Review written by Jennifer Lewis.
The Gray Wolf Throne is the third book in the Seven Realms series (here are the reviews for the first and second books). It begins with Raisa fleeing Micah Bayar and his cronies who had kidnapped her from Oden’s Ford. Raisa makes the perilous journey back to her home with the help of Amon Byrne’s father, Edmon, but many lives are lost protecting her along the way. She arrives home to find her queendom in disarray, about to be turned over to her sister Mellony, who is being manipulated by High Wizard Gavin Bayar. Raisa finds herself in the middle of many political battles as she strives to assert herself as rightful leader and choose the best path forward for her people.
Meanwhile, Han Alister, street gang leader turned wizard, finds that Rebecca Morley (Raisa’s name at Oden’s Ford) has been kidnapped and sets out to find her. He catches up to her just in time to save her life by using unfamiliar healing magic to stop the poison invading her body, an act that almost cost him his own life. Han had fallen for Rebecca during their time at Oden’s Ford and is devastated when he learns Raisa was lying to him about her identity the entire time he’s known her. He accompanies Raisa back to Fellsmarch as her self-appointed bodyguard where he can keep an eye on her, the clans, the magic users, and rulers of adjoining nations—all of whom are trying to use the queen to further their own agendas.
This book has much less of the romantic angst present in The Exiled Queen since Han is keeping his distance from Raisa once he discovers her true identity. The political maneuvering taking place was delightful to explore, yet it wasn’t so complicated that it was hard to follow. The author definitely conveys how convoluted it can be to run a queendom, particularly when everyone is pursuing their own agendas and trying to drag you along with them.
The story between Han and Raisa was enjoyable as well. They both care deeply for each other, but they have serious obstacles hindering their ability to have a relationship. Raisa feels obligated to seek out a political marriage that will improve the lives and security of her people, not to mention the fact that there are laws preventing the Gray Wolf queens from marrying wizards. Han, who has been betrayed by almost everyone he’s come into contact with, feels he can no longer trust Raisa, though he cares about her very much. The relationship between these two has evolved throughout the series and the author touches on issues such as trust, responsibility, and thinking beyond a moment’s passion.
SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid
Because Raisa is so focused on reasserting herself as rightful heir to the throne, there are far fewer romantic entanglements hinting at sex in this book than there were in the previous two. There are still some passionate embraces and kisses and the like, but it’s mild.
Sergeant McGillen threatens to force himself on Raisa—the next section talks about how that turns out.
While the romance may have died down some in book 3 of this series, the violence increased a good deal. Raisa’s mother dies after being pushed (though some claim she jumped) from the balcony of her palace room.
As Raisa is trying to make her way back to her home in Fellsmarch, she is captured by Sergeant McGillen—the corrupt guard who met the flaming end of a torch wielded by Raisa in The Demon King. He brutally murders those helping Raisa—Amon’s father and all of the members of his troupe—before he drags her off to a cave, obviously about to force himself upon her sexually. Raisa manages to escape by killing McGillen—this was quite a gruesome moment in the book. After her escape, Raisa is hunted down by the rest of McGillen’s troupe. They attack her and wound her with a poisoned arrow. Without Han’s help, she would have died.
Once Raisa does make it home, she lives under constant surveillance since the threat of assassination is very real. A group of assassins manages to sneak into her room, and she kills two of her attackers with her staff while Han lights the other attacker on fire.
The violence does not feel gratuitous within the context of a queen trying to assert herself in a position that many others wish to claim, either by becoming rulers themselves or controlling Raisa or her sister Mellony. However, there’s still a hefty amount of violence.
As mentioned above, Raisa loses her mother when she dies. Plenty of other characters die as well.
Portrayal of family and relationships
The relationship between Raisa and her father is complicated by the fact that she is now Queen. Her father, Averill, is one of the rulers of the Demonai clan who absolutely do not get along with the magic users. Averill very much loves his daughter, but he doesn’t always seem to put her needs over what the clans want, which is something that Raisa grapples with.
Raisa’s sister Mellony is often left by the wayside during all of this. When Raisa returns to Fellsmarch, she finds that Mellony is about to be named the rightful heir to the throne; this has given Mellony a great deal of power and made her quite valuable politically. Once Raisa has claimed the throne, Mellony quickly fades into the background. This may be the way of many political families, but it made me sad all the same.
Raisa’s closest relationships still seem to be with Han and her guard. The men and women of her guard defend Raisa with their lives, and Raisa protects them as only someone wielding queen-like powers can. Han saves Raisa’s life by taking on much of the poison damage himself, showing again how much she means to him. This series continues to explore close family-like relationships through non-family members.
There have always been tensions between the clans and the magic users, but it becomes significantly more pronounced as the series develops. The magic users continue to think that the “copperheads” belong in a position of subservience to their superior magic powers, while the clans feel they should deny the “jinxflingers” of all of their magical craft items (such as amulets needed to cast spells). Raisa is caught in an interesting position since her father is clan and Han is a magic user. We see her begin to lay the groundwork for a kingdom where these two adversaries begin to cooperate.
Amazon recommends ages 10 and up for this book. I was comfortable letting my 12 year old read it, but I would probably want to read it with my 10 year old to talk through the concepts that come up. The violence in particular might be startling for her, and the political motivations of some of the characters might not make sense if she’s reading this alone.
The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
Published in 2011 by Hyperion
Book 3 of the Seven Realms series (follows The Demon King and The Exiled Queen, followed by The Crimson Crown)
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