The Exiled Queen

By Cinda Williams Chima [LibraryThingGoodreads]

In order to escape being forced into a politically and emotionally disastrous marriage, Princess Raisa flees her queendom and enrolls in Oden’s Ford, a school that caters neutrally to all of the Seven Realms, under an assumed name. Meanwhile, ex-thief Hanson Allister, having discovered that he is a wizard, also travels to Oden’s Ford to learn the magic he’ll need to protect the clans, the closest thing to a family he has left. When they meet, the attraction that sparked between them once before becomes a relationship, but conspiracy gathers around each of them, and they’ll be lucky to make it out of Oden’s Ford alive, let alone together.

Every time I review one of Cinda Williams Chima’s books, I wind up mentioning that they are overly long and super dense. Guess what? This one is too! So it’s supposed to be about Han and Raisa and their adventures at this school, right? It takes 192 pages to get them both to school. That’s an entire book! They bump into each other two pages later, but then don’t encounter each other again until page 384. That’s another entire book! I just. Like. Chima’s writing is compelling and I really enjoy the characters and the world-building, but Jiminy Cricket there is no reason it should be that long. Someone needs to edit these down to 400 pages.

My other issue with the book is…okay, you know that part in every single Harry Potter book where Harry decides to take advice from a diary or textbook or person or something that is patently evil, and every single one of his loved ones tells him not to, and he does it anyway, and then – gasp! – he is betrayed? That’s how much of this book felt. But Harry gets away with it because he’s pretty young for most of the books, and doesn’t really understand how people work. Chima spends a lot of time talking about how Han used to be a thief and a streetlord, and how he knows people and understands schemes and can’t be surprised and knows how to take care of himself, yet he stills spends hundreds of pages walking into not one but two obvious traps. And I am not good at spotting twists and turns, so if I knew they were traps, believe me, they were obvious. It wouldn’t have bothered me nearly as much if he wasn’t supposed to be so streetwise, but as it was, he wound up looking like an idiot.

All that said, I really, really enjoyed this book. I’ve already covered a lot of what I like about this series, but in short: I like Han and Raisa and a bunch of the supporting characters a lot, and I find the worldbuilding fascinating (although I forgot a lot of what was established in the first book, and could’ve used a quick refresher). I am totally hooked by the romance and even more hooked by the adventure, which is always a good sign. My main complaint is that I have to wait until fall for the next one (unless I manage to snag it at BookExpo for the third year running). In the meantime, The Exiled Queen gets a respectable four cupcakes.

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