Flamecaster (Shattered Realms, #1) by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #1
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 544
Format: e-ARC
Source: Edelweiss
Purchase/Pre-order: Amazon ◊ Barnes & Noble

The first in a thrilling new four-book fantasy series from New York Times bestselling author Cinda Williams Chima, set in the same world as her beloved Seven Realms series, a generation later.

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 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?

Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told that 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.

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.

Quick Thoughts and Rating: 3 stars! Oh man, these kind of reviews are always such a struggle for me to write; the books were it was good, but didn’t blow me away or suck either. The short of it is this: I felt like that lone stranger at the party missing out on all the inside jokes and shared memories. I wanted to love this, even though I hadn’t read the original adult series this is tied so closely to, and yet, I felt an overwhelming sense of “It’s okay, I guess” about it the entire way through.

Flamecaster was rich with fantasy elements, magic, and mystery, and I’m sure will strike a nostalgic chord among Chima’s fans (seeing as I felt totally lost throughout most of it), but overall it felt like one of those definitely-a-first-in-a-series type novels and not like one that could be read as a complete standalone. That being said, I felt like it left off as a good setup for an interesting YA series moving forward. ◊

Review: I specifically recall Chima and Seven Realms series fans practically foaming at the mouth when this book was announced, and being a fan of fantasy and trusting the good judgement of my Goodreads friends, I figured they knew something I didn’t and merrily jumped aboard the bandwagon. Sadly, I don’t think I fared too well once I climbed on because I absolutely feel like these people have shared a journey that I clearly missed out on, and while it was bringing them all closer together, I get the sense that it’s made me an outsider. For example, some pretty pivotal plot things happen very early on and while I was all, “Man, that’s sucky and sad,” other people were having complete meltdowns about it because their connections to certain characters far superseded this one installment. I also believe this came into play for the antagonist as well. These other readers have a long-standing hate for the villain and while I can admit that he’s awful and cruel, I wasn’t exactly doling out this extreme hate for the dude either.

Lord knows I really don’t want to bash this book because it wasn’t horrible by any stretch of the imagination, so I’ll try to quickly move on to a few of the other issues I had with it and then leave the bad behind for good. Probably my biggest peeve is the absolute ridiculous level of insta-love present in this book. Ash and Jenna literally meet one time, in which Ash is healing a mortal wound of hers, and then they can’t get each other out of their minds. Not only that, but after two more brief interactions, they’ve found love. Bless all the stars, I rolled my eyes so hard I almost gave myself a headache. Of course, I’m not taking in to account that they somehow shared this life connection through a slideshow of images when they touched and perhaps this bit of magic put this couple on the fast-track to an all-consuming love, but if that’s the case, I feel like the author should have given more attention to such an “intense” moment. The next issue I had is the snail’s crawl pacing. For this story to have so much going on within the world and to be jumping between so many characters, I felt like there never should have been a dull second, but this was a very slow read for me. Which brings me to another issue, this novel is written in third person and follows a few teen characters and their story threads, but for some reason I never truly connected with any of them. That’s not to say that I didn’t like them, because I did, I just didn’t feel for them like I wanted to as the story progressed. Lastly, the climax of the book felt very… anticlimactic. I don’t want to go into spoilers, but I guessed a certain culprit from early on, I had my suspicions about other things that came to fruition, and when a particular death occurs that should have been a moment of utter triumph, it felt very that’s it!?

Now that I’m sure it seems like I’ve attacked this book, let me clarify that even given all its shortcomings in my eyes, I still found it to be a decently entertaining read. All the fantastical elements included in this novel–the healers, the wizardry, the dragons, and some of the more vague aspects left to be explored–really worked well for me. I also enjoyed the various plot schemes and where the general direction I think the series arc is headed, and I’m interested in continuing with future books as of now. Of course, I’m hoping that my lack of character connection will be corrected in the coming installments as the characters uncover more of their depth and potential. It’s for these reasons and more that I’m sure I’ve forgetting that I certainly wouldn’t chalk this novel up as a total bust. In fact, I’m sure under different circumstances–like me being privy to the happenings in the Seven Realms series–I would have actually liked this a lot more than I did.

Teaser Quote: I usually use this section to pick a quote that really stood out for me in the book, whether it moved to tears, made me fistpump the air, swoon, or fan my face. I’ll go back through all my highlights and pick out the least spoilery one that is likely to pique a reader’s interest the most. The thing here is, I didn’t highlight anything. Like, seriously, not one line, and I can’t even begin to explain just how out of character that is for me. Honestly, I could have even skipped this section, but I feel like this further proves how emotionally disconnected I was with this book which makes me soooo sad.

Book Rating Breakdown
General Book Feels

Rec It? I don’t know, maybe? I’d say fans of the adult series and/or of this author or passionate YA fantasy fans, all aboard because you’ll probably love this (as appears to be the case when perusing the reviews for Flamecaster on Goodreads). However, if you like fantasy lite or are new to this world/author, proceed with caution. I foresee a good series moving forward, one that I think I’ll continue with eventually, but for this singular book, I’d say I expected more and was a little disappointed overall.

♥ A very special thanks to HarperCollins and Edelweiss for providing me with an advanced copy of this title.

*Disclaimer: An eARC of these title was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review in any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this version and not of the published edition.

Full of giggles, flails, snark and Southern endearments. Avid Reader. Lover of swoony boys, kickass heroines, yummy kissing scenes, and pretty prose.

I like to draw hearts in the sky (eternal optimist) and wish on stars (forever dreamer). Documentaries, sweet tea, sleep, and brightly colored knee-socks are a few of my favorite things. ♥

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