Release Date: 06 Oct 2011
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Wizards
Summary: This novel marks the first giant step in a momentous fantasy journey orchestrated by Cinda Williams Chima, the author of the popular Warrior Heir series. Its two chief protagonists are ex-thief Han Alister, an impoverished commoner, and Raisa ana'Marianna, the headstrong Princess Heir of the Fells. The Demon King brings them together, creating part of a volatile mix of action, magic, and danger. Empathetic characters; wizardly attacks.
Review: Han is struggling to leave behind his past lifestyle because his place as streetlord of the Raggers was putting his family in danger. He now works much harder for only a fraction of the swag and is constantly taken advantage of and in danger himself. His only safe haven is Marisa Pines, or at least it was until three underage and untrained wizards set fire to the forest and he found himself face to face with them. Now members of a rival group are turning up tortured and dead and the Queen's Guard is convinced he is behind it. Han can't help but wonder if the amulet he took from the wizards might have something to do with what's going on. Meanwhile Rasia, the princess heir, finds her name day, the day in which she will be eligible for marriage, quickly approaching. As her gilded cage begins to fall away, Raisa is faced with the reality of her future queendom and the possible conspiracy of the High Wizard's increase in power.
I loved how this story was told. It was genius of Chima to contrast such unique and different point of views of a naive future queen and struggling, street urchin-esque boy. Their stories would still have been interesting but the differences in their lives and perspectives made a huge difference in my feelings for each character. I fell for Han from the start. He had a wonderful voice and his experiences were so gritty that it was impossible not to be drawn in. I have the world's biggest Robin Hood crush/fetish/obsession, whichever you want to refer to it as, and I couldn't help but compare Han to those legends even though they really aren't that similar. There were enough similarities that I could have forgiven Han's character for anything though. Raisa was just okay in the beginning of the book. I feel like I'm always reading about her type of character in fantasy, stubborn and naïve yet thinks she knows best then ends up getting everyone but herself hurt because of it. Despite my misgivings with her, I really enjoyed the story she told. And around the middle through the ending of the book, I liked her sooo much more.
I don't usually mention 'themes' in my reviews because generally I couldn't care less but I really liked how this book used choice and freedom. Both characters struggled with choice and freedom and I thought seeing this from both of their vastly different POVs made this book unique. Both felt they had no choice or freedom and that the other had it. I think this will be interesting to see in future books especially when they learn that their view of the other is wrong.
The Demon King is an exceptional piece of YA fantasy. It had stunning worldbuilding, an intricate plotline, magic, forbidden romance, crime, adventure, murder... everything and more that a wonderful fantasy needs. I don't particularly like it, because honestly who would, but I thought Chima's use of character death elevated her story and made it something more. The ending, while completely satisfying because it completed the book's plot, was more like the beginning of the sequel. Many aspects become tied off but then the opening for the next book occurs. The next 20 or so pages felt like the preview for The Exiled Queen. This would normally bother me because it's forcing you to continue on the journey but this type of thing, while frustrating, is typical of series fantasy and for once it actually didn't bother me because I was so hungry for more.
Quotes & Thoughts as I Read:
- You're not a thief. Not anymore. If he said it often enough, it just might stick. But he couldn't let it lie. There was something malevolent yet fascinating about the amulet. Power emanated from it like heat from a stove on a cold day. Could it be the cover art explained already?! If it is, I'd totally keep it too. So pretty.
- Right, Raisa thought. If there ever comes a day that I can't get into more mischief than Mellony, I'll cut my own throat. Ha! That's not very princessly. So far I'm not enjoying Raisa's chapters NEARLY as much as Han's but we'll see.
- “Take 'em off.” The cuffs had been Han's trademark during his time as streetlord of the Raggers. Shiv wanted them as a trophy. “They don't come off,” Han said, knowing with a numbing certainty that he was about to die. “No?” Shiv breathed, his face inches from Han's, alive with anticipation, tears leaking from his damaged left eye. “That's a shame. I'll take off your hands, then, and see if they'll slide over the stumps.” Rough crowd. Every time I read 'Shiv', I subconsciously change it to Shank. They are pretty much the same though, both loosely mean knife.
- “I do not always have to have my way,” she said. “Yeah? What about the time you just had to ride that flatlander stallion? What was his name? Deathwish? Devilspawn? You had to climb the fence to mount him, and his back was so broad your legs stuck straight out, but nothing would do but you had to give him a try.” He snorted. “That was the world's shortest ride.” She'd forgotten about Amon's annoying habit of repeating old stories she'd rather forget. I've got this bad feeling that Raisa's naiveness or stubborness is going to get Amon in trouble, hurt or killed.
- The Queen's Guard doesn't torture anybody, she'd proclaimed, like she was some kind of expert. You'll receive a fair trial. Sorry, girlie, he thought. I'm the expert on that, and I'm not buying what you're selling. Despite Raisa's continued... personality, I'm finding her a lot more fun with Han around.
- “Fine!” she said, blinking back the tears that burned in her eyes. “You win. He's dead. Are you happy?” Amon looked as if she'd struck him. “Rai, come one, I never wanted-” Jeeze, we've got a love square going on here? Still liking Raisa sooo much better now though.