Just as a fair warning, this is a companion series, there may be some spoilers for the original Seven Realms series!
Plot: Flamecaster takes place 25 years after the end of the Crimson Crown. Raisa is queen, and Han Alister is still the High Wizard, but this book follows their middle child, Ash, after the death of his older sister, Hana. Ash is a healer who specializes in horses, and he has a strong relationship with his father. However, after Han Alister’s untimely death, Ash runs away, thinking it was his fault. He goes under a false name, Adam Freeman, to Oden’s Ford, a school on neutral ground that teaches spirituality, magic, and combat. Parallel to Ash’s story is that of Jenna Bandelow, a young girl who works in the mines at Delphi. After the horrific death of her two best friends at the hands of the King of Arden, Jenna makes it her life goal to destroy Arden’s hold on Delphi and to kill the king. The story fast forwards four years to when Ash and Jenna are teenagers. Ash is found out as the son of Raisa and Han Alister and Arden’s vampiric priests come after him. He escapes, and travels to Arden to try to get close to the King of Arden so he can kill him. Meanwhile Jenna is being searched for by the King of Arden as well. As death and ruin and suspicious characters surround Ash and Jenna, their lives will eventually come together in a startling and powerful climax that will be sure to change the fate of the Seven Realms forever.
Review: Okay, to start off, I am so excited to finally have my hands on this book. I read the Seven Realms series last year and gobbled up the books so quickly. They were just so good! I thoroughly believe that Cinda Williams Chima is up there with JRR Tolkien and George RR Martin and Tamora Pierce when it comes to so effortlessly writing an entirely new world. I don’t mean to say that it was easy for her to write it, I just mean that reading it is effortless; I don’t get confused when she talks about the politics of each of the kingdoms, or about the religious practices in different parts of the world, or about past monarchs. I trust her as a reader to give me the information I need to understand her tale and I have never been disappointed.
Flamecaster is one of those stories where I was like “Oh yay, new story” followed by “oh no, it’s a next generation story”. I’ve been burned by next generation stories before. However, I went into this knowing that Chima is such a stellar writer, and I was not disappointed at all. Even though it followed new characters–Ash and Jenna–I still was attached to the world they live in and the stories took place close enough to each other where many characters from the Seven Realms series were also in this one.
The new characters were super intriguing and definitely felt like their own people, rather than a repeat of the original series, both in their actions/personalities and the roads their lives took. I found Ash particularly interesting, as he was a good mixture of both of his parents, especially young Han’s darkness and Raisa’s desire to help and heal. Jenna was a little spitfire, and while I was confused about her “birthmark” since I don’t remember it being mentioned until she was much older in the story, I was intrigued by the vagueness of it and especially that little twist in the epilogue! She was such a powerful female character because she cared so much for her family and those she loved on top of my favorite trope of “girl dresses as boy to avoid detection” mixed up with the huge reveal for her later in the story…it was hard not to love her!
I read this book super quickly. Probably a little too quickly. I definitely will go back and reread it soon. However, some last minute thoughts: I really, really wish the next novel also followed these characters! I know, I know, I’m greedy! But the ending just left so much open with so many questions I need to know what happens right now! Though, I do have full faith that even though the next book follows Ash’s youngest sibling, it will tie together with Flamecaster enough to sate my need to know what the heck happened in those last few chapters, but especially the epilogue! I need answers, and unfortunately I am not very patient!
This book was everything I could have asked for and more. It is an amazing fantasy series that everyone should read, starting with The Seven Realms. I highly recommend this to anyone who is looking for a fantasy novel that I would consider closer to Game of Thrones than Lord of the Rings in fantasy, as there are no elves/dwarves/hobbits, but there is magic and the world is entirely made up. It’s a very politically driven series, but it focuses so much on the characters that you’ll hardly notice!