Two Minute Review: Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Title: Shadowcaster
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: fantasy
Series: Shattered Realms #2
Pages: 560
Published: expected April 4 2017
Source: publisher via edelweiss
Rating: 3.25/5

Alyssa ana'Raisa is the reluctant princess heir to the Gray Wolf throne of Fells, a queendom embroiled in a seemingly endless war. Hardened by too many losses, Lyss is more comfortable striking with a sword than maneuvering at court. After a brush with death, she goes on the offensive, meaning to end the war that has raged her whole life. If her gamble doesn't pay off, she could lose her queendom before she even ascends to the throne.

Across enemy lines in Arden, young rising star Captain Halston Matelon has been fighting for his king since he was a lýtling. Lately, though, he finds himself sent on ever more dangerous assignments. Between the terrifying rumors of witches and wolfish warriors to the north and his cruel king at home, Hal is caught in an impossible game of life and death.

Set in the world of the acclaimed Seven Realms series, this is a thrilling story of the unfathomable costs of war, the allure of dark magic, and two principled and conflicted characters, drawn together despite everything they stand to lose.

Though I am a fan I have to admit that Cinda Williams Chima usually improves upon the second book in a series. Her series beginners do not make the best introductions to the dense worldbuilding or history or plotting going on. Her first series set in this world had a decent book one and a pretty great book two. That pattern holds true for the offshoot series of Seven Realms, though to a lesser degrees of positivity. I don't usually rate books 3.25 out of 5 stars but Shadowcaster was truly caught right between 'I liked this' and I really liked this' for me. It was a vast improvement on its predecessor Flamecaster (2/5 stars) from last year but it still fell short of both the possibility and its parent series.

A success and a strong sequel, Shadowcaster has a lot going on in its pages. This time around, the author centers the story on Raisa's daughter Alyssa, and Lyss is a far stronger, more capable, engaging character than her brother Ash. Lyss is the main character and the most frequent POV but she is far from the only one. In fact one of the weaknesses of the story is that it features far too many POVs -- some of which seem exceedingly random and unnecessary.

Still, 3.5 because this has better plotting and the badass that is Lyss was enough to reel me back just when I thought I was out.

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