Series: The Heir Chronicles #1
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Pages: 426 (paperback)
Published: February 27th 2007
Published by: Hyperion
Before he knew about the Roses, 16-year-old Jack lived an unremarkable life in the small Ohio town of Trinity. Only the medicine he has to take daily and the thick scar above his heart set him apart from the other high-schoolers. Then one day Jack skips his medicine. Suddenly, he is stronger, fiercer, and more confident than ever before. And it feels great until he loses control of his own strength and nearly kills another player during soccer team tryouts. Soon, Jack learns the startling truth about himself: He is Weirlind; part of an underground society of magical people who live among us. At the head of this magical society sit the feuding houses of the Red Rose and the White Rose, whose power is determined by playing The Game. A magical tournament in which each house sponsors a warrior to fight to the death, The winning house ruling the Weir. As if his bizarre magical heritage isn't enough, Jack finds out that he s not just another member of Weirlind, he's one of the last of the warriors at a time when both houses are scouting for a player. Jack's performance on the soccer field has alerted the entire magical community to the fact that he's in Trinity. And until one of the houses is declared Jack's official sponsor, they'll stop at nothing to get Jack to fight for them.
Jackson Swift is just a regular teenage boy. He goes to school, hangs out with his friends and plays football. Then one weekend his aunt turns up and drags him and his two best friends - Will and Finch - off to hunt of one of his ancestors. Their investigation leads them to digging up a box in a graveyard in the middle of the night, a box holding a magic sword which Jack has to put to use sooner than expected when they are attacked by a wizard. All three are suddenly aware of a whole other side to the world, one with wizards, enchanters, soothsayers and warriors. The Weir.
The start of the story was quite a lot of history, all of it necessary but not particularly exciting. Still readable, but nothing special. It gets better when you catch up to the modern day and start to follow Jack, but for me the story didn't really find its stride until the first big fight sequence where Jack is very much thrown in at the deep end. After that the adventure just kept coming - there was always something happening. Of course there were a couple of things that didn't add up, or quite make sense, but for me it was the magical things which helped Jack out slightly too conveniently which I had issues with.
I very much liked the magical world told about here where Weir and Anaweir (those without any abilities) coexist without the non-magical peoples knowing a thing about it. We only see little bits of most of the magics available here especially since Jack is a warrior and they don't have anything overtly magical about them. We see bits and pieces of other stuff, but not in any detail and I'm interested to see what else will be revealed. Their safety is in the secrecy, and the Anaweir know nothing. Even in Weir families: if a child is born without a stone - the source of their power - they are kept completely in the dark. I had issues with this as I didn't see how it was entirely feasible that it could be pulled off. But then there's magic available, so things are maybe more concealable.
Jack was a good leading character. He didn't just do what he was told or blindly follow the path he was set on, he wanted to know why he should do things, and he was quite logical about the whole thing. He wasn't willing to accept the first answer that was given to him and was quick to see flaws in things that didn't make sense. Will and Fitch were good secondary characters, though I'm not entirely sure what purpose they served. They turned up places slightly too conveniently sometimes and for no particular reason. They didn't really seem to actually do anything. Jack's Aunt Linda was my favourite character. She seems like she'd be a lot of fun to be around, but also someone you do not want to get on the wrong side of. There's a lot of her history that's alluded to and you know she spends her time off around the world. I kinda want to know more about her and her history, and I hope she or another Enchanter becomes a more central character in one of the later books.
For me, a wonderful moment in the book was when they came to Cumbria in the north of England - my home county. I wasn't expecting a whole lot of reference to things, but it was still vaguely exciting considering how in the middle of nowhere it is. But it provides the perfect setting for a magical battleground centuries old. There's some other stuff in England - well, London - but there's a point where a woman in Carlisle says "You appalling young hooligan" which made me giggle a little...I can't imagine any northerner saying this at all. Or indeed many non-northerners either. Though it does sum up the stereotypical image of the English quite well I think!
Overall, a very interesting book with a good magical world and a series which I'm looking forward to continuing with.