Genre: Fantasy, YA
Publisher: Disney Hyperion on September 24, 2010
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.
THE EXILED QUEEN begins right where the series left off, with our narrators Raisa and Han on the run. Not together, of course…but since apparently all roads lead to Oden’s Ford it’s only a matter of time until they’re face-to-face once more.
Oden’s Ford is such a great setting: a large series of boarding schools dedicated to training temple acolytes, soldiers, and wizards collected under one academy banner. That’s right folks – we’ve got ourselves a magic/soldier school hybrid. Is there anything more fun and delightfully trope-y than that? I could probably read a whole book just about Oden’s Ford.
But magic/soldier school is just the back drop for the real action in THE EXILED QUEEN. For Han, the school represents an opportunity for an education denied him as a member of the urban poor; more importantly though, it offers him an opportunity for revenge against the Bayars, the corrupt wizarding family he encountered in the series opener. Chima spends considerable time developing Han’s abilities and the importance of his amulet – and its infamous history – are also explored.
Raisa is much more frustrated with her time at Oden’s Ford since it requires her to be isolated from the political rumblings of the capital and separated from her mother, the weakening Queen. But soon after her arrival, Raisa begins to see the wisdom in a Princess attending the academy; learning about military history, mingling with students from many walks of life, and hearing firsthand accounts of the different cultures of the Seven Realms can only help her become the best ruler possible. The self-defense training she gets isn’t too shabby, either.
So both Han and Raisa learn a lot about the world and themselves. Three cheers for world building and character development!
If only the plot had been more compelling. Sure, there are some insanely swoon-worthy romantic sub-plots developing and alliances being forged…but isn’t that just the way things go at school? Cinda Williams Chima’s world building is outstanding and kept me enthralled while I was reading, but writing this review it occurs to me how little actually happened in THE EXILED QUEEN. If I had to describe this instalment in one word I’d choose “shifts.” The political climate, individual powers, and the personal relationships of Han and Raisa both shift dramatically but little else of note occurs; clearly this book is setting up a much more action-packed third book.
My only other real issue with this series is how slow the stories start out. It felt like the true action in THE EXILED QUEEN (can it even be called action? It may be more accurate to call it scheming and machinations) didn’t begin until well after the first hundred pages. And it took even longer than that for Han and Raisa’s paths to converge! I get that they’re living very different lives and have their own individual plot lines, but come on.
Ultimately a very well written and creative book, but THE EXILED QUEEN should not be described as plot-driven.