Review: Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Flamecaster by Cinda Williams ChimaShadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #1
Published by HarperTeen on April 5, 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 535
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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three-stars

A burning vengeance.

Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. The son of the queen of the Fells, Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it?

A blood-based curse.

Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught.

Destiny’s fiery hand.

Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.

Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series a generation later, this is a thrilling story of dark magic, chilling threats, and two unforgettable characters walking a knife-sharp line between life and death.

Last year, I binge read Chima’s Seven Realms series, at the urging of, well, basically everyone. I had a few qualms, but on the whole I was impressed with the series, especially Han and Raisa, and their slow burn romance. Like everyone else, I was excited to hear about a spin-off series, and I was thrilled that the covers for Shattered Realms are so much better than those for Seven Realms. Having read Flamecaster, my feelings are more mixed. There’s some awesome plot stuff in here, but there are a lot of choices I question, particularly because they alienate the audience that got a spin-off series picked up in the first place.

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There’s going to be a lot that I can’t say here without spoilers. I’ll tag them, though, and allow you to decide whether you want to be spoiled or not. However, I think the first spoiler might be nice to know.

Flamecaster opens with the perspective of Han and Raisa’s son, Adrian sul’Han, a mage and healer, at age 13. He’s begging his dad to let him go off to a healer academy at Oden’s Ford before entering the same mage school his dad attended when he reaches age 16. Adrian’s afraid to ask Raisa, because he thinks she won’t want him so far away just six months after the death of Han and Raisa’s eldest daughter.

View Spoiler »

With that foundation, it’s really hard to like Adrian, who goes by his father’s nickname Ash. Obviously, there are many reasons to sympathize with his plight, but he rejects his mother and sister and mopes around. He generally comes off as an emo spoiled brat of Kylo Ren proportions. Flamecaster would have benefited from more time to establish his character before launching into the larger plot. Sure, you have to root for Ash over Montaigne, king of rival realm Arden, because he’s fucking evil, but you don’t really want Ash to get everything he wants either.

In addition to Ash, there are three other perspectives: Jenna, Lila, and Destin. Jenna’s perspective establishes the evilness of Montaigne, in case you didn’t already know that from Han and Raisa’s series. After some deaths in her character-establishing chapter as a young teen, Jenna’s forced to genderbend in her work with the resistance. Don’t worry, there are just a handful of chapters when the characters are middle grade age. They promptly age up four years in chapter five or thereabouts.

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Lila is by far my favorite character, the only person who can be counted on to make a joke or snarky comment. I loved her immediately, and I feel a bit of concern that there’s really no one worth her. She is apparently in a somewhat casual romantic relationship with Cat and Fire Dancer’s kid, but he never appears during Flamecaster. View Spoiler » Lila doesn’t get near enough of a role in Flamecaster, and I hope to see a lot more of her in the next book.

Destin’s the son of General Karn, one of the few trusted mages in Arden. He could end up being a really interesting character with this foundation, but again, we don’t spend that much time with him. This book mostly belongs to Jenna and Ash.

As you might have guessed, Jenna and Ash strike up the inevitable romance. And dear god is it inevitably instalovey. They declare their love literally the third time they’ve spent time together. Jenna also instatrusts all over Ash, trusting him with everything by meeting two, even though the circumstances are such that that seems massively foolish. They are, of course, aided in this by the fact that their weird magics interact in such a way that they end up seeing bits of each other’s pasts in a weird memory share thing. They are pure sentiment and mush and it’s awful.

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The ending of the book hints at the rest of the series perhaps being much more exciting. I mean, DRAGON. That’s a spoiler but whatever dragon. I would want to know if a book had dragons, so I’m going to tell you good folks. This just wasn’t Chima’s strongest effort. I mean, Ash, while undercover in Oden’s Ford, goes by the last name Hanson. HAN SON. SUBTLE IT IS NOT. This is not how you keep your family’s enemies from finding you.

Everything in Flamecaster comes too easily and too obviously. However, the writing’s lovely and there’s a lot of promise. I’d like to see the sides get less black and white. I’d like to see Jenna and Lila hooking up. I’d like to learn more about Jenna’s whole deal. I could be more impressed, but I’m hooked enough to keep rolling with this series.

Favorite Quote:

“No, Hanson, this is not the scene where the girl puts on a skirt and some paint and her schoolmate, who’s a little thick, suddenly realizes that she is his true love.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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One response to “Review: Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima”

  1. Your review captures everything I felt about the book. I was devastated in the beginning but not as much as I might have been because I haven’t read the first series in 4 years. Still. Disappointing. And the instalove was the worst. Ash didn’t bother me much (although the Kylo Ren comparison is hilarious) but I thought Lila and Destin were by far more interesting like you mentioned. And I wish we got to see his family! That being said, I did like the plot and the dragon, and I think the next book will be better. The synopsis alone sounds WAY more interesting. Here’s hoping she recaptures some of the Seven Realms magic. I liked Flamecaster but not as much as I wanted to.

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