The Gray Wolf Throne (Seven Realms #3)
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.
I am very much attached to the Seven Realms series, and I found The Gray Wolf Throne to be a good investment. With its ever-engaging focus on court politics, racial tensions, shifting loyalties and hidden secrets, these books are engrossing and well-constructed. Picking up maybe a month after The Exiled Queen ended, The Gray Wolf Throne continues Princess Raisa and Han Alister’s journey back to the Fells, where, after Raisa’s true identity is revealed, the two work together to place her upon the throne.
Always a fan of brevity and a believer that less is more, I’m of the opinion that this book could lose 100-200 pages, easy. However, I don’t believe that Chima ever included details that were truly unimportant, nor is this series chock-full of extraneous subplots that distract the reader. This book is dense, though: heavy on information, dialogue, and character interaction. The Seven Realms series has never been about war or quests, and most of The Gray Wolf Throne is set in one place, and the characters all spend a lot of time talking to each other and planning their next move. That isn’t done in a way that’s boring or tedious, but readers who like fantasy that features nonstop action should know that’s not exactly the focus here.
One thing I would like to comment on is the way morality and good/evil are shown in shades of gray in this series, but especially in The Gray Wolf Throne. A too-common complaint I have with fantasy (particularly YA fantasy) is that authors are very one-sided. Villains are villains; they cannot be anything but evil, they cannot be redeemed, nor can they be show as humans. Heroes are heroes; their actions are always the right ones, and they will always triumph in the end, perhaps because “god” is on their side. About 100 pages in, Han makes an observation that what appears to be good isn’t always so, and vice versa for evil. I really had to applaud Cinda Williams Chima for that, because it’s exactly what I look for in my fantasy novels.
While The Gray Wolf Throne is a very good book, at this point it’s not my favorite in the series. The narrative was a bit less engaging than it was in The Exiled Queen (though it’s vastly better than The Demon King). I’ve formed an attachment to these characters, but I still don’t consider them to be particularly well-rounded or to have much depth. Raisa’s many suitors and constant romantic conflicts are, in my opinion, unnecessary, and I really wish this book was told from another female perspective: her sister Mellony, or Cat the thief, maybe. The stereotypical princess who’s nearly a Mary Sue is not a character type I will ever love.
But, all in all, I’ve invested myself in this world and in the characters’ story. I’m glad I read this book, and I have high hopes for the final installment.