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Deathcaster: Shattered Realms, Book 4

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Deathcaster: Shattered Realms, Book 4 Book Poster Image
Exciting finale has battles, spies, romance, magic, dragons.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

One type of magic in this series incorporates talismans to concentrate power, and mages are gifted in various areas -- healing or mind control with touch. Other powers include communication with animals and control of weather. Readers can think about how this magical world differs from others they've read about. A few sailing terms mentioned and different styles of ruling explored: monarchies ruled by men with landholding thanes in support, monarchies ruled by women with councils to advise them. Also, how to equip, pay, and manage an army and how to strategize and negotiate in wartime.

Positive Messages

Questions poor leadership and corrupt rulers, saying that, in one unstable kingdom, "Blood and loyalty were more important than talent or training." Also questions fanatical religious practice and how it corrupts government. Loyalty to family, friends, fellow soldiers carries people through wartime.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Different characters are reminded that they can overcome bad parenting and still become the person they want to be. Lila grows the most in this story, as she accepts more responsibility instead of running from it and forgives her father for not being present. Hal as well, decides to accept more responsibility, and dedicates himself to being a competent and fair ruler.

Violence

A few grisly moments, like a stabbing, a throat slit, a strangling with a garrote, a beheading, and a man's head crushed by a horse. Mostly battle violence, with dragon fire responsible for the most causalities, volleys of arrows coming in second. Many of the killed are soldiers whose minds have been taken over. Fanatical men drink blood of enemies. Three poisonings, one of children, who all recover. A fistfight, a beating, and soldiers forced to fight to the death for sport. Much talk of how Queen Lyss' father had been assassinated. Dragons injured.

Sex

Two couples have sex, with little described beyond passionate kissing, rolling around, disrobing, and talk of wanting to see the other person naked. A gay male couple kisses. Questions about whether royal bride is "unsullied." Innuendo about trying out different suitors.

Language

Mostly "ass" and "damn," but also "bitch," "bastard," "hell," and "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many scenes of drinking wine and cider while in company, once to excess to bring on sleep. Many characters are older teens with very adult jobs: spy, queen, king, pirate. A teen suffers from withdrawal from drug called "leaf."

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Deathcaster, by Cinda Williams Chima, is the fourth and final book in the Shattered Realms fantasy series, a spin-off of the best-selling Seven Realms series. If you haven't read the first series, you can still keep up if you start with Flamecaster, the first Shattered Realms book -- there's a map and some explanation near the beginning of how the magic in this world works. The war starts in earnest in this finale. Expect a few grisly moments, like a stabbing, a throat slit, a strangling with a garrote, a beheading, and a man's head crushed by a horse. Most of battle violence is from a distance, with dragon fire responsible for the most causalities and volleys of arrows coming in second. Also, fanatical men drink the blood of enemies. Two couples have sex in this book, with little described beyond passionate kissing, rolling around, and disrobing. Strong language is mostly "ass" and "damn," with "s--t" and "bitch" rarely. Like Book 2, there's a lot of drinking in company by teens (with adult jobs) and adults. As the series concludes, readers can explore what good government is and how power and fanaticism corrupts.

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What's the story?

In DEATHCASTER, Ash heads to Celesgarde to rescue his sister, Queen Lyss, who's a prisoner of Queen Celestine and a forced commander of her blood-sworn troops. So much goes wrong aboard Ash's ship that he fears he won't get to Lyss before Celestine sails to the mainland to destroy more cities in the realms. First, Captain Devilliers stages a standoff with pirate Evan Strangward -- too bad for the captain that Evan can control the weather. Second, one of Ash's trusted friends sets fire to their own ship in battle. Meanwhile, Jenna's hiding out in the Dragonback Mountains with her dragon friend when she has curious encounters: with Queen Lyss, out for a training run; and with a nest of orphaned baby dragons. In Arden, the young and arrogant King Jarat insists it's time to march north to claim the Queendom of the Fells. He shouldn't have left his palace unprotected, or his army unpaid, or his thanes disgruntled, or his best general -- Hal Matelon -- without something to do. First Hal claims the palace, and next, he heads north with his own army to defeat Jarat and Queen Celestine's forces, and save Queen Lyss' kingdom.

Is it any good?

This hefty warring-realms finale mostly satisfies as it brings on the battles, dragons, romantic reunions, and palace intrigue. Mostly satisfies, because the story goes so broad -- across all the realms, with so many characters in play now -- that it can't go very deep. In Flamecaster, the focus is Ash and Jenna and what will happen to both. In Shadowcaster, it's Lyss and Hal. In Stormcaster, it's Evan and Destin. They're all trying to reunite in Deathcaster, and, except for Hal not understanding what his role is in Lyss' life now that she's queen, the only complication in these relationships is that the couples are forced apart and want to be together and the reader doesn't know when that will happen in the story (but will they hurry up already, we've been waiting hundreds of pages).

The complex character of Lila Byrne gets more focus in this story, but we don't see how her life ends up -- maybe in another spin-off series? She is, however, at the center of some great palace intrigue, starting with not one, but two palace weddings going awry. And there are poisonings and castle sieges and networks of spies and traitors all in the mix, making this big finale a real page-turner.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the magemarked in Deathcaster. How are the characters alike? What does Celestine want with them? How do they find out?

  • Ash connects with the dead in this book. How? What is the danger of this encounter? What other books cross the line between life and death? What are usually the consequences?

  • Are you satisfied with the way the series ended? Do you want another spin-off series from the realms? What characters would you like to see in it?

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