Like the title says, this is the second book in the series (I think it's a trilogy, that's what the website says anyway) and I read the first book, The Demon King, last year and just didn't like it. I really did like Chima's previous trilogy (now a series, maybe that's why I'm confused), The Heir Series, because of the setting (finally Ohio gets a bit of love!) and the magic was interesting but I just wasn't drawn into this new series (and, now that I think back on it, I had major issues with the last book in The Heir Series as well, huh). I didn't manage to connect with the leads, the setting alternatively confused me and bored me (it came off as Native American culture mixed with Irish culture but I don't think it was supposed to be interpreted like that) but it did have a saving grace in the ending. I was expecting the ending to contain the "oh, we'll accidentally reveal our secret identifies to each other and create an uneasy truce and fall in love after being tsundere at first" cliche. Heck, that still hasn't happened in this book and I did enjoy this book more so I'm hopeful about the third book.
The Exiled Queen by Cinda Williams Chima
I really like this cover (and The Demon King 's cover ) because the cover is simple, has a good color scheme, the title/author name on their side is intriguing, and it has an item on the cover that is actually important in the story (and actually looks like the object in question too!).
Summary: Continuing from where the first book left off, Princess Heir Raisa flees the Fells with a small group of body guards and the forced (and illegal) marriage to Micah Bayer, a wizard, to hide in Oden's Ford (a giant school for magic, soldiers, musicians, and other arts). Ironically enough, Hans Allister, newly a wizard, and Fire Dancer are on a mission from the Clans to study wizardry at Oden's Ford to combat the other wizards in the capital. But there are enemies everywhere for both of them and who knows how long either of them can stay inconspicuous.
The Good: Like I said above, the series has managed to avoid a really big cliche so far and by the end of the book Han and Raisa are developing a much better and more natural relationship with each other. They're still holding back secrets and I think I see how this is going to end but it's working well so far. Interesting to see some of the younger villains get fleshed out more and the story introduced quite a few other characters I hope to see return (mostly because it'll seem like a cheap trick if they don't). This book also expanded the setting considerably and now has enough material for more than three book and I'm sure the civil wars in the neighboring countries will figure into the upcoming book(s) so that should be interesting.
The Bad: Alright, Hans says he's a character who doesn't go looking for trouble but for the first half or so of the book he got into trouble every two pages he's present. And every time it's him rising to provocation and he acknowledges it (and if Dancer is present he's always going "don't!"). I was using stronger words than Dancer and, while I don't mind an untruthful narrator this wasn't even that, this was just watching Hans be an unlikeable idiot for a lot of chapters (and at the same time Raisa was mooning over one of the boys due to a lack of communication, gah, which wasn't that much more interesting). I did like the characters more towards the end of the book
So, the books are door-stoppers, I'm annoyed at the leads half the time, plot needs more politics (well, that's a IMO thing) and I'm still not drawn in by the setting but I still want to see this series through to the ending. Partially because of how much time I've already spent reading it, partially because I'm hoping with the story back in the Fells with more mature characters we'll have some political maneuvering. So, not giving up hope yet, although I do hope the series isn't longer than four or five books.