Where to begin! I am conflicted about this book. On one hand, it representes everything I love about fantasy: Interesting mythology, beautiful and intricate world-building, a fast and engaging plot-line… and on the other hand, the book could also be accused of being juvenile, of having an uneven pace, and at moments, of even being guilty of falling into the dreaded purple prose.
The writing is beautiful when it’s done well. The descriptions and word-usage are unique and very evocative, especially when describing the other-wordly beings of the magical lands, but the author goes overboard. She uses these descriptions in dialogues even when it’s not needed, and towards the end of the book it begins to be somewhat tiring. I don’t need an evocative description when fewer and more straight-to-the-point words would suffice. However, she does hit the nail on the head on many ocassions, and her elaborate words and descriptions did manage to make me feel almost drunk on their beauty, at times. So it’s a hit and miss situation.
The main character, Mayavati, suffers from being too YA. Her feelings are inconsistent throughout the entire first half of the book. At one moment she trusts and loves the King she married, and at other moments she distrusts and grows cold towards him, without anything necessarily having changed between them. It is an inconsistency that bothered me. Her incoherent feelings could be explained by a revelation that comes later on in the book, but this doesn’t stop from making the character seem immature in her feelings at the begginning and well on to the mid-point of the story. Her betrayal, also, felt much too impulsive, impatient and sudden, which could attributed either to a character flaw or not enough elaboration on behalf of the author to explain why she suddenly felt that way.
It comes down to me not understand where Mayavati was coming from when she started feeling all distrustful. The King specifically told her to wait until he could tell her about himself fully at a time when the magic worlds would allow him to speak, but instead she made up her mind without hearing both sides of the story or even giving him the benefit of the doubt. Her feelings felt flimsy, which annoyed me.
Either Mayavati is very immature, or she just wasn’t developed well, at least not this part of her. Either way, it resulted in me not liking her very much at all, something which is somewhat remedied by the second half of the book when she finally started acting like the heroine she was supposed to be, albeit after having made a major mess of things.
Also, the pace of the book. The first half of the book is filled with luscious descriptions of the magical worlds, of echanting riddles and a castle filled with shadows and secrets. It moves along at a nice pace, allowing the reader to fully immerse themselves in the world. The second half of the book, however, is so fast that I felt like I was left scrambling for breath. There was no pause, no down-time, no reflection, everything was go-go-go. I usually like this in books, but the character didn’t even pause to sleep, or eat, or rest, or anything… And I don’t know if all the scenes from the second half of the book happened all in the space of a day, or a morning, or what. This contrasted greatly with the first half of the book, where the weeks were neatly spaced out and the reader could follow the character development at a more leisure pace.
Now, I’ll move on to the good things about the book.
The worldbuilding. This is probably the best, most interesting aspect of the story. The author combines elements of ancient hindu mythology with modern fairy tales, and things like reincarnation and gods and goddesses make repeated appearances throughout the story. Demons and the spiritual worlds of death, life, and the in-between are also very much commonplace, immersing the reader in the extraordinary. It was the aspect I enjoyed the most and definitely what makes this book stand out. I loved getting lost in this world, and in great part this made up for the book’s perceived flaws.
The writing, as I mentioned, is not bad and can even be very lovely at times, but too flowery at other times. I liked the fact that the main character got an unusual sidekick in the second half of the book in the form of a flesh-eating demon. It was an original twist, and the demon was funny.
I will probably read the sequel to this book, A Crown of Wishes, just to get lost in the world that was truly marvellously built and in the mythology that felt so new, fresh and unique. I recommend this book to fantasy fans who are looking for worlds that feel different. Just be aware and ready for the main character to feel slightly annoying and immature, for the pace to throw you off, and for the writing to be flowery at times, and you should be fine.