Book Description:

Set in the world of the New York Times bestselling Seven Realms series, a generation later, this is a breathtaking story of dark magic, chilling threats, and two unforgettable characters walking a knife-sharp line between life and death. This dazzling beginning to a new series is indispensable for fans of Cinda Williams Chima and a perfect starting point for readers who are new to her work.

Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now he’s closer than ever to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. With time running out, Ash faces an excruciating choice: Can he use his powers not to save a life but to take it?

Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told that the 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.

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

There are what some may consider spoilers for the Seven Realms quartet and a certain occurrence later in Flamecaster in the fourth paragraph of this review. My personal opinion is that the occurrences mentioned are too predictable to be spoilers, but I wanted to provide a warning for those who try to avoid spoilers at all costs! 

Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms quartet (The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, The Gray Wolf Throne, The Crimson Crown) is one of my favorite young adult fantasy series. When I heard that there was going to be a new series about the next generation, I was thrilled, and the first book in the Shattered Realms series, Flamecaster, was one of my most anticipated releases this year.

Unfortunately, Flamecaster has the same major weakness as the first book in the Seven Realms series with none of its strengths. Like The Demon King, it took me a long time to become at all interested in the story, but it took me even longer to start finding Flamecaster readable—about half the book, which is over 500 pages long! It also didn’t manage to keep that interest once the book ended since it did not do what the previous series did so well: make me care about the characters. Han and Raisa were the main reason I enjoyed the Seven Realms books so much, and the main protagonists in Flamecaster were not nearly as memorable as the two who came before them.

Although there are four point of view characters, there are two I’d consider the main characters: the healer Ash, who seeks vengeance against a king, and the revolutionary Jenna, who is sought by the same king due to the mysterious magemark on her neck. It’s easy to sympathize with both of their situations since both of them have rough lives, but they were missing that spark that made Han and Raisa special. Ash and Jenna didn’t come alive as characters and neither of them underwent any major character development, and although I didn’t dislike them, I didn’t find either of them particularly compelling either.

Part of the appeal of the previous quartet was also Han and Raisa’s relationship: their interactions and seeing them fall for each other. The romance in Flamecaster happened quickly and without any chemistry between the characters involved. Of course, sometimes people do connect quickly, and in this particular case, there is a magical reason for the relationship to proceed so quickly from “just met” to “madly in love,” but skipping over the progression of the relationship and not showing the two getting to know one another is boring.

Although the second half was quite readable, I just didn’t care enough about the main characters to really enjoy it or give Flamecaster a second thought after I’d turned the final page, especially since the writing and plot were not particularly notable either. It’s possible I’ll give the second book a chance, but if so, it will be due to my fondness for the first quartet—not because of the first Shattered Realms book, which I found rather forgettable.

My Rating: 5/10

Where I got my reading copy: ARC from a publicist.