Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Wizard Heir - The Heir Chronicles #2 - Cinda Williams Chima

"He tried to gather her up in his arms, but at his touch, her skin charred and burned and turned to ash, spiraling to the floor. He tried again, and her flesh crumbled in his hands, revealing bone. He screamed and let go, and she fell."

Seph McCauley, a 16-year-old teenager from Canada, has spent the past three years getting kicked out of one exclusive private school after another. The big problem is not his behavior, but a series of magical accidents - well, actually more disasters. Seph is a Wizard, an orphan and untrained and lately his magical powers are getting out of control.
After causing a tragic fire at a party, Seph is sent to The Havens, a secluded boys' school on the coast of Maine. Gregory Leicester, the school principal, promises to train Seph and initiates him into his mysterious sect of Wizards. But Seph's enthusiasm soon dampens when he learns that the training will cost him a lot and that Leicester plans to use the power of his students to serve his own goals.
Seph must try to survive in The Havens, isolated from the outside world and plagued by horrific hallucinations. He is finally succumbing to the demands of Leicester, when he meets Jason ...

One of the many beautiful things Ms Chima creates here, is the credibility of a completely fabricated story. If I were to bump into Jack or Seph this morning, who would tell me that everything described in this book is real, I would believe them immediately. I would actually really like to believe that the whole story is true. Unfortunately, the chances that Seph and I would meet in real life seem close to non-existing. - sad face -

The change in the point of view in this second part of The Heir Chronicles is very interesting. In the first book we saw the world through the eyes of Jack, the Warrior. In this sequel, we follow throughout the bulk of the book the events that Seph experiences. At some point in the book Seph and Jack meet each other and although it was at first very strange to see Jack through someone else’s eyes, this is a prime example of fine writing. As a reader we know Jack and his thoughts very well, but Seph, who is a stranger in Trinity, has never met Jack and will therefore rely on the first impressions he receives. The same goes for Ellen, we now get to see her from the perspective of a total stranger and not that of a love-struck teenager. It makes Ellen a lot more robust and - OK, sounds odd - more masculine (because of the Warrior thing...) The feelings and thoughts that are shared with the readers in the first book give a depth to these characters that not everyone immediately sees when they meet for the first time. It's nice to see that Ms Chima is capable of creating an accurate image of a character, that she has written with so much emotional attachment in her first book, from a different viewpoint. Ms Chima is a master at drawing beautiful characters.
The surroundings and the situation in the school, The Havens, was perfectly described and elaborated. Although Seph's stay at The Havens lasts almost a year, it is never tedious or boring.

In the course of this story some new villains are defined and introduced. This, of course, makes it all the more interesting, because which of these bad guys will lose out and which will return in the next book to make the lives of our heroes miserable.
The introduction of Madison and her special "power" gives a fun twist to the story, a twist that I certainly did not see coming.
About the ending of the book, I must be honest, I had seen it coming, but some elements in the final scenario still managed to surprise me.

Another fun fact: this cover and that of the next book, The Dragon Heir, were created by Larry Rostant, the cover artist I have already discussed here  a while ago.