Monday, July 25, 2016

The Star-Crossed Han Alister

SPOILER WARNING: if you've not read Flamecaster, stop reading and put this aside until you have. Again: read Flamecaster  before you read this post. We’ll wait.
Don't say you were not warned. 


Ever since the release of the first novel in my Shattered Realms series, I've received feedback from loyal readers up in arms about something that happens early on to one of my own favorite characters--thief turned wizard consort Han sul'Alger. 
In Flamecaster, Han Alister is murdered while trying to save his son's life. 
         Readers who are new to the series took Han’s murder in stride. Bad things happen—that’s what creates conflict in story. 
         It’s my long-time readers who’ve cried foul. One loyal reader called it "gratuitous." Another predicted that his heart and soul would be crushed by my "brutal inky fist." Some thought it was an act of convenience, in order to make it easier for readers to move on, or a cheap emotional trick.
It didn't help that this happened in Chapter 2, before readers developed a relationship with Adrian, Lila, Jenna, and the others.
Even though, all along, the series has been presented as a stand-alone "spinoff" from the original, one that focuses on the next generation, some readers feel betrayed by the loss of a character they loved and planned to spend a lot more time with. 
In effect: You promised me a happy ending. No. Fair.
They are not appeased by the fact that Han and Raisa spent twenty-five mostly happy years together--years that did not make it onto the page, at least not yet. They are not moved by the argument that life goes on, and a happy ending is not a permanent condition of bliss, except in stories. But, in effect, that's what it seemed to be  until I wrote this next chapter. 
The worst part is that I knew what would happen, which is why it took me four years to get up the courage to write it. 
Some of you know that the first fiction I wrote set in the Seven Realms was an adult high fantasy series known as The Star-Marked Warder. Two of the main characters were teens--Adrian sul'Han and Jenna Bandelow. Adrian's parents, Han Alister and Queen Raisa ana'Marianna were adult characters in those stories. Han appeared only briefly, however, because one of the first things that happens is that he is murdered by assassins in the street, an event that has a profound effect on Adrian. 
At the time, this murder didn't take a huge emotional toll on me, because, after all, I did not know Han very well. It’s not murder and mayhem that puts us on the edge of our seats—it’s when characters we’ve come to know and love are at risk.
I’d written nearly 500,000 words set in that world when fate intervened in the form of a publication deal for The Warrior Heir, the contemporary YA fantasy that I was shopping at the time. I put my high fantasy stories aside, and wrote two more books in that series. 
I always intended to return to the Seven Realms, but found
I enjoyed writing for teens and wanted to continue to write for that audience. From experience with editors and readers, I knew that the stories I’d already written would required considerable revision.
It seemed easier at that point to start fresh. So I took the two adult characters, Han and Raisa, back to when they were teens, and wrote a prequel of sorts to the Star-Marked Warder. That became the Seven Realms series. 
In the process I grew to love Han and Raisa. Fiercely. The entire time I was writing about Han, I knew what would happen, in the same way that we know that our loved ones will die someday. I could live with it, as long as it was distant. But, now that I knew him, now that I’d heard his voice and shared his troubles and triumphs over four books, now that I’d experienced his dogged determination to find a path to happiness against all odds--I couldn't deal with carrying on with the story. 
So I didn’t. I wrote two more novels in my Heir Chronicles series and filled an entire folder with emails from Seven Realms readers asking for more.
What changed my mind is this: I loved the world I’d built and wanted to spend more time in it. I loved so many elements of the stories I’d written in those free times when I was not constantly working on deadline. While it needed extensive revision and reworking, I knew that the bones of a good story were there, complete with pirates and dragons and magemarked heroines.

At this point, the savvy reader might say, It’s your story—why don’t you change it? And I could. But Han’s murder has so much to do with what drives Ash and Alyssa through this series it seemed unfaithful to the story to make a change not to serve the story, but because I am a coward afraid of breaking my own heart—and the hearts of my readers.
         So I went forward, entrusting the story to Abby Ranger, an editor who’d worked on The Gray Wolf Throne and The Crimson Crown. Someone who would never allow me to take the easy way out.
I wanted to begin the story a year or two after the murder—so I would not have to witness it. Abby argued that readers deserved to be there, that these events that change lives need to be on stage, in scene, and not in the narrative. Something I’ve said myself in multiple writing workshops.       
A writer friend of mine tells me that I made a brave creative choice in what I did. If so, being brave sucks sometimes.
The truth is…sometimes the good die young. Sometimes the price of loving someone is the possibility of loss. Or, to paraphrase something Han Alister said as he lay dying in the street:
Tell her . . . tell her that having her . . . that being with her . . . that loving her . . . it was worth it.
It was worth it.

I hope that knowing Han, that spending time walking around in his skin through the pages of the Seven Realms – that it was worth the pain that follows. And I hope Han and Raisa’s children won’t let you down in their quest to make sense of a world that stole their father and sister from them.




33 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Well, I am very sad Han died, but I've never been mad at you about it. I figure you have the right to write your story the way you want. And you certainly had justification for doing it like you did.

CindaChima said...

Have I ever told you that I love you, Natalie?

Chris Garlow said...

I was shocked at Han's death and it's true, it was harder to take before growing attached to his son and other characters of the book. After finishing the book I wouldn't change a thing. It's so true that his death drive's Adrian to do what he does and there probably wouldn't have been as good of a narrative had he not had this drive of revenge.

You are an amazing writer and I've been a fan from almost the beginning. I will always love everything you write. I would LOVE to one day read The Star-Marked Warder.

You are not afraid to kill of any of your characters like another author I know. When no one ever dies it doesn't feel like a reality, even though it's a fiction. The goal of writing fiction is to allow your readers to dive into this other world, where sometimes the impossible happens, but it's still a reality of sorts. On the other hand you are also not a ruthless killer of characters like another author I know that kills everyone that you become attached to.

You are truly amazing and your true fans will always know that no matter what twist and turns you take us on, it will be an amazing ride!

Margaret Parsons said...

I loved Han and Raisa. The tears started even before I let myself comprehend the scene I was reading. I totally understood where you were headed. Your choices were so organic to the world, the story, and the character. You said to me,once, (about a character I love) " I've seen him all grown up. in a way that told me my hopes for redemption would linger and die. I knew though that no matter my personal hopes for any character that you would give us a story that would make us dream, make us laugh out loud, and make us cry, often. I look forward to Shadowcaster.

Rebecca S said...

Han's death devastated me, but I was never angry. I loved his and Reisa's journey and can't wait to see what happens in future books. Thank you for your perspective. I think it's speaks about your abilities to have readers so devoted to a character.

Josh Ewart said...

This was very well written. While as a reader and writer I totally understand why this needed to happen, I too am in acceptance that this needed to happen, both for the story and for us to realize that there is cost. While there was cost in the Seven Realms, it was more from betrayal than from unexpected attacks.

Great Job!!!

Julia Chong said...

Ms. Chima I applaud you for taking such a risky step and going in a direction that not many other authors are willing to go. Your Seven Realms series introduced me to a world of books and they are the reason I have become a diligent reader and lover of books. Yes it was heartwrenching to read about Han's death but I look forward to the new generation's adventures! And yes we cannot ignore that Han and Raisa DID have the chance to live a "happily ever after" though it was cut short. After reading different book after book I've honestly gotten bored with the predictability and the too perfect "happily ever afters"...I like reading about something new and having the guts to kill off a major beloved character was just the "OH SNAP" factor I needed! I will continue to look forward to your next amazing creation with eager hands. -Forever a loyal reader

Irvin K said...

As a fierce fan of Seven Realms from the outset, which I've reread three or four times, that scene completely broke my heart. But I also understand that it was part of the story, and you'd built up enough goodwill over nine spectacular books that I trusted you. I was right to, of course, but it still didn't make it hurt less.

I can also see why it was necessary from a writing perspective. Pretty much as soon as Han appeared on the page, I mentally shifted into "Yaaaaay, more stories with Han!" and would have never cared as much about the other characters.

All that said... if Raisa does not live a VERY long happy life after this series, we will be having words!

Aidan Reemtah said...

No. I still haven't moved on from Han's death. No, I'm not mad at you because you have created the character. But I'm still shattered. I read most of the reviews of Flamecaster in goodreads. Most, like me, are absolutely distraught and have expressed they did not wish to continue reading the series. I guess it is fitting that this series is called Shattered Realms. You are a brilliant writer. But I just think that instead of killing a main character, killing a few supporting characters would've made the story bearable. Like in the Harry Potter series, there was so much anticipation on whether the main character Harry Potter would die or not. Too keep him alive, Rowling killed several beloved supporting actors. It is a trademark to keep main characters alive. Rick Riordan's famous Percy Jackson series also has a separate series called The Heroes of Olympus. Rick did not kill Percy Jackson. He may have not mentioned Percy as much in the new series, but did not kill him. Sometimes readers have the pleasure of reading books over and over again. But I have not picked up Flamecaster one since I finished it a couple of months ago. I still loved the book, gave a rating of five stars, partly because it was your story. I still have high hopes that you will resurrect Han Alister. I'm hoping that more people have the same thoughts as I do.

I don't know why I'm coming off as unknown, but this is Nadia Tahreem commenting.

CindaChima said...

Thank you, all, for your comments.

Marc Lomax said...

While Han's death was a huge shock and still leaves some lingering pain, I do understand why it had to happen. I love Han and when I read the teaser chapters my first word was literally, "No!" But after reading the full book, I believe it was the best for the story.

Though I still hold onto the hope that he took a note from Crow and sealed himself in the Amulet before he died.

Mike Lee said...

When I read the Flamecaster to sleep by listening to it and re-reading to get a better sense of what you were conveying. For me, I did feel betray, because I felt Han could have been the role mode that Alister needed like a change, since Han did not have a father figure to look up to.I wished it was a build up to his death instead of the darker tone within the first chapter. But you are the author and it touched your fans, so I respect your choice, I was never mad or betrayed by the words that you wrote. I read the seven realm series multiple times and you setup the tone and connection to your fans to created this reaction.
Thank You for writing great stories.

pocketstarfield said...

Reading this made me cry. I understand the author, the story, everything... It's just too heartbreaking.

Unknown said...

I wanted to believe it was a trick... That maybe Ash had been mistaken and left before realising that the death was fake. I patiently waited for my favorite streetlord to pop back in like the wild card we all know him to be...

Annamika said...

Commending you on a great point of view as to why Han had to die. Fell in love with this world when the third book, The Gray Wolf Throne had now come out. Never looked back since. I cried for a week when Han died and took a while to pick up Flamecaster to finish it off. Still pray wish and hope that Han is in that amulet but can live with him being gone all the same. Hope some flashbacks of them all as a family appear throughout the 3 remainder books to come in the Shattered Realms series and am excited to continue on Adrian sul'Han journey with him.

P.S. : Where does Dancer fit into all this... would like to know if he has children or if he is by himself or even if he's still alive.

Thank you for creating such a marvelous world that I dont think I can ever fall out of love with.

Annamika said...

Commending you on a great point of view as to why Han had to die. Fell in love with this world when the third book, The Gray Wolf Throne had now come out. Never looked back since. I cried for a week when Han died and took a while to pick up Flamecaster to finish it off. Still pray wish and hope that Han is in that amulet but can live with him being gone all the same. Hope some flashbacks of them all as a family appear throughout the 3 remainder books to come in the Shattered Realms series and am excited to continue on Adrian sul'Han journey with him.

P.S. : Where does Dancer fit into all this... would like to know if he has children or if he is by himself or even if he's still alive.

Thank you for creating such a marvelous world that I dont think I can ever fall out of love with.

CindaChima said...

You'll see Dancer in Book 2, though much of the focus is on his son, Shadow Dancer, who's neck-deep in the fight against Arden.

Aidan Reemtah said...

Though I love Dancer, Han was the heartthrob :-(

Dreamer said...

I find it hard to move on from Han's death but the explanation that you give on why it happened does help to some extent in accepting it...I guess. Or at least understanding it. By the looks of it, there are more books to come in the Shattered Realms (4 like the first series?) and I'm still holding out hope that magic might prevail and Han can return (or he isn't actually dead but inside the amulet the whole time or something like that??). But even if he doesn't (small sigh), I will still look forward to your next book, because I love your books. I'll just have to read the Seven Realms series again.

CindaChima said...

Thank you, Dreamer. All I can say is, Keep reading. Just finishing up book #3 and then on to #4.

Unknown said...

I cried for a week when han died he was such a lovable character I literally came here to see the responses I stopped reading after his death and immediately threw the book why was han trying to use a sword a knife has always been his style.. but after reading everyone else's responses I'm going to give the book another chance and keep reading cinda Chima I love all of your books I've read read the seven realms series 5 times before realising this second series came out thank you for all your hard work writing these stories!!

CindaChima said...

Thank you, Unknown, for taking the time to read this post and the other comments. I hope that when you give the book another chance you'll be able to read it all the way to the end.

Francesca Stubbs said...

I'm selfishly hoping that just because Raisa and Amon are single doesn't mean this is a gateway for them to suddenly be together. To me that would be a slap in the face to Han and everything he had to go through to be with Raisa.

Unknown said...

Ms. Chima,
Much like the other authors posting above, I too was devastated by Han's death. It never stopped me from reading the new books. After much deliberation I have reached two conclusions.

1. If Han was still around, his personality would have pushed him to be the hero. That couldn't happen if this series was intended to be about the next generation.

2. The fact that we readers feel so deeply about Han's passing shows how well you crafted his story.

As much as it still hurts to think about his death while I am rereading the seven realms, I accept It. Thank you for the amazing story and touching moments I will never forget. I look forward to the next books.
- Justin K. Johnson

CindaChima said...

Thank you, Justin. I feel like I'm hearing from old friends and new as we work through this mourning process. Thank you for your thoughts.

Unknown said...

Totally agree! Waiiiting for Cinda Williams Chima to bring Han back. I really really gope she does.i still dont liked any of the new characters as much as I like Han and Raisa.. please please bring him back :( Han is the heart and soul of the series..

PugLord said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dominic Borland said...

Out of all the books I've read and the deaths that has occurred to my favorite characters Han's death hit me the hardest. I'm not mad at you for what you did, since it adds immensely to the story, but every time I open up Shadowcaster or look at my seven realms books I feel a pain in my heart for what happened to him. I just have one request, please don't have Raisa die too I don't think I could handle it.

N Alvarez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
N Alvarez said...

I've not yet reached the end of Flamecaster, and actually I'm not even halfway there. I must say that I was, and still heartbroken because of Han's death.
I am actually expecting Crow but then, it's like 4 years later with Ash in Oden's Ford and still no mention of Crow. And I don't think that Han is inside the amulet because if he was, then I don't think Ash would have been be so bitter and vengeful. Han surely would have talked Ash about it or like out of it and that Han's last words would be almost useless if he would just be in the amulet. And I don't think that it's just because Ash hasn't been to Aedion. I mean, 2 years at Mystwerk hello. But I think Han in the amulet is so much better than no Han at all. More of Crow please!, although honestly, I think that Crow already had his closure with the Bayars and Hanalea.
And by the way, I just want you to know that the ending for the Crimson Crown is just so perfect. I loved that Han and Raisa got married and most of all, the AlgerxHana.
I hope that there would be many books to come! (But please, I really do need more Crow and Han moment and most of those in the Seven Realms.)
Anyway, I really did feel bad about Hana ana'Raisa (Flashbacks please! HAHA)
Thank you so much Cinda! I think that I will always be in love with Han Alister and the world of The Seven Realms.

Luke Keyser said...

Just read the seven realms books over the course of 5 days and absolutely loved them, so I ordered flame and shadowcaster, when they came I was barely able to contain my excitement. I read up to the point where Han died and just stared at the pages trying to convince myself it was a trick, honestly I felt broken, like I made it through the loss of Dumbledore and somehow this hit me harder. Reading this has helped me to understand why I should be even more excited for this series even though my favorite character wouldn't be there any more. Thank you for sharing this and thank you for your books, they are truely exceptional.

A.T said...

This message is unlikely to be read but. Han was one of my favorite characters in any book I have ever read he was cool and never gave up and the ending to Seven Realms was great my insides felt nice and funny. So I found out there was a sequel series and immediately picked it up then in the second chapter he died I put the book down and didn't read it until 6 weeks later when I was finished being sad because I thought of all he went through and always became sad when I continued to read I thought maybe he's in the amulet or the poison but him to sleep but as I got to the second book my hopes began to diminish it's unlikely Crow taught Han how to do the amulet thing but I feel like I was given something something I cherished dearly Han and Raisa I very much loved but then it was torn away from me I very much regret reading the Shattered Realms as even now when I read back to their marriage I remember the happiness the joy and the pain I felt after.

I would love do say I don't blame you but I do

A.T

c said...

Can't you say that Han isn't really dead. He could be unconscious and then captured, it isn't like his body was found by the queen. But everyone thought he was dead, it would create a great story for the next book.