As an orphan ward of the Sisterhood, eighteen-year-old Kalinda is destined for nothing more than a life of seclusion and prayer. Plagued by fevers, she’s an unlikely candidate for even a servant’s position, let alone a courtesan or wife. Her sole dream is to continue living in peace in the Sisterhood’s mountain temple.
But a visit from the tyrant Rajah Tarek disrupts Kalinda’s life. Within hours, she is ripped from the comfort of her home, set on a desert trek, and ordered to fight for her place among the rajah’s ninety-nine wives and numerous courtesans. Her only solace comes in the company of her guard, the stoic but kind Captain Deven Naik.
Faced with the danger of a tournament to the death—and her growing affection for Deven—Kalinda has only one hope for escape, and it lies in an arcane, forbidden power buried within her.
In Emily R. King’s thrilling fantasy debut, an orphan girl blossoms into a warrior, summoning courage and confidence in her fearless quest to upend tradition, overthrow an empire, and reclaim her life as her own.
- My rating: 3 Stars
- Amazon (free with Kindle Unlimited)
- Pages: 302
- Publisher: Skyscape
- Spoiler-free review
This novel was a quick Kindle read, that, to be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from. I was mildly pleased by the quality of it, but it wasn’t anything special.
Kali is a special snowflake (a phrase picked up by Khanh the self-proclaimed meanie on Goodreads), who, despite her lack of fighting talent or any other valued qualities, is picked out of dozens of people to marry the rajah. It becomes fairly obvious from here that the book will be one where mostly everything seems to go right. In almost every situation, there is something that saves the characters from seemingly impossible situations (I believe my English teacher would be whispering “deus ex machina” at this point). While this technique is acceptable when realistic and foreshadowed, random heroics by random strangers just make the story unbelievable. The plot, for this reason, was fairly predictable, bland, and cookie-cutter.
There was potential to develop on some very cool ideas–the tournament, for one. Despite their common occurences, I never tire of magical/combat competitions, especially when they’re done right. Unfortunately, most of the tournament aspect of this novel is glazed over. Only a couple matches are described in detail, otherwise we barely learn the name of the competitors. Mostly, we just here about how Kali is nervous about her match and watch her drool over Captain Perfect. Who, you know, just happened to fall in love with her the very first scene. Typical.
The writing overall was fairly well done–it didn’t sound like a preteen book, which was a plus. There were a couple lapses of fluidity as well as discrepancies in description, but otherwise it was quite consistent, if plain, in its style. Some of my favorite lines included:
“Where is the line between the gods’ will and ours?”
“I do not understand why the gods have made it so that every woman’s lot in life is to owe her security to a man.”
Despite its flaws, the novel had some pretty badass women, though none quite as cool as Katniss( Kali just seemed to get lucky most of the time to be honest). All of the wives and concubines were warrior women (although at times they didn’t seem like it), and did most of the manipulating behind the scenes. I would hope to see more of this in the next book should I decide to read it. It’s not high on my priority list, but I may get to it eventually. Right now it seems to be on the typical high-fantasy track: first book–interesting theme, turns into another “rebel against the system” plot; second book–escape from said system and gather a rebellion; third book–overthrow system and install a good man as king. You know, the usual.