Initial reaction: “The Warrior Heir” was a solid YA fantasy read for me. I was engaged in the story from beginning to end, though I’ll admit there were a few rough spots and transitions to it. It didn’t slow my momentum through this book, though – I couldn’t put it down because much of the rolling action and dynamic had me hooked.
“The Warrior Heir” has the honor of being one of the first galleys I was approved for on NetGalley (It was back in 2011, around the time I joined), so it feels surreal that I’m backtracking now to review this after finally reading the book. Tangent aside – holy crud, how did I end up missing this book until now? It’s a solid fantasy tale that expounds on the life of a boy who was meant to be a wizard, but as a child had a warrior stone placed in his heart and hidden from a destiny that was sure to catch up with him.
The prologue begins exciting enough, but it might be confusing for some readers because it’s not from the perspective character’s POV. That sets more of the stage for the evil wizards and the establishment of the antagonist through this novel. In the meantime, Jack Swift, your typical 16-year old boy trying to survive high school, forgets to take his heart medication one morning, but can’t get back home to take it. As a result, during soccer tryouts that evening, Jack blazes on the field like no one (including himself) has ever seen before.
And he starts questioning what he needed the medicine for in the first place, especially since he feels fine without it and the incident on the soccer field didn’t feel like a fluke.
This sets off a chain reaction of events that reveal Jack’s medicine wasn’t necessarily for his heart, but rather a suppressant for his latent powers to keep him safe from detection. Jack is a part of a traditional battle run between the White and Red Rose houses, called The Game. Yet, since Jack is one of the last remaining warriors, he’s getting pulled from both the White and Red Rose teams for recruitment. And nothing’s stopping them from using Jack, as well as his loved ones, as bargaining chips to achieve their ultimate goal – for Jack to play for their team.
I really loved the rolling action sequences in this story – they were fluid and engaging. It was also a nice little touch to add some historical elements through the story so that not only Jack could trace his lineage, but also incorporating a bit of history about the War of the Roses.
What kept me from loving this story more in the aftermath, however, were a couple of things: I thought that the characters could’ve used a bit more fleshing out than they did. I did have to backtrack a few times to keep in mind what character was who among the secondary cast – but I knew Jack, Will, Ellen, Aunt Linda, Hastings, etc. well enough to follow them – I just wish I had a little more connectivity to them. I thought Aunt Linda was rather kick-awesome for her part in the story, probably even more so than Jack himself at times (who seemed a little too comfortable with his powers for someone who knew nothing about his destiny).
The other aspect that kept me from enjoying this more? Some of the turns of the story I saw coming before they hit, so it wasn’t that the story surprised me for its progression, but I was hooked on the dynamic and flow of the writing, and that kept me reading the book to see how things would turn out for the characters. It’s engaging, and certainly well worth picking up for a YA fantasy story, so I’m eagerly continuing forward with this series to see how it comes across. It’s one of the better ones I’ve picked up as of late and I hope to read more of Chima’s work in the future.
Overall score: 3.5/5
Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Disney Hyperion.