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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 escaping the Fells doesn't mean danger is 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 Grey Wolf queen.
The stage has been set, the characters introduced, and audience attentions gained... now it's time for the real adventure to begin as both Han Allister and Raisa get settled in to the academy in Oden's Ford. Here, they cross paths once more while they learn more about their abilities and how to push themselves in preparation for what lies ahead. The romance that blooms in a few places and the battle scenes are somewhat predictable, especially if you're well versed in the fantasy genre, but written in a way that keeps you captivated and allows you to turn a blind eye to the predictability. Cinda Williams Chima has written a very detailed, intriguing style of fantasy with a well painted world and captivating characters you'll learn to love along with a storyline that will sweep you on until the very last page. It was nice to have something fresh and gripping that doesn't involve anything relating to supernatural creatures for a change.
I loved how some of the background characters started to move forwards in this book, becoming a stronger part of the plot than they had originally appeared to be in the first book, "The Demon King", and how some of the seemingly "bad guys" start to show hints of not being as fully seated on the bad side of the fence as they first appeared. The two main characters, Raisa and Han, are definitely growing up within this book. Raisa goes from being a ditzy, boy-focused, self-centered brat to a strong-willed, independent, smart and confident young woman who shows great potential for leading her Queendom, while Han changes from a cocky street rat not really going anywhere and who's always getting into trouble to a confident and very talented young wizard still forever getting into trouble, (some things you just can't change! ;-P), as he is pulled in several different directions by several people demanding different (and in some cases, contradicting) tasks of him.
This is definitely a series where you need to read them in the correct order, otherwise you will miss quite a bit of the backstory which will then leave big holes and a lot of questions as you continue, but each book is as fascinating as the other and there is action, love, adventure, magic, and politics aplenty. If you have read any of Chima's other books, or enjoy a good fantasy series, then this is a series that is well worth a read... just make sure you have plenty of spare time put aside, because this is a book that is very hard to put down once you get started!
Random listing from 'Books'...
The prince makes everyone around him feel as small as a castle mouse. One morning he awakes to discover a big problem: he has shrunk! He demands that the cook, gardener and laundrywoman help him grow, but the crosser and meaner he gets, the smaller he becomes. Only by making his heart bigger can he feel tall again.
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"Character - the willingness to accept responsibility for one's own life - is the source from which self respect springs."
Joan Didion (1934 - ), 'Slouching Towards Bethlehem'