3.5+ out of 5 stars
I loved “The Seven Realms” series, and am quite happy with this return to Chima’s Queendom of the Fells.
Flamecaster picks up 20 years after the previous series ends, with the magical education of Adrian s’ul Han, known as Ash. Ash is the son of Queen Raisa and Han, the paramour protagonists of “The Seven Realms” novels. (Sigh. That was a great ship.) Ash is a mage, a healer, and in his free time, an assassin. Yes, you like this already.
His counterpart is Jenna Bandelow, former child laborer in the mines of Arden, now grown into a feisty rebel against the King’s brutal rule. She bears a magemark – a metal-esque raised birthmark at the back of her neck. Her adoptive father doesn’t know what it means, only that it cannot be good.
Ash and Jenna are thrown together by circumstance, each of them trying to kill the King of Arden. Their relationship blooms when magic slips between them – magic neither of them understands. And before they can learn more, a mysterious Empress offers Arden a huge ransom to claim Jenna as their own.
The setting of Flamecaster is as good as ever – detailed, gritty, awash in magic and religion without any of the boring tropes those themes often bring. Ash and Jenna have great backstories and motivations, and they face convincing threats. Jenna is funny too, as is Lila, a mysterious pirate/patriot girl. They’re both sassy and bring sparkle to the dialogue.
My complaint is that Ash and Jenna get together too easily. it was obviously coming, and I guess I wanted it to, but despite their dire circumstances, they don’t have enough conflict. They don’t earn it. Jenna uses the word “love” about five figurative minutes (okay, five days-ish) after meeting Ash. It struck me as so pat and convenient, brushed over for the sake of speeding the story along. Like Chima thought it wasn’t worth doing the work there.
Otherwise, I really enjoyed this book, and the end got pretty crazy. Whatever Jenna’s truth is appears to be pretty exciting, and I look forward to reading the second book, Shadowcaster.