Cinda Williams Chima's take on High Fantasy.
A series of novels that take place within the world of, obviously, the Seven Realms. According to legend, a thousand years ago an evil wizard named Alger Waterlow (known to plebs solely as the Demon King) kidnapped Queen Hanalea of the Fells and nearly caused the end of the world. However, Hanalea escaped. She rallied an army made of both wizards and members of the Spirit Clans, who then defeated the Demon King and restored order to the Seven Realms. The Demon King's reign of terror has come to be known as The Breaking.
Fast-forward a thousand years and we have the events of the main series, following (former) street thug Han Alister descended from Alger Waterlow himself and Princess Heir Raisa ana'Marianna, of the Gray Wolf line of queens descended from Hanalea. Although first independent of each other, their worlds collide when a conspiracy emerges around the vastly powerful Bayar House and the Demon King's amulet.
In book one, The Demon King, Han is having trouble breaking away from his former life as a notorious streetlord, when one day he (accidentally) steals a strange amulet from the Bayars. The amulet brings more trouble than it's worth, though, including the undying enmity of the Bayar family and even a dangerous connection with the Demon King of legend. Meanwhile, Raisa is faced with political tension and potential threats to her ascension to the throne of the Fells, on top of her approaching name day and a looming marriage contract.
Book two, The Exiled Queen, follows Han and Raisa as they attempt to escape the political turmoil in their home by attending the world-famous schools at Oden's Ford. Han meets a powerful and mysterious ally named Crow, who comes offering to teach him to use his magic effectively—and aid with his vendetta against the Bayars. Meanwhile, at the same school, Raisa (hiding under a pseudonym) works to take a level in badass. As Raisa and Han eventually meet again, with Raisa still living under a false identity for her safety, a romance, as well as a spiraling rivalry between each of them and the Bayars develops that could threaten both of their lives.
Book three, The Gray Wolf Throne, initially focuses more upon Raisa as she travels back home in order to ascend to the throne. All the while, she's pursued by assassins that wish to prevent this. Han risks his life to help her, but when he has recovered, he finds out to his dismay that the girl he knew and loved as "Rebecca" is actually the princess heir of his country, whom he had sworn to aid as part of his contract with the clan. The two of them are forced into a world of politics and treachery—but this time, with the highest stakes yet.
Book four, The Crimson Crown, was released in October 2012. The plot focuses mainly on the large tension caused by Han's sheer presence in the Fellsian Court, as well as the fact that he's found a powerful object that could possibly unite the Fells once and for all. But can he do so before he's assassinated? Meanwhile, the different forces within the Fells are in perpetual conflict and can only seem to agree on one thing: They want Han Alistar out of the picture. Should Raisa sacrifice the man she loves for the sake of peace or allow the Fells to fall into civil war?
Chima has written a sequel series known as The Shattered Realms, with the first book, Flamecaster released in April 2016.
The Seven Realms Series provides examples of:
- The Ace: Played with. Han is called this by another streetlord, citing his good looks, talent at thieving and popularity. Han is incredulous, considering he just faked his own death to beat the rap for crimes he didn't commit and can't even provide for his little sister.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Fiona. Han sees that she was a victim herself, made the way she was by her family.
- Alpha Bitch: Micah, of all people! At Oden's Ford, when he realizes that his status back home won't get him anywhere with the staff, he quickly adopts a few Bitch in Sheep's Clothing tendencies. With the Wizard students, he takes advantage of Han's past and tells everyone that Han's a street rat and a murderous thug. Albeit this is somewhat true; Han did try to kill Micah's father, but Micah conveniently leaves out how Gavan is responsible for the successful murder of Han's family. This actually works to Han's advantage in the most part since he doesn't really care what other people think about him. Most students leave Han alone, and his past makes him somewhat of a sex god in the eyes of the female students at Oden's Ford. Including Fiona Bayar.
- Anti-Magic: Raisa gets a ring that provides this.
- Awesome Moment of Crowning: Raisa's coronation ceremony.
- Badass in Distress: Han is captured by the Bayars towards the climax of book four. What follows is something you'd expect to read in a whump Fan Fiction.
- Big Bad: Gavan Bayar.
- Reid Nightwalker for books 3 and 4, being the driving force behind the Ragmarket murders and the death of Marianna.
- Arguably the Bayar family for the entirety of the series, specifically Gavan Bayar, considering his multiple attempted murders and captures of Han and the rape of Willo.
- Bigger Bad: While the above are directly attacking/manipulating the good guys, they're only internal problems for the Fells. Gerard Montagine, on the other hand, is attempting to conquer the Fells from the outside and is willing to settle for it being burned to the ground instead.
- Blatant Lies: The Bayars are very fond of this trope, especially Gavan. To list a few instances: Micah and co. started a fire at the start of book one, but they were given an honor for having stopped it; Gavan initiates the murders of countless innocents in the slums when tracking Han down; he also sets fire to the lower city in the hopes of framing Han; towards the climax of book four, he convinces Micah to lie to Raisa and say that Han is dead in order to get Raisa to marry him; and possibly the most egregious example of all: the Bayars kidnapped Hanalea and caused The Breaking when they messed with Alger's amulet. They deserved all of the falk the so-called Demon King got, not Alger.
- Blood Knight: The Demonai, even the otherwise calm and collected Averill is still ecstatic a few days after a major battle.
- Blue Blood: This term is used in-series. A lot.
- Bring Him to Me: Eventually, Gavan Bayar insists on having Han brought to him alive. He even travels into the slums himself in order to retrieve Alistar personally. Luckily, Han is very resourceful and still manages to get away with the help of his Power Limiter silver arm bands.
- Burn the Witch!: The Church of Malthus is very fond of consigning those who go against their teachings to this fate. That includes both wizards and powerful women. Mellony gets so close to this in book four that it's not even funny.
- Chick Magnet:
- As of book three, Han has has a grand total of six separate named girls hit on him, not counting the many nameless ones mentioned in the narration.
- Raisa demonstrates the Distaff Counterpart of this trope, although for other reasons; everyone wants to marry her to steal her throne—not to mention her great beauty.
- Child by Rape: Gavan Bayer raped Willo, making Dancer one of these.
- Conflict Ball: The clans (especially the Demonai) and the wizards put their ongoing power struggle over everything else, even the invasion of the Fells by Arden fails to unite them.
- Gets ridiculous near the end of the fourth book when Han gives the clan leaders a choice, either team up with the wizards to stop the aforementioned invasion or he'll have to give the wizards a treasure trove of magical weapons so they can do it alone. The Demonai's response to this is to threaten to kill him.
- Covered with Scars:
- Han appears to have a lot of scars from his time as streetlord of the Raggers. Raisa notices one above his right eye often, but all he's said about it is that he "took a risk".
- Cat also fits this, along with Tattooed Crook.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Lord Bayar, eaten alive by birds. He deserves it, though.
- Crystal Dragon Jesus: Brought to you by the Church of Mathus.
- Deadpan Snarker: Fire Dancer, of all people. Cat, too. Hans, too. Raisa, too. Micah, too. Amon gets some good one in. So do the clans people, and some of the nobility ... Wait.
- Distressed Damsel: Played with through Raisa. Her getting captured is a rare occurrence (twice so far), and whenever it does happen it generally lasts for less than a full chapter. She has also always broken free on her own.
- Dropped a Bridge on Her: Night Bird gets killed within the final 20 pages of The Crimson Crown saving Raisa from Reid Nightwalker
- Han dies in the second chapter of Flamecaster.
- Fantastic Drug: Razorleaf.
- Fantastic Racism: And HOW:
- Everyone, especially Valefolk and especially southerners who've never met a clansman, despise and look down upon said clansmen. They're rarely referred to sans the derogatory nickname of "copperhead"—even Dancer uses this to refer to himself a couple times.
- Even wizards, powerful and blue-blooded as they are, are not met with reverence or respect outside of the Fells. The clans refer to them as "jinxflingers" (the tamest of several nicknames), and southerners perceive them with reactions ranging from disbelief to seeing them as heretics (see the Church of Malthus).
- Fantastic Slurs: Most notably, the clans have "jinxflinger" for the wizards and everyone else has "copperhead" for the clans.
- The whole series has a bunch of Fantastic Slurs for everyone, depending on where you're from.
- Finding Judas: Lucius, who betrayed Alger Waterlow to the Bayars out of jealousy. Alger never finds out until a thousand years later, believing it was Hanalea.
- Gentleman Thief: Han has shades of this, try as he might to lead an honest life before he got himself sucked into the glorious world of politics
- Gentleman Snarker: Han again, bless him.
- Grand Theft Me: Crow does this to Han frequently while training him, and can likewise posses anyone who enters Aediion without a talisman.
- Handicapped Badass: Adam Gryphon.
- Hate Sink: Arguably Mac Gillian and Gavan Bayar - they lack the Character Development that Micah undergoes, are not shown anywhere near as sympathetic as Fiona, and both are directly involved in antagonizing Han and Raisa. Fittingly enough, the former is unceremoniously killed by Raisa, while the latter is defeated while chasing Han down.
- He-Man Woman Hater: The high-ranking priest of the Church of Malthus shown in book four is implied to want to burn both Raisa and her sister Mellony at the stake simply because they're women in positions of power.
- King Markus shows shades of this due to his taking a personal vendetta against the Fells simply because Raisa, a woman, rejected his oh-so-generous marriage proposal.
- Hypocrite: When Han complains that "Rebecca" had been lying to him, Fire Dancer points out he was keeping things from her as well.
- The Demonai have some moments, such as advocating countering the Bayar's suspected treason by kidnapping the lawfully appointed heir to get a more suitable one crowned instead.
- I Have You Now, My Pretty: Micah does this to Raisa at one point in book two.
- In-Series Nickname: Amon often calls Raisa "Rai," and Han's full name is Hanson.
- It Began with a Twist of Fate: Han Alistar never have found himself pulled into a struggle for control over the Fells and the truth behind the Demon King's legend if he hadn't decided to steal Micah Bayar's amulet, an artifact that once belonged to the infamous Demon King.
- Living Macguffin: Examined with Raisa, who often feels like this due to how many people want to marry her for the political power she has.
- Lovable Rogue: Han. Definitely.
- Love Dodecahedron: Again, and how!
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Can be considered an inversion as the son in this case (and the descendant in another) are fully aware of their lineage, but the older generation isn't. In a nutshell, Fire Dancer is Gavan Bayar's illegitimate son, conceived after the High Wizard raped Willo. They both work hard to make everyone think that Willo doesn't know who the wizard that raped her was in order to keep Dancer safe. Whilst Han is the descendant of the Demon King, thus bearing incredible magical power.
- Meaningful Name: Malthus is the name of an Earl of Hell who commands a legion of demons, just like how the church spreads its influence via conquest.
- Official Couple: One thing that's notable about this series is that it loves catching the reader off guard with the supporting couples - most notable examples are Cat/Fire Dancer and Adam Gryphon/Mordra, revealing them in rather casual ways.
- Pet the Dog: Night Bird sticking up for Fire Dancer is the first step in mending the magic fueled rift between her, Fire Dancer, and Han.
- Politically Active Princess: Princess Raisa invokes this trope with the Briar Rose Ministry, a charity she founded and funds.
- Power Limiter: Those silver bracelets Han can't get off? Those actually absorb magic, mainly his.
- Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Forever burn in the Breaker's clutches, Gavan! The scene that goes back to the actual rape is very chilling. It begins by painting Gavan in a sympathetic light. He's surprised that Willo is so beautiful, and it looks like there might have been more to the incident than we were originally lead to believe. But then Gavan gives Willo the ring—the one we know is the magical equivalent to a date rape drug. We even hear him say "Now lets see if we can get all these skins off."
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Elena, Averill, and Willo in book 1, Taim Askell in book 2, and Willo and Raisa for the last two books.
- Motive Decay: Elena and Averill start out level-headed and reliable but as the political situation complicates and what is good for the Fells diverges from what is good for the clans/bad for the wizards, they pursue the latter.
- Rebellious Princess: Raisa. She's described as this word-for-word by the author in one interview.
- The Reveal: At the beginning of book three, Crow reveals that he's Alger Waterlow, the Demon King. There are several in book four, some explaining the true nature of the Breaking and the Demon King's, as well as Hanalea's roles in it.
- The fact that Willow got raped by Gavan Bayar, leaving Fire Dancer as his illegitimate son and Micah and Fiona's older half-brother.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something: Raisa invokes this in book one with the Briar Rose Ministry, a charity she and her father personally fund. She later brings it Up to Eleven in book three, as a good chunk of the book is her going around, telling off her subjects about serious issues with the government, and helping people out.
- Sacrificial Lamb: Mari
- Spirit Advisor: Crow to Han. The past Gray Wolf Queens to Raisa (at least in book 3).
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Raisa and Han, when they're not dealing with offended tyrants and unwanted adversaries.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Raisa and Amon. And later on, Raisa and Han. It also turns out that Alger and Hanalea were this ages ago. In the end, while Raisa and Amon can't be together, Amon finds a new love and they're shown to be happy together, Raisa and Han get married at the end of the series, and Alger and Hanalea are reunited in Aediion after a millennium apart.
- Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Han is ignominiously killed at the beginning of Flamecaster.
- Together in Death: Hanalea and Alger get to reunite in Aediion.
- Tsundere: Arguably, Cat towards Fire Dancer.
- Was It All a Lie?: Han's feelings toward "Rebecca."
- We Can Rule Together: What Fiona tries on Han, complete with attempted seduction. Han doesn't go for it.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: Han. Cinda leaps on every opportunity to describe how breathtakingly beautiful they are.
- Who Wants to Live Forever?: It's revealed in The Crimson Crown that Lucius has spent his thousand years of immortality trying to drink himself to death.
- Written By The Victors: A lot of history regarding The Breaking has been skewed. This is suggested in-universe by Micah, claiming the clans did it to justify putting restraints on the wizards. Ironically, this was actually done by the Bayars, covering up the fact that they were the ones kidnapping Hanalea and forcing her into marriage, not the Demon King.