A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Flamecaster, by Cinda Williams Chima, is the first book in the Shattered Realms fantasy series, a spin-off of the bestselling Seven Realms series. If you haven't read the first series, you can still keep up -- there's a map and some explanation near the beginning of how the magic in this world works. With the realms in question perpetually at war and the four principle characters working as spies or revolutionaries, expect plenty of deaths. Soldiers are killed in attacks with explosions, swords, throat slittings and stabbings with knives and poison daggers, poison, and burning. More jarring than war violence: Scary fanatic priests run around trying to drain and drink the blood of mages to "cleanse" them; a main character is attacked twice in two tense scenes, and other mages are found bled dry. A young girl's neck is snapped, and a boy is stabbed to death repeatedly in front of an audience. Both main characters watch their fathers die by stabbing. One then kills someone else, then stabs herself, and the other runs away with a broken ankle that is later, painfully, set. The content is mature across the board, with teens (with lives like hard-living adults) who drink wine, ale, and rum. There's some swearing, although not beyond "bitch," and a few scenes of kissing and rumpled clothes with talk of how much can be done in a chair. The main characters are both resilient and brave, often willing to sacrifice themselves to save others.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Ash is on the run after witnessing his father, the king of the Fells, killed by evil King Arden's soldiers. Before they can catch him, too, Ash goes into hiding, working for a healer at a school in another realm. Ash learns much in four years, taking the summers off his studies to kill prominent members of King Arden's army with his gift for poisons. It's the end of another school year when some of the king's fanatical priests catch up to him and try to bleed him of his healing gift. Rather than run this time, he escapes only to try to infiltrate King Arden's palace and get close to the king. An assassination is in order. In the town of Delphi, a girl named Jenna is also in hiding after King Arden kills his closest friends. She dresses as a boy and works for the resistance, using her skills with explosives to keep the army on its toes. She's making progress against the army until one of the king's new enforcers comes to town. He's tasked with finding a girl with a magic birthmark on the back of her neck -- the same one Jenna has. When they wall off the whole city and start shaving heads, Jenna may not be able to hide for much longer.
Is it any good?
Author Cinda Williams Chima carefully, expertly develops this story that's equal parts palace intrigue, magic, and romance around four compelling and complex spy characters. Chima waits until the last moment to reveal her characters' secrets, making the story take some intriguing twists and turns. Sometimes she could offer a bit more reflection when secrets finally come out, but perhaps she's leaving room for development later in the series.
The fanatical priests and the close-up look at a tyrannical king add to the growing tension in FLAMECASTER. The spies face more than one enemy at all times and are often potential enemies of each other. The ending is both satisfying and full of juicy Book 2 setup material. An overall great start to a series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Soldiers are killed often in this book, but some of the more jarring and scary violence involves fanatical priests hunting for gifted mages. Why is this more jarring and scary?
Will you read the next in the series or go back and read the Seven Realms series? Why, or why not?
- Author: Cinda Williams Chima
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Horses and Farm Animals, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: HarperTeen
- Publication date: April 5, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 17
- Number of pages: 544
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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