Review written by Jennifer Lewis.
In The Crimson Crown—the fourth and final book of the Seven Realms series—Raisa assumes the role of Queen of the Fells after her mother was murdered at the end of Book 3, The Gray Wolf Throne. Her determination to focus on re-uniting the different factions within her realm is constantly challenged by conflicting opinions among her advisers. Meanwhile, Han Alister finds that very few trust a former streetlord to be Queen Raisa’s bodyguard or to serve as the Queen’s representative on the Wizard’s Council. His situation becomes more complicated when someone starts murdering wizards and leaving behind the sign of the “Flash and Staff,” Han’s gang symbol. The competing agendas of Han, Raisa, the clans (including Raisa’s father), the wizards, and other regions seeking to take over a queendom in turmoil all culminate in a battle between the Arednians from the south and the people of the Vale.
Han and Raisa’s relationship provides an interesting twist to this political maneuvering. The matriarch of the Demonai clan has joined with Raisa’s father in trying to convince Raisa to marry someone of clan descent to increase the clan’s power within the queendom. Lord Bayar, the High Wizard, has other plans to marry Raisa off to his son Micah in order to grant more power to the wizards. Raisa is torn between whether to marry for political reasons or for love.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
Roles of Women
It is refreshing to see women in positions of real power throughout this book. Raisa is queen of the Fells, Elena Cennestre is matriarch of the Demonai clan, Willo is head of the Marisa Pines clan, Mina Abelard is dean of the Mystwerk House at Oden’s Ford, and Char Dunedain is general of the army. That said, not every female is a force to be reckoned with, including Raisa’s sister Mellony. It doesn’t feel like the author has placed women in all of the positions of power either since there are still males wielding influence—it’s more like there’s a balanced mix.
Han and Raisa’s relationship definitely heats up in this book. There’s a dance in the first couple chapters that is part of a clan ritual that quickly becomes somewhat sensual, and these two struggle with restraint from time to time throughout the book. Han insists that he does not want to be involved with Raisa unless he knows he is her one and only, so, once she has promised to marry him, the book implies they do indeed have sex. However, the language is limited to words of longing and hints at arousal.
Raisa’s other suitors, Nightwalker and Micah, both indicate their desire for Raisa as well, but Raisa’s relationships with them is not as intense as her relationship with Han. At one point, Han accidentally stumbles into Fiona Bayar’s room as Fiona is getting dressed, and Han feigns interest in Fiona to try to gain information. They have some intimate interaction, but it doesn’t get beyond descriptions of passionate embraces.
Han is kidnapped by the Bayars when he accidentally stumbles into them in some underground tunnels. Raisa’s sister Mellony is kidnapped by the leader of the Arden army to use as bait to lure Raisa out of her castle once the Arden army has begun its siege.
There are references to violence throughout the book. Han’s friend Dancer is a mix of both wizard and clan blood since Dancer’s mother Willo was raped by Lord Bayar some 18 years before the time of the book. Han leads Lord Bayar to his death at the hands of magical beasts. Micah Bayar’s twin sister is shot while she pursues Han, Night Bird shoots Nightwalker, and Nightwalker throws a sword through Night Bird’s throat. Han is tortured at the hands of the Bayars as they try to extract information from him regarding the lost armory. A fire spreads through Ragmarket, the less wealthy section of the city, and kills many. Wizards are killed in Ragmarket by having their throats slit. Mellony is almost lit on fire after being kidnapped by the Arden army.
Many die throughout this book, either explicitly (Lord Bayar being eaten by magical birds, Nightwalker, Fiona, Night Bird getting shot) or implicitly from the fire that raged through Ragmarket or during the war with the armies of Arden.
Lucius Frowsley, enchanted with immortality, finds that that much living drives one to drink. A lot.
Portrayal of family and relationships
Like the other books in this series, family seems to play a secondary role to the relationships of one’s true friends. The Bayars are united in their desire to see the wizards rule the land, but they are not very devoted to one another. Raisa’s father and grandmother put the clan’s interests over Raisa’s. Those most devoted to Raisa are Han and Amon, leader of the Queen’s guard.
One of the relationships that runs throughout the series is the relationship between the original Demon King, Alger Waterlow, and the original Gray Wolf Queen, Hanalea. The Demon King is blamed for the unleashing of magic that nearly destroyed the realm, an event referred to in the Realm’s history as The Breaking. In this book we find out that it was the Bayars who were responsible for this magical catastrophe as they tried to unleash the power in Alger’s amulet while torturing him. How did they find Alger? He was betrayed by his best friend, Lucius, since Lucius was secretly in love with Hanalea.
There are definitely tensions between the blue blooded nobles and wizards as well as the clans. The clans repeatedly refers to the mages as “jinxflingers,” and the wizards refer to the clans as “copperheads.” Each side feels that the other has too much power, and the majority of the book includes both sides trying to gain sway over the side they see as inferior. Han and his friend Dancer, who is half clan and half wizard, are able to convince both sides that their infighting is leading to instability in the queendom, and, at the end of the book, they join forces to take out the armies of Arden.
Amazon recommends ages 12 and up for this book. I was comfortable letting my 12 year old read it, but I would want to chat about it with my 11 year old. In addition, some of the subtleties of all the political maneuvering might be lost on younger children.
I enjoyed the political tension that runs throughout this book, particularly the fact that so many characters were pushing for their own agenda. The author highlighted how, as queen, Raisa’s decisions were rarely easy and often had implications beyond any one decision itself. The internal struggles within the queendom between the clans, the wizards, and the non-nobles within the Fells left the realm in a precarious position when the armies of Arden decided to try to take over. It was only by working together and drawing on each other’s strengths that they were able to maintain their freedom.
The Crimson Crown by Cinda Williams Chima
Published in 2013 by Disney-Hyperion
Book 4 of the Seven Realms series, which includes The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, and The Gray Wolf Throne
Read in paperback