In the opening scene of the story, we follow Han and Fire Dancer as they run across three wizards, too young to be wielding the magic that is causing havoc in the forest. This one scene sets up the identities and personalities of the three societies and factions living in the novel: the Native American-like Clans, the elitist wizards, and the industrial/Western Valefolk. In the confrontation between the five young men, in order to prevent the young wizards from doing more damage to the forest and harming Han and Fire Dancer, Han relieves them of a powerful amulet and sends them back to lands they are allowed to be on.
Of course, this is no normal magical artifact, and it turns out that it has a very, very dark history, and Han may be connected to it.
The story is told in the alternating POVs of Han and Princess Raisa, and through the two of them we learn of Raisa’s goal to be a strong, powerful queen (even as it seems others have very different plans for her and the Queendom), and Han’s complex life (he seems to have a different personality based on what situation he is in: he is a former thief and street thug, a boy who gathers herbs for sale to support his mother, an honorary member of the Clans).
The Demon King is the first book in Chima’s Seven Realms series. As such, there is a great deal of world-building and character introduction. Every so often, this felt a little slow to me, so I struggled to get through the early sections, but the characters are engaging, and I found myself instantly liking Fire Dancer, Han (aka Hunts Alone), and Princess Raisa ana’Marianna of the Queendom of the Fells. Seeing as these are important characters to the story, I was relieved to enjoy their personalities even when the narrative sometimes slowed down. This isn’t to say that either character is perfect. Raisa can be down right annoying in her whining about her courtly obligations as princess, even as she clearly revels in the attention she gets as princess. Han can be a bit much to take, too, but somehow he was less annoying to me. They both seemed to encapsulate the complex emotions and identities of young adults on the cusp of adulthood and adult responsibilities.
This is entertaining, and pretty standard as far as high fantasies go. Less complex than some I’ve read, more complex than others. Engaging, but not extraordinary. Much of the plot presented is resolved by the close of the novel, which is nice, and in the end I am curious enough to want to read the second novel, The Exiled Queen, but I don’t think I’ll be running out to get it as soon as possible.