book reviews

The Warrior Heir


Hello, dear readers!

One March day, Jack Swift, a high school student in a small college town, forgets to take the medicine he’s taken daily since he was an infant. There ensues a cascade of events that puts him in mortal danger.

Jack discovers he carries a secret within him that has made him a target of the ruthless wizards of the Red and White Rose. Jack is a Warrior Heir, the last of a dying breed, sought after by the Roses to fight in the tournaments that are used to allocate power among the Wizard Houses. Unknown to him, Jack has lived all his life surrounded by members of the Magical Guilds: wizards, enchanters, soothsayers, and sorcerers. They are determined to save him from the Roses.

With the aid of his aunt, a beautiful enchanter, Jack desperately tries to acquire the skills that might save his life. Jack and his friends, Will and Fitch, unearth a magical sword from a cemetery and fight off the wizards who would take it from them. Jack begins training with the dark and dangerous Leander Hastings, a wizard with a mysterious past.

Meanwhile, Jack is torn between his attraction to Ellen Stephenson, a new student at Trinity High School, and Leesha Middleton, his former girlfriend, who decides she wants him back.

Discovered and besieged by treachery at home, he flees to the Lake District of England. There he is confronted by the greatest challenge of all.

– from Cinda William Chima’s official website

Late last night, I finished my fantasy book for my summer class. This is the first time during the duration of my class that it’s taken me over three days to read a book. Because of time constraints, I’m using audiobooks–I’m a slow reader, and following along really helps me stay on track.

The reason why it took me six days to complete The Warrior Heir is credited to its slow beginning. While the prologue was intriguing, it took roughly 100 pages for me to get invested in the book. Not much happens in terms of action–a little mystery here, a small skirmish in a graveyard–but other than that, there’s a slow build-up to the interesting fantasy stuff.

Even so, Cinda Williams Chima’s universe is complex. While I think her underground world of enchanters, sorcerers, wizards, warriors, and soothsayers is interesting, I also think that Chima is trying to tackle more than is necessary for her first novel. While all of the different kinds of magical persons were mentioned in one way or another, she could’ve just narrowed it down to maybe two or three of these intricate groups. But, because she wrote four more books, I believe that she was setting up background information for the companion novels.

But, as a reader, I felt confused. There was so much emphasis on learning about the other magical groups that the real reason for the title isn’t always the main focus of The Warrior Heir. Our protagonist, Jack, isn’t just learning about his duties as a warrior, but also being tutored in magic, because he was supposed to be a wizard at birth. Due to the old swither-o method, he was given the magical abilities of a warrior for a deadly tournament that desperately needs players.

Confused? Me too.

Even as a write this review, I’m still not sure I think that dragging all of the other magical guilds into the first novel. One of the problems I have with this book is the sheer amount of information I’m given as a reader, information I don’t really need if I’m just reading this book for fun. Which I was. I wasn’t intending to read past the first installment, so why do I need all of this information about soothsayers and history?

I understand that a certain amount of background information is needed in fantasy, as well as other genres. But, this information must be clear to not only the author, but also the reader. While I’m sure that all these magical groups make sense to Chima, I wasn’t always able to keep what I was learning straight in my head. There was lots of info dumping going on. I wanted more action–which kinda sorta came nearing the end of the book.

Funny enough, the deadly tournament chapter is the second to last in the novel. It’s 40 pages, but the fighting only takes up small chunks compared to the politics that happen for the majority of the chapter.

It was also confusing that one of the main characters has a nickname that I wasn’t completely aware of until almost the end of the book. Lee is mentioned in the prologue, and doesn’t seem to ever surface again. But he does show up again, just under his full name: Leander Hastings. Because the spelling of Lee and Leander isn’t very close to one another, I was unable to make the full connection until it was pretty much spelled out for me, in one of the chapters towards the end.

While I did like this book, I probably won’t be reading the other books in the series. It’s just a little too confusing, and it isn’t the most original fantasy series. I understand that there’s sub-genres in fantasy, like the whole quest narrative, but I also know that you can just as easily subvert the expected route of the sub-genre.

I’d give this book a C.


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