“Love is the root of so much suffering and misery, so much loss. It’s the worst thing in the world, to risk yourself by loving someone. At the same time, it’s the best thing in the world—and worth the risk.”
Blurb (Goodreads)- Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. The son of the queen of the Fells, Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it?
Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.
Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.
Thoughts- You all probably know how much I adored the Seven Realms series by Chinda Williams Chima, so when I finally got my hands on Flamecaster, which is a continuation of the original series set 20 years later… I was ecstatic.
The story follows both Ash and Jenna, with alternating perspectives. I really appreciated how distinct the two voices were, and how easily the reader can see character progression in both of our protagonists. A lot happens in this book, because the Shattered Realms series won’t follow Ash and Jenna in the second, but rather Ash’s younger sister Alyssa. So, in a sense Flamecaster was a standalone fantasy novel which accounts for some of my mixed feelings.
Of course, I still loved the book as a whole because I love Chima’s writing style and her world building, but my main issue with this book is that I never felt nearly as attached to the characters compared to her previous series. Individually, Ash and Jenna are fantastic characters with extremely heartbreaking pasts (especially Ash, and you know why if you’ve read it), who each have their own morals that they’re trying to protect.
Out of the two of them, I connected with Ash better, and enjoyed his story line as a whole more. Throughout the book, Ash is on a mission to kill the King of Arden for disrupting his family, and you can truly see him grappling with the good vs. evil side of the mission he’s on. He’s snarky, stupidly brave at times, and very cunning which makes him fun to read. For me, Jenna grew flat by the end of the novel. Her character started out strong with her backstory of working in the mines, but by the end I was indifferent towards her. I feel like it’s because her mysterious power is shown but never actually explained, which bothers me.
What accounts for the majority of my mixed feelings is the romance. It is a very quick romance, and while I applaud Chima’s ability of writing a quick developing romance without it seeming like insta-love, Jenna and Ash’s story line together bugs me. While reading the book, I noticed that their relationship gets intense quite quickly, which struck me as odd. There is a plot twist that had the fast paced romance making sense, but I simply didn’t care for it as much as I liked Han and Raisa. The reader doesn’t have enough time to get to know the main characters as individuals before making them an item.
However, the plot, like Chima’s other novels, highly entertained me. There is so much political conflict and tension as we spend the majority of the novel inside Arden. It was interesting to see how terrible the King of Arden was first hand. Throughout the book there’s blood sucking priests, sabotage, dragons, and walking the line between life and death. It’s a wild ride!
Overall, Flamecaster was an extremely solid start to a new series, and a nice revisit to the Seven Realms world. It might have suffered from an awkward romance (which did grow on me by the very end), but the separate characters and fantastic plot line make up for it. If you’ve read the entire Seven Realms series, I highly recommend picking up this first book in the Shattered Realms series!