Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Hyperion (Disney)
Publication date: August 2011
Hardcover: 528 pages
Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that nothing matters more than saving her. The costs of his efforts are steep, but nothing can prepare him for what he soon discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the Queendom of the Fells. Han is hurt and betrayed. He knows he has no future with a blueblood. And, as far as he’s concerned, the princess’s family killed his own mother and sister. But if Han is to fulfill his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.
Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the thief-turned-wizard Han Alister can be trusted. She wants to believe it—he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive—and even that might not be enough.
The Gray Wolf Throne is an epic tale of fierce loyalty, unbearable sacrifice, and the heartless hand of fate.
Stand alone or series: Book 3 of The Seven Realms Series
How did I get this book: ARC from the Publisher
Why did I read this book: I love this series, which has up until now been mostly in the tantalizing “setting the stage” mode. The Gray Wolf Throne, however, promised BIG action and payoff for so many of the intricate storylines planted in The Demon King and The Exiled Queen. And, after getting to meet and speak with the lovely Cinda Chima following BEA this year, my excitement was stoked to nigh impossible levels. I could not wait to tear into this novel.
**THIS REVIEW CONTAINS UNAVOIDABLE SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE NOVEL. If you haven’t read The Demon King and The Exiled Queen, you may wish to look away.**
Princess Heir Raisa ana‘Marianna has been forced to flee her home in the Fells to escape a forced marriage by the powerful Bayar wizard line. She’s been kidnapped, tricked, betrayed, and yet she has somehow survived, thanks to her sharp wits, her hard earned fighting and riding skill, and by the grace of those loyal to her and the Gray Wolf line. Just when Raisa thinks she’s found a brief respite and happiness at Oden’s Ford, masquerading as servant and tutor Rebecca Morley, she’s discovered by the Bayars and is forced to strike a bargain, promising to marry Micah Bayar (the same wizard from whom she fled the Fells) in return for the safety of her friends and kin. When Raisa manages to escape her captors, she finds herself in an even more dire situation – alone, friendless and guardless, the Princess Heir must find a way back to safety – but with the wizards still on her trail and assassins at every turn, Raisa’s future looks incredibly bleak.
Back at the Academy, streetlord-cum-wizard Han “Cuffs” Allister despairs the loss of his tutor, friend, and beloved, Rebecca. Thinking he and the friction he has with the Bayars is the reason they have kidnapped her (for why else would they care about a mere lower class serving girl?), Han leaves Oden’s Ford and searches for any trace of her whereabouts. When he has all but given up, Han finds Rebecca – mortally injured and near death in the bitter cold of the Spirit Mountains. Han manages to save her life using his magic, nearly killing himself in the process, but when he awakes he finds his world turned akimbo: Rebecca Morely is none other than Princess Raisa. Bitterly betrayed, Han finds himself enmeshed in a political power struggle for control of the Fells – and as hurt and angry as he is, he cannot bring himself to leave Raisa.
The Gray Wolf Line has never been more at risk with Raisa’s path to power blocked by the Bayars and Wizarding Council, who scheme to put Raisa’s younger more malleable sister Mellory on the throne instead. With tensions mounting between even those who support Raisa’s claim, her ascension to the throne and the future of the queendom balances on a razor’s edge. And while no one, save Raisa and her oldest friend (and captain of her guard) Amon, seem to trust Han, both the Princess Heir and the former streetlord know just how much is at stake.
The penultimate book in the Seven Realms series, The Gray Wolf Throne, as one might expect, turns up the action. Actually, that’s an understatement. The Gray Wolf Throne raises the stakes of the series and turns the heat up a hundredfold from the prior two books. And, all I can say is, yes. Finally, the series hits its stride and becomes everything it hinted that it might become in earlier installments. Finally Han and Raisa are back together (for better or for worse), and they both know exactly who they each are – and must deal with that knowledge. Finally, Raisa is forced out of running and into action, becoming the Queen she was born to be. Finally.
And, oh sweet queens of the Gray Wolf Line, how I loved this book.
The overall series arc comes to a critical point in this third book, as Raisa must find a way to secure her throne lest it pass to her younger, innocent (or is she?) sister. There is much politicking in this novel, as Raisa struggles with the Wizard Council that clearly wants her dead, assassination attempts from an unknown source, an army that may or may not be loyal to the queens of the line, and the Demonai Clans with their own sets of prejudices and fears (despite their loyalty to Raisa). All of these complications are nuanced and carefully considered by the new monarch, and finally we see not only how tenacious Raisa is as a character, but her dedication to her family, throne, and the Fells, too.
It was a great day.
It was a terrible day.
Raisa had never felt braver.
She had never been more frightened.
She had never been lonelier.
She had never felt more loved.
And now she was on her way home.
To me, The Gray Wolf Throne is Raisa’s book – and she has come such a long way from the slightly spoiled, petulant princess of The Demon King. This kind of gradual yet dramatic growth over the course of a series is one of my favorite things to read, and Raisa’s metamorphosis into Queen is breathtaking, as she shoulders the responsibility to protect the Gray Wolf Throne at any cost – even at the cost of her own happiness.
It’s not just Raisa that grows and changes, though, for all of the familiar characters we have known since book 1 are shifting, too. Han remains as devastatingly cunning and charming as ever, but even though he believed that he lost everything there was to lose with the murder of his mother and sister, Han learns that there’s always more that can be taken from him. This time around, he has Raisa – whom he is furious with and betrayed by – and he vows to be more careful with the Queen he cannot help but love. So much stands between Raisa and Han, though, and if you’re looking for a classic, easy romance here you will be disappointed, for as the two undoubtedly feel, even love, each other, their being together like Hanalea and the Demon King of old, could break the world. I did love that in this book, Amon and Han have come to an understanding and friendship (finally!), and Amon, like his father before him, has accepted his role and duty as Captain of the Queen’s Guard. Dancer, the copperhead and wizard, also has his own huge revelation in this book, and struggles with prejudice from both the Clans and the Wizards. The Demonai are as abrasive and persistent as ever, with Reid Nightwalker bent on winning Raisa’s hand for the Clans. AND, of course, there’s the ever present danger of Micah Bayar – who is one of my favorite characters in the whole series, because of his uncertain motives. For all his political maneuvering, he actually seems to care for Raisa in his own way, and there’s something so…Jamie Lannister about him, especially as the series progresses.
The Gray Wolf Throne finishes on a high note for the new Queen, but also with a foreboding message for the final book in the series. There are still a number of loose ends and obstacles for Raisa and Han to face, and I cannot wait for the next volume. As it stands, The Gray Wolf Throne is absolutely recommended, and one of my favorite reads of the year. If you haven’t read this series yet, you need to start now.
Notable Quotes/Parts: From Chapter 1:
Raisa ana’Marianna huddled in her usual dark corner at the Purple Heron, picking at her meat pie. She’d learned to stretch a meal and a mug of cider over an entire evening.
It was risky to sit out in the common room of a tavern every night. Lord Bayar’s assassins would be searching for her. They’d failed to kill her at Oden’s Ford, thanks to Micah Bayar, Lord Bayar’s son. But the High Wizard’s spies could be anywhere, even here in the border town of Fetters Ford.
Especially here. Bayar would prefer to intercept Raisa before she crossed the border into the Fells. It would be tidier that way, her murder easier to conceal from her mother the queen and her father’s people, the Spirit clans.
Still, she couldn’t hide out in her room all the time. She needed to be visible to the people she wanted to find her. Somehow she had to get home, reconcile with Queen Marianna, and confront those who meant to take the Gray Wolf throne away from her.
The name Rebecca Morley was no longer safe. Too many of her enemies knew it. These days she called herself Brianna Trailwalker, a nod to her clan ancestry. Her story was that she was a young trader returning from her first journey south, held up by the turmoil along the border.
After a month in the limbo of Fetters Ford, she knew the regulars at the Heron—mostly pilots from the ferry service on the river, and the blacksmiths, farriers, and stablers who serviced travelers along the road. Locals were in the minority, though. The town churned with the comings and goings of wartime.
Raisa scanned the room, picking out the strangers. Two Tamric ladies occupied a corner table for the second night in a row. One was young and pretty, the other sturdy and middleaged, both too well dressed for the Heron. Likely a noble lady and her chaperone fleeing the fighting to the south.
You can download the full chapter HERE.
Additional Thoughts: Make sure you stop by later today as we have Cinda Williams Chima over for a guest post!
Rating: 9 – Awesomesauce, and one of my top 10 reads of 2011
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