The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima
Published: October 6th 2009
Times are hard in the mountain city of Fellsmarch. Reformed thief Han Alister will do almost anything to eke out a living for his family. The only thing of value he has is something he can’t sell—the thick silver cuffs he’s worn since birth. They’re clearly magicked—as he grows, they grow, and he’s never been able to get them off.
One day, Han and his clan friend, Dancer, confront three young wizards setting fire to the sacred mountain of Hanalea. Han takes an amulet from Micah Bayar, son of the High Wizard, to keep him from using it against them. Soon Han learns that the amulet has an evil history—it once belonged to the Demon King, the wizard who nearly destroyed the world a millennium ago. With a magical piece that powerful at stake, Han knows that the Bayars will stop at nothing to get it back.
Meanwhile, Raisa ana’Marianna, princess heir of the Fells, has her own battles to fight. She’s just returned to court after three years of freedom in the mountains—riding, hunting, and working the famous clan markets. Raisa wants to be more than an ornament in a glittering cage. She aspires to be like Hanalea—the legendary warrior queen who killed the Demon King and saved the world. But her mother has other plans for her…
The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.
I’ve sat here for a solid 5 minutes trying to figure out what to say. Ummm. Okay.
Look, I would like to say that I have read a pretty steady amount of YA fantasy books, so I’m no stranger to world building – or even the necessity of it. But Chima has some serious, serious need to either cut down FLUFF or separate the extreme world building from the actual plot. To me, this book should have been a pre-series novella, you know what I mean? Something akin to The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas, Queen Song by Victoria Aveyard, or even The Prince by Kiera Cass. The entire book was just CONSTANT (boring!) world building. And that wouldn’t have been too bad, except the book was 506 pages.
Let me repeat,
Five. hundred. and. six. pages.
Like legit the
extreme world building / information excess lack of anything happening made me want to give up at exactly 102 pages in. It’s just so boring. Oh my god. NOTHING FREAKING HAPPENS. I read the entire book only to finally find out why I should care about the 1000 year old demon king legend in the last 30 pages. Plot twist: you can already guess the entire book by the second chapter. AKA page 20 of 506 pages. It just completely blows my mind that this book is this long with 0 necessity.
The first chapter is completely overwhelming. Chima just name-drops and place-drops every single god damn mythical noun she came up with and gives us 0 explanation. Instead she chooses to explain them all throughout the entire novel, which was really frustrating. I would have really preferred a character list (with relationships to one another) and a glossary, as we have seen in Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms series.
Another thing that really irks me is this part of the synopsis: “The Seven Realms tremble when the lives of Hans and Raisa collide, fanning the flames of the smoldering war between clans and wizards.”
Hans and Raisa don’t even meet until 50% of the book is over (seriously!!) and they only interact with one another for 3-4 chapters then go their separate ways. Like legit what is this “fanning the flames”?? NO FANNING OF THE FLAMES EVER HAPPENED. Those chapters with them interacting actually transformed these ONE DIMENSIONAL characters into something remotely interesting. And although their chapters were the most interesting, they were also really off, because their personalities / characters are completely different when they meet. It’s so strange and pretty disappointing. If Chima had spent more time with these two together, this book would have been a winner.
I’m also 100% convinced that Chima took inspiration from Pocahontas because Grandmother Willow was totally in this book.
“Good afternoon, Elena Cennestre. Welcome,” Raisa said, using the clan word for Mother. She opened her eyes. “How did you find me?”
“This is a very old place, lytling,” Elena said, her caramel face crinkling into a smile that framed the green eyes of the seer. “It is one of the few places in the Vale with power. You will have need of it.”
Raise considered this. At Demonai she’d learned not to ask every question that came to mind, knowing some things would be understood in their own time.
“I’m worried, Grandmother,” Raisa said. “The way ahead seems clear enough, but I’m not sure it’s the right way.”
“In the Spirits, we find our way by sun and stars and other landmarks,” Elena said. “They tell us if we are on the right road, and keep us out of trouble.” (p. 172)
I hope you see it because damn I read it and this was all I envisioned.
Character POVs change inside chapters with no warning. A lot of the time you’re reading someone’s perspective for pages, and then suddenly you would be reading it in another POV in the next paragraph. Yancey did something like this in The 5th Wave but he did it at the start of every chapter. I actually think I preferred Chima doing it compared to him because her writing makes it flow easier. It doesn’t trip you much as much as it did in Yanceys book.
I honestly don’t really know what else to say, I feel like I was completely robbed by reading this book. I saw some other reviews say that this is just building up to an actual plot in the second book. But honestly? I don’t think it should work like that. Like this wasn’t a skimpy little book, it’s a HUGE book where NOTHING happens, and it’s just a build up for the next book??? NO! It just makes me cringe because you can clearly see how much work Chima put into the story, but damn it just didn’t work.
i don’t want you to think that I abhorred this book, because I didn’t, I just didn’t appreciate the length of it. I did like how much thought she put into the story, I also liked the inventive ways she ties certain characters together. I don’t know if I’ll read the next book, if I do it’s going to be a tester read (~100 pages) because I can’t deal with this again.
My rating: a very weak 3/5 stars.