(Cover picture courtesy of the author’s website.)
One day Han Alister catches three young wizard setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet away from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to ensure the boy won’t use it against him. The amulet once belonged to the Demon King, who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece so powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Princess Raisa ana’Marianna has her own battle to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of riding and hunting with her father’s family. Raisa aspires to be like Hanalea, the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But it seems that her mother has other plans for her—plans that include a suitor who goes against everything the Queendom stands for.
The Seven Realms will tremble when the lives of Han and Raisa collide in this stunning page-turner from best-selling author Cinda Williams Chima.
I’ve had my eye on this book pretty much since it came out. It intrigued me to a point because it had potential to be a great book but I just never really got around to reading it. Then I found it in the used section of my local bookstore and decided to give it a go. Why not? It could be pretty good. The blurb certainly had potential.
First off, is this the best fantasy novel I’ve read, like ever? No, it doesn’t rank in the top 10 of all time if I’m honest but it definitely has a place in the top 20. Considering I’ve averaged 200 books read per year (and a significant amount of them being fantasy) that’s still pretty good. The Demon King won’t absolutely blow your mind, but I think most people will enjoy it.
My favourite thing about The Demon King was the world-building. Cinda Williams Chima doesn’t immediately try to tell you everything about the seven realms. No, instead she lets the characters reveal the background a little more organically. Raisa (the princess), for example, often tries to discover more about the history of the Fells so she can be a better ruler when she assumes the throne. Han Alister (Hunts Alone), on the other hand, helps us learn more about the history of the tension between wizards and the Clan who make the magical amulets after the rise of the Demon King. I like how instead of going for the traditional Medieval European castle-filled fantasy, The Demon King is more of a mixture of cultures. There are a lot of elements of Native American cultures as well as more Eastern values present in Fellsmarch, the capital. You even learn that in the southern kingdoms there are more traditionally Medieval European values when it comes to the church’s control over women.
Not everyone will like the characters, but I couldn’t help cheering for Raisa and Han. I cheered for Han because I loved the whole reformed-thief/streetlord angle as he tried to stay on the straight and narrow. Alas, fate would not really let him and it costs him dearly. Raisa is probably my favourite character in the whole novel. She doesn’t want to be this perfect princess who is stifled by her mother but at the same time she knows how to fake the social graces. So many rebellious princesses in stories can’t even do that, but Raisa knows when to fight and when to back down and play her role. Unlike a lot of YA protagonists, Raisa also knows how to act fairly well. She can lie convincingly, what a novel concept!
The plot was the weak point of The Demon King. It was pretty slow in the beginning but there were times when the pace was ridiculously fast. It sort of jumped all over the place which isn’t really what you want in a novel. I don’t mind the occasional jump, but generally speaking I like a smooth transition to the climax as the author slowly ramps up the tension. That doesn’t really happen in The Demon King.
At the end of the day I usually judge books on whether I want to read the rest of the series/trilogy or not. It just so happens that I do want to read The Exiled Queen. Badly. There was quite a cliffhanger at the end and I have a feeling that the second book is going to be even better than The Demon King, especially with that huge reveal at the end. As I said in my introduction to the novel, this is not the greatest fantasy book you’ll ever read. It probably won’t rank in the top 10. At the same time, it is a worthwhile read and I can’t wait to see where the series goes.
I give this book 3.5/5 stars.