The Heir Chronicles (The Warrior Heir, The Wizard Heir, The Dragon Heir)

By Cinda Williams Chima [Chima at LibraryThing]

Underlying the world we know is a world of magic users – a handful of lesser guilds, ruled over by the powerful and ruthless wizards. For centuries, the wizards have been forcing magical warriors into deadly tournaments to avoid confronting each other directly and starting an all-out wizard war. That all changes in The Warrior Heir, when Jack Swift, an ordinary high school student, discovers that he may be the last warrior alive – and every wizard in the world wants to use him or kill him. Jack is thrust into the wizard tournament, and wizard society is subsequently turned in its head. In The Wizard Heir, the immensely powerful young wizard Seph McCauley finds himself a pawn in the growing wizard war, thanks to a magical lineage he doesn’t even know about. And in The Dragon Heir, the fate of everything may just rest in the hands of the seemingly-unmagical Madison Moss, who is trying to fight both her growing attraction to Seph and the destructive power she holds over him. If the magical world is to be saved, Madison must figure out her place in the ancient legends before the other side gets their hands on her.

There’s something odd about these books. All three are very, very long, and very, very dense. Whenever I was actively reading them, I was totally engrossed and completely enjoying the story. I didn’t want to put them down. However, when I did put them down, I always had to force myself to pick them back up again. They were so long and so dense (and contained a far higher ratio of soul searching and angst to action than I prefer) that it was a struggle to get through them, even though I enjoyed the experience of actually reading them. It was sort of like exercising is for me: I like it when I’m doing it, and I’m always glad afterwards, but it’s like pulling teeth to get me there.

On top of that, these books completely slipped my mind when considering my backlog of Books to Be Reviewed. Seriously, I read them months ago and completely forgot about them immediately afterwards, even though I have another book of Chima’s sitting in my TBR pile. So I clearly have some sort of inexplicable mental block about these books, but I’ll try to do my best to review them anyway.

First off, the worldbuilding is great. I love the guild system, with its different types of “Weir,” or magic-users: emotion-manipulating enchanters, amulet-crafting sorcerers, precognitive seers, magically strong and durable warriors, and spell-speaking wizards. I love the allegorical legend explaining the origin of the guilds, and the way it turns out to be not so allegorical after all. I love the complicated history of the wizards, interwoven with real history. Good times, all of it.

Now for the characters. Jack is a perfectly decent if somewhat boring Everyboy of a protagonist. I was a little annoyed when he was thrust out of the spotlight in favor of a completely different protagonist for the second book, but Seph is also a perfectly decent protagonist, angstier and more arrogant, which makes him both more interesting and less likeable than Jack. The third book is divided between several protagonists, but mostly Madison and clever but low-power wizard Jason Haley. I found them to be my favorite protagonists – more interesting than Jack, more likeable than Seph – but hoo boy, they both spend a lot of time angsting and completely failing to communicate with the other characters in order to forward the plot. This is wildly frustrating, since it means they do a lot of idiotic things they would have avoided if they’d just talked to other people. I hate that. In general, the angsting is my biggest problem with the book, because all the characters spend a lot of time worrying the same issues like a dog with a bone. I feel like a hundred pages of very repetitive “who can I trust” or “oh no I am a monster” agony could have been easily cut from each book. Maybe it would have made them easier for me to get through.

There’s also a somewhat weird pattern of women being used or traded or otherwise treated as valuable possessions and/or weapons, at least as far as important, magical women go. Jack’s Aunt Linda is an enchanter and as such, though she is one of the major movers and shakers of the series and in fact can be credited with setting the whole thing into motion, is also very much something the wizards want to possess as a fun sex toy, since that’s how they view enchanters. Madison is sought by both sides in the final war because they know how powerful she is, although not why. Alicia Middleton, a teenage wizard, is introduced as a spy who dates Jack in order to keep an eye on him for the powerful wizards who want to use him in the tournament; she is redeemed in the third book, but the redemption involves her being pulled back and forth between the interests of powerful male wizards, working both sides while wearing, essentially, a slave collar. And show

All four are powerful characters who take action for themselves throughout the series, but the fact that the plot considers all four of them not just in terms of their power as subjects, but their power as objects, made me a little uncomfortable.

Anyway. Despite my difficulties getting through the books (and remembering that I had done so), I did, you know, actually really like them, and I’m glad I forced myself to finish. Four cupcakes.

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