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 he’s left danger 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 she needs to succede as the next Gray Wolf queen.
Everything changes when Han’s and Raisa’s paths cross, in this epic tale of uncertain friendships, cutthroat politics, and the irresistible power of attraction.
The Demon King, by Cinda Williams Chima ended with our two protagonists heading south; Han to Mystwerk House to harness his recently released wizarding gifts in preparation for using them to serve the Clans and Raisa to Oden’s Ford to learn military skills while hiding from the Bayar’s and a forced marriage to Micah that would’ve sparked war between the Clans and Wizards. In book two, The Exiled Queen, both faces new challenges and dangers are around every corner. But it’s when they run into each other and a relationship develops that all hell breaks loose.
I quickly fell in love with The Exiled Queen for many of the same reasons I loved the first book. Raisa’s wit had me cracking up and the humorous tone to some of Han’s mishaps had me laughing as well. Raisa and Han do have more contact in this book than the first one, although Han still doesn’t know who she is–I can’t wait for that hammer to drop–and the attraction that was apparent in their first encounter is explored further as their relationship grows. The fact that a blooded princess of the Fells is forbidden to marry a wizard gives a tragic tinge to the relationship, but I enjoyed the banter and exchanges all the less.
The pacing of the book is incredibly well done, especially with the last few chapters. I had gotten so used to Raisa and Micah being in the same general vicinity that when Micah finally found her it was quite a shock. From that point on it was impossible to put the book down. I won’t spoil what happens, but I will say that Micah hasn’t changed. Han’s side of the story was very intriguing, especially as he seems besieged on all sides by people who want to use him; the Clans, the Dean of Mystwerk, and a mysterious wizard who contacts him in Aediion–a dream world–and offers to train and aid him against the Bayars.
Crow is one of the most mysterious and well crafted characters that I’ve come across. You don’t trust him from the moment he offers to help Han and the longer you see him, the stronger this sense becomes. I wanted to know who he was, but Chima managed to keep his identity from me and I was constantly switching my theories. While Han’s final encounter with Crow suggests that he isn’t a wizard at Mystwerk as he claims–Han realizes that he doesn’t have magic–we don’t learn who, or what he is. Is Crow a wizard that was trapped in Aediion long ago? Something else? And why does he hate the Bayars? None of these questions are answered, but there are two more books in the series so I won’t give up hope yet.
The Exiled Queen is an interesting, well-paced adventure that ends much as the first book did, only in reverse. Han has been called back to the Clans to fight against the wizards and must keep this from the Dean. Raisa–who finds herself on her own–must hurry back home before the wizards force a succession, place her sister on the throne, and marry her to Micah, causing a civil war. I can’t wait to see if Han and Raisa succeed in their quests and I look forward to when they meet again.