Flamecaster: Shattered Realms, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Flamecaster: Shattered Realms, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Absorbing fantasy romance full of spies and palace intrigue.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The type of magic in this series incorporates talismans to concentrate power, and mages are gifted in various areas -- healing or mind control with touch. Readers can think about how this magical world differs from others they've read about. Main and some minor characters are all spies or resistance fighters working against a ruthless king, which may lead to discussions about real spies in real wars and how their methods of resistance were similar.

Positive Messages

Lessons are learned about how getting revenge can be a disappointment in the end and on the power of hope and connection with others. The scariest bad guys are the religious fanatics who will kill others in fear of their magical gifts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ash is bent on revenge for most of the book in one way but never turns down an opportunity to help others with his healing gifts, even if it puts his life in danger. He makes a decision to run from his family after a loss instead of supporting them in their shared grief and later examines his conscience, wishing he'd made a different decision. Jenna works tirelessly for her cause to free her people and is willing to sacrifice herself to keep others safe. A testament to her resilience: She endures much suffering as a coal miner but chooses to concentrate on the small joys in life instead.

Violence

Scary fanatical priests run around trying to drain and drink 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. Soldiers are killed in attacks with explosions, swords, throat slittings and stabbings with knives and poison daggers, poison, and burning. A man is thrown off a high tower, a woman and taster at court are poisoned, a poisonous snake is found in a bed. A horse is put down after breaking a leg. Much talk of loss in a main character's past: a sister killed in battle, a grandfather poisoned. And talk of how many die in the mines with hints that some children are sexually abused or harassed there and how soldiers in the mining town sexually harass the local women. Much talk of (made-up) poisons and how they can kill and how a main character spends his summers assassinating with poisons. Many thoughts on how to assassinate a powerful person who's well-protected.

Sex

Three scenes of passionate kissing with talk of rumpled clothes. One line in the last scene about how much can be done in a chair and another about how what a couple did could deem them married by some. Sexual innuendo includes a joke about mistresses and another about STDs.

Language

Mostly "bastard," "bitch," and versions of "ass," "hell," and "damn," said a few times each.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main characters are older teens with lives of hard-living adults who drink a number of times: harder liquor for a holiday, plus wine, ale, and more. Brandy is given to women to calm them. Students drink to excess after exams. Scenes in bars with patrons drinking.

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEunicorn December 29, 2017

Boring novel

I couldn’t even read till the end! This book was just too boring for me. It might be scary for young kids, unless they are mature and don’t get scared easily. B... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAspen26 July 2, 2018

Enjoyed it

It was really good I'm not usually a romance person but it overpowers it with mildly violent scenes I think the worst is near the beginning with the king

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 ...

  • Families can talk about the magical world on display here. How is it different from the world of Harry Potter or Septimus Heap or the Girl of Fire and Thorns series?

  • 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?

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