The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

This book is absolutely fantastic!

Han “Cuffs” Alister is a reformed streetlord trying to take care of his Mam and sister, Mari—without thieving—using the skills he learned from summers in the forest with the clans. Times are tough, and the little money that he manages to make is often in danger from being stolen from the rival gang in Southgate who doesn’t know that he’s not streetlord for the Raggers anymore. He tries to reform himself, but it’s difficult with the silver cuffs serving as an immediate identifier for anyone looking for him. He’s begged his Mam and the matriarch of Marissa Pines to take the cuffs off, but they refuse without a word as to why.

Raisa ana’Marianna is princess heir to the fells. Her mother is the ruler of the Queendom and her father is from the royal line of the Demonai, the famous clan warriors who hunt down wizards. Raisa has just returned from spending three years with the Demonai, learning things they would never teach her in the Vale. After three years of wearing riding pants, learning how to hunt, and experiencing relative freedom, Raisa is having a hard time readjusting to the dresses, courtiers, and constant surveillance.

Upon her return to the palace, Raisa is startled to realize that things are different; she hears disgruntled whispers behind the Queen’s back. Has it always been this way? Was she just too young to notice before she left? Or are things changing? There is talk of unrest concerning the Queen and the Wizard Council with whom she is bound. Raisa can’t shake this sense of foreboding, but she doesn’t know who she can turn to.

Whew! Did you catch all of that? The Demon King does have a lot of terminology that you have to get used to and keep in mind in order to truly picture the world—the vale, the clans, the Queendom, all of the other kingdoms, raggers and Southmarket—there’s just so much! But that’s what’s so amazing about The Demon King, and why it’s one of my favorite books; it’s a real world that feels like it exists. Chima doesn’t waste time trying to explain everything to you like you’re too dumb to understand. She respects her readers and knows that as long as she writes well, we’ll pick it up. And trust me—she writes well!

Chima doesn’t dump a thousand years’ worth of history into our hands and wish us luck as we try to unravel the individual strings. Instead, she reveals just as much history as we need to know only when it becomes relevant to the characters. The narration was realistic; nothing was conveniently placed just so that she could show us something about the world she created. The terminology was realistically different, but it took me a while to pick up on a few of the words, mostly where Ragmarket and Southgate were located, the Vale, flatlanders, and so on. It’s definitely worth it, though, and it’s one of the best world-building novels I’ve read in a very long time.

The Demon King is full of political unrest, and through Han’s and Raisa’s eyes, we see the view from both the top and the bottom. The book is in third person and alternates from Han and Raisa’s viewpoints, and I grew to love each character so much that I was both sad and excited whenever their section ended.

Raisa and Han’s stories are obviously interwoven, but their lives so seldom touch that the anticipation as to when they will keeps you on the edge of your seat. Neither character is overly-intuitive; Han notices that some things are off, and the reader knows exactly what it is, but he never guesses the truth of anything. It will keep you yelling at your book trying to get him to figure it out what you already know. (Or maybe that’s just me?)

The Demon King is absolutely fantastic, and I highly recommend it. Also, the fourth book of the series is coming out October 23, so you might want to start reading!

5 out of 5 stars

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