Sunday, January 3, 2010

Book Review: The King's Daughters

Title:  The King's Daughters
Series: Prince Amir Book 2
Author: Nathalie Mallet
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery
Publisher/Year: Night Shade Books/2008
-Webpage: Nathalie Mallet
-Blog: Nathalie Mallet's Blog
-Challenges Fulfilled: Fantasy Reading Challenge 

Synopsis:  Far to the north of the hot desert land of Telfar lies the frozen kingdom of Sorvinka. Prince Amir has traveled there, leaving his sultanate in the hands of his half-brother Erik as he seeks to ask the king, the father of the beautiful Princess Eva, for her hand in marriage. But Sorvinka has grown dangerous during Princess Eva's absence, as she and Amir discover to their terror, when their force of guards and eunuchs is cut down by ruthless brigands. And upon their arrival, their welcome to Eva's family stronghold is as bitterly cold as the land itself. Accustomed to the golden cage of his upbringing, Prince Amir must navigate his way through the strange and cold-blooded customs of the Sorvinkans, and somehow find the truth behind the kidnapping of the king's youngest daughter, the Princess Aurora, by the Sorvinkan's traditional enemies, the neighboring Farrellians. But what can a stranger in a foreign land do?

Review: Our second outing with the Telfarian Prince Amir brings us to the northern lands of Sorvinka, the homeland of his beloved Princess Eva.  If Telfar was much like an Arabian fantasy, then Sorvinka is very much like Russian fantasy.

Many many things go wrong at the beginning of the novel.  We're thrown into the the tailend of their months long journey from Telfar to Sorvinka.  During their time in Sorvinka their caravan has been set upon by numerous bands of brigands who have dwindled their guards from numerous to barely seven.  To top it all off Princess Livia's promise of retribution towards Amir from ruining her plans to place Erik on the throne as the new Sorvinkian King nearly gets Amir killed as a traitor--before even stepping through the gates of the castle!

Apparently, much like Telfar, there is menace afoot with the ruling family of Sorvinka.  The youngest princess Aurora has gone missing, presumably kidnapped by their hated enemies, and Eva's father's new edicts are not making him popular with anyone.  The book is once more told through Amir's first person POV and we get a better sense of his discomfort because of it.  Used to a life of gilded luxury, even if it was within a prison, the harsh traveling conditions and icy reception as well as the brutality of Sorvinka in general have made Amir very unhappy.

I found the fact he mentions his family's legendary 'flawless profile' so very much once again rather humorous.  Its annoying, but its a character trait that I think is a small detail that's often overlooked.  He's arrogant and arrogant people tend to like to talk about what they consider to be their 'greatest' asset.  Amir, for all his other talents, is very proud of his family's flawless profiles.

We learn more about Amir's abilities as well.  A new mystery of course presents itself, but more than that we meet Khuan and Lilloth--two emissaries from the Eastern Emperor who understand what exactly is happening to Amir.  He is a shal-galt, or Sorcerer Hunter (amongst other titles), and the voices he hears in his head are not him going crazy.  Along with being able to see/hear them, Amir also can sense magic.  Lucky him right?  This is apparently something that has affected his family for years, most notably in his late brother Jafar's case. 

Baba Yaga (the Russian witch) makes an appearance as well, plus enchanted animals.  The romance between Amir and Eva builds, but hits obstacles as Lars--heir apparent to the throne of Sorvinka--tries to woo her as well.  Amir is more trusting in this book, which may or may not be a great thing by the end of it honestly.

The problems of the first book--plot threads that lead nowhere for chapters on end, pacing, repetitiveness--aren't as bad in this second book.  The plot still takes a while to truly get under way, and plot threads begin that seem to go no where or serve no real purpose.  The matter of the Princess Livia's duplicity is not really addressed either.  The ending seems manufactured almost as well, to find a reason to continue the series and more angst for Amir (though he doesn't need any more).

The teaser for the third book, or what will be the third book, titled Death in the Traveling City is promising.  The idea of a traveling city is intriguing and I want to learn more about Khuan and Lilloth.  The theme seems more Asian-inspired, which falls in line with my interests much moreso then Arabian or Russian.  Overall this was still an entertaining and different read.  The blend of mystery, fantasy and romance, as well as alternate history, works fairly well for the book on a whole and kept me interested throughout.