torn between two men” dilemma grating, and the inclusion of Amon unnecessary. A relationship between the two main characters would actually have been interesting enough, considering their backgrounds and current predicament.

There are also a couple of mentions of Raisa’s physical limitations, namely physical strength, which really irritated me. If you’re going to point it out in your female characters I suggest you don’t have marvelously brawny, handsome men swanning about all over the place, lest it come across as sexist.

Suffice to say, when the fate of the world depends on three young people who spend a great deal of time making goo-goo eyes at each other, we’re in trouble.

I read this a few weeks ago, so it’s the sort of book that keeps me interested enough when actually reading, while the flaws tend to annoy me only after I have had a good think about it, and I will be reading the last installment due out shortly.

Rating: ★★★½☆