Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review: The Exiled Queen by Cinda Chima Williams

The Exiled Queen by Cinda Chima Williams
Publisher: Hyperion
Release Date: September 24th 2010
My Goodreads rating: 3.5/5
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.

Right. So, if you’re my friend on GR you might have already seen my review of The Exiled Queen. But that chunk of writing is really only half of the review, and it’s the negative half! The good news? Pretty much all the great stuff ties in with some awesome representation. So brace yourselves, things are about to get happy.

Now, just in case you don’t know anything about this series – let me tell you one of my absolute fave facts about it. Raisa, our female protagonist, is heir to the Gray Wolf throne…and do you know what they call the Gray Wolf lands of The Fells…THEY CALL IT A QUEENDOM. BECAUSE QUEENS RULE THERE.



So yes, I instantly knew I’d like this series way back when before I had even read The Demon King.

It’s no real surprise then that the cast is full of ladies, and lots of different types of ladies as well. Some may be bad guys, some may be a bit dumb, some may be tough. There is a huge variety here, and while Raisa is absolutely our main character – a lot of the other ladies feel like they are being built up to have a much bigger role later on. I am so down with that. SO DOWN. Bird, for example, only pops up at the end. Surely we’re gonna get more Demonai Bird?? Fiona Bayar definitely still feels like a bad guy, but she’s a bad guy that is going to do her own THANG. RIGHT? And what about Cat? Tough as nails Cat? Hell, even the Queen surprised me at the end there. Is she made of sterner stuff than first appeared? OR IS IT ALL A TRAP?

All the ladies. ALL THE POSSIBILITIES. (Although it really is mostly Raisa in this particular book...so I guess most of my excitement in this regard is for the future?)

I would like to see more girls interacting with girls though. Raisa does befriend Hallie and Tallia, but the two of them never feel like full blooded characters. Whereas Han has Dancer, who feels much more central (although I'd like more Dancer too tbh).

There is some cool world-building in this book as well, and the broadening of the world was one of my favourite aspects of the read. Raisa's journey to the school was actually my favourite part of the novel, funnily enough, even though it came right at the start. Williams descriptions of the lands they passed through were incredibly vivid The gang spend the novel at Oden’s Ford, essentially a school for wizards/soldiers etc. It is full of characters from all over the Seven Realms, and it was really cool to see how differently other lands viewed women, as opposed to how they are viewed in the Fells. Obviously, Han is used to the Gray Wolf Queens and the Camp Matriarch’s. These other lands, however, are more used to the ‘traditional’ women’s roles, to varying degrees. It was great seeing Raisa interact with these people. I loved how their ignorance was portrayed as ignorance. Williams left no doubt as to whose opinion we were supposed to agree with which, obviously, but I think it’s important that it was made very clear. I think it would be really cool to meet some awesome women from the other realms later in the series. All the awesome ones seem to be from The Fells. But just because the other realms are sexist, doesn’t mean the ladies ain’t badasses!

This was all backed up most blatantly in a scene where one of Raisa’s instructors, who is NOT from the Fells, and who she had previously shown up, attempts to assault her while he’s drunk. This scene was both good and bad. Good, because I feared Han was going to step in and save her, but Raisa saves herself. Huzzah. Bad because it wasn’t really needed, and I’m always a bit twitchy when it comes to attempted/sexual assault in fiction. Unless there’s a REALLY good reason, I think it should generally be avoided.

I continue to love how Raisa can happily be kissing different boys and she is never shamed for doing so. Not by other characters, and certainly not by the author. It’s really refreshing to see that! She’s free to have what fun she wants. Ten million cheers to that. While I was a bit disappointed with the pacing of my ship, I cannot complain about the author giving her characters this freedom. Raisa is constantly encouraged to get out there and meet guys because ‘you don’t have to marry them.’ YES. More of this message in YA fiction. Safe, consensual relationships with boys are A-OK, kids.

We also have a lesbian relationship in this book! It is a relationship between two supporting characters, so it’s sadly not central. However, I still appreciated how it was portrayed…and that was POSITIVELY. At no point did the two characters have to deal with any prejudice. It’s just the way things are. We do get a mention of how the character that ISN’T from the Fells (one of them is) is not so used to their sexuality being so open. But outside of her home, she is free to be this person.

Race is touched upon too. Not in the same sense as it would be in our world, but Dancer and other clan born have to deal with slurs shot their way and racial stereotyping. It’s not really tackled in depth in this book, but I’m certain it will come into play later in the series. I’m excited to see how Williams handles it.

Once again, this has me excited for more worldbuilding. Clearly the Fells is the place to be, but I want to see these other places!

To sum up: I was actually quite disappointed with this book because I had such high expectations. Really, it has no plot. That said, it is still a series that I would 100% recommend because QUEENDOM etc.

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