A friend of mine recommended this book to me, and after two renewals from the library I finally read it! I regret not reading it sooner, because it was fantastic.
No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.
The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.
Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?
Even though I trust the friend who recommended this to me, I did not expect to love it as much as I did. The book was beautiful- the writing, the characters, the creativity, the worldbuilding. I was way more emotional after reading this book than I thought I would be.
Amrita was a different kind of MC than I’m used to. When I read a fantasy book with a female lead, I’m used to either an annoyingly helpless character (usually dnf) or a totally badass heroine. Rather than creating conflict herself, things seem to happen to Amrita. She doesn’t set off on a journey for revenge or to reclaim her kingdom; she leaves because it is that or be killed. It sounds like that would make the book boring, but it left a lot of room to learn about the world the author has created and to enjoy her writing style, which I felt was similar to Laini Taylor’s style at times.
Because of the book’s slower-paced nature, I’d recommend this book readers who enjoy books that aren’t as immersive when it comes to action scenes. It felt less like I was living in the story and more like I was reading a fable, which actually has a lot to do with the story itself and makes me wonder if the auhtor intended her book to be read this way.
Although the book felt like it was slowly-paced, there is never a dull moment in the book. We constantly have plot development, learn more about our characters and their backstories, travel with the characters to new places, and explore more of the world the author has created.
We definitely experience a lot with Amrita. Her whole life changes in mere minutes and she is forced to change her worldview and her perception of herself. This change takes time, and this internal struggle works really well with the external conflict of her kingdom being captured by an enemy emperor. This sounds very action-packed, but the writing style and the overall nature of the book uses this more as emotional leverage rather than fast-paced and immersive plot development. From this point on, the book explores so many other themes of culture, resistance, acceptance, and bravery. These all come across subtly but effectively, making the book very interesting and impactful.
I understand that this review is sort of vague, but all I can say without spoiling anything is that though the book is very non-traditional in how it is told, I felt really impacted by the story long after I read it. For those of you who love a unique author voice, fantasy and magic, and mythological tales and fables, I would really recommend this book.