This review contains spoilers!
Synopsis: 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.
Overview: Another book about magic with four core elements, although it hints at a fifth. However, just like with Air Awakens, I can’t say I’m horribly excited for the next book either. I do look forward to the next book slightly more, however.
What I loved about the book: My favourite thing was probably the names of the magic users (Aquifier, Trembler, Galer, Voider, Burner, and in that order). I felt that this made the book stand out more, and if it weren’t for it, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. I also liked the way their magic worked. It had an interesting concept. Unfortunately, only the way a Burner’s power works was explained. Well, sort of explained. Even then, it was fascinating, so I’m hoping that the next book might delve into this area more.
Also, women against other women, be it with brain or brawn, always comes as a bonus to me, but only in books. Their fighting styles always tend to appear more cunning to me. It intrigues me. (I think this might be my inner Slytherin speaking.)
Favourite passage: Nil.
What didn’t work for me: The plot was too predictable. For example, I’d already guessed that Kalinda was Yasmin’s daughter when I was barely 40% into the book. This was revealed in chapter 32 to Kalinda, who was understandably shocked by it. However, earlier on, in chapter 25, Hastin clearly mentioned to Kalinda that Yasmin’s child was Kishan’s, which Kalinda took with surprise since she’d thought that the child was Tarek’s. Also understandable. Note that it was clearly mentioned Yasmin died giving birth to her firstborn, so I don’t get how Kalinda didn’t piece things together because she’s not dense. She went on to think that she might be Tarek’s child even though she knew she was Yasmin’s, but lo and behold, in chapter 33, she was told that she’s Kishan’s child, AND WHAT A SURPRISE OMG TOTES DIDN’T SEE IT COMING. Come on, how the hell did the editors not catch this when I did in my first read through?
When Kalinda fought Lakia, she requested for the courtesans to be freed if she won. Well, she won, but did she follow up with her request? No. This made me so irrationally angry because she knew that those courtesans would be drowned as soon as she married Tarek. However, that plot completely disappeared too. Here’s all that’s mentioned of it later on:
Natesa sits on the satin floor cushion beside me. “Tarek will not hand out pensions, so only a few of the courtesans have requested to leave. This life is not much, but most agree it is better to work in the palace than be destitute in the city.”
I should not be troubled by their decision to stay; most of these courtesans did not challenge me in an effort to improve their lives. But I loathe the idea of Natesa remaining a slave to the rajah’s men of court. “You could request to rejoin the Sisterhood,” I say. “They may make an exception for you.”
“I should not be troubled by their decision to stay” even though you know that Tarek’s going to murder every single one of them. Sigh. How did the editors also not catch this?
Not necessarily another plot hole, but how the wives of Enlil banded together and disagreed to fight kept being brought up. It was made such a big deal, but did Kalinda do anything about it? No. She only did it once when it benefited her (when she was fighting Natesa in that last competition). Other than that, she didn’t even seem to care about it or tried to make peace with other wives and courtesans. This made the story even weaker.
The romance was flat. Ah yes, love at first sight, of the very first man she had ever seen, and without knowing a hint about him. Just… what? I mean, yeah, this does happen, but she really barely got to know him too as the story progressed. Pretty much every time they met up, they were making out or holding each other. The only place I can imagine she really learned more about him was when they were travelling to the Turquoise Palace at the start. But even that’s pushing it a bit since he was all hot and cold with her, because, y’know, she’s the viraji and he’s a soldier. Not to mention her complete lack of care regarding what might happen to him and others if they were found out. But, hey, it all worked out for them since it turned out the rajah’s psycho about his dead first wife who didn’t even love him back anyway, right? Right.
Conclusion: Strangely, as much as I’ve whinged, I still have hopes for the next book. I might be an idiot about this, considering the poor editing job, but maybe I won’t get let down in The Fire Queen. We’ll see!