This is a book about a young princess named Amrita, who lives in a colorful, peaceful kingdom called Shalingar. In the beginning, everything is perfect, and the book opens up on what seems to be a kingdom-wide celebration. Turns out, the kingdom is preparing for a visit from an Emperor named Sikander.
Now, this dude Sikander… he’s a real bastard. At this point, Amrita doesn’t know much about him, other than what she’s heard from her tutor – that Sikander took the throne after killing his own father. So, it’s been established – Sikander ain’t got love for NOBODY.
So, when Sikander finally shows up, everybody is running around, acting happy, singing and throwing rose petals, cuz that’s what you do when the guy who killed his own father comes to town.
Meanwhile, Chandradev, the king of peaceful Shalingar (and Amrita’s father), is worried. He seems to know something that Amrita doesn’t – that Sikander’s visit is a bad sign. Especially for her.
So Sikander doesn’t waste time telling dude what he wants – essentially, he wants control over Shalingar because they have access to a rare drug called chamak, a hallucinogen used for religious purposes (Dune, anyone?) that is only mined by a race of beings called the Sybillines (and when I first read that I thought it said Syphillines and I almost threw the book across the room).
And that’s not all. Sikander has decided that he wants to marry the princess, solidify his control over Shalingar, and take her back to Macedon, which I assume is like, the capital city. The princess asks her father about the capital city, and he describes it to her as:
“It’s… very advanced in some ways. Buildings so tall they block out the light. Giant arenas that took thousands of years to build. They’re used for fighting: slaves fighting one another to the death. People cheering like madmen over it… They don’t believe in equality between the sexes. To question the leadership is considered a sin. And they like war…” (12)
Ahh, Aditi. I see what you did there.
So, in the interest of not spoiling the whole book, let’s just say that all hell breaks loose very early in the novel, and Amrita spends the rest of the book on the run. The good thing is: if you’re looking for a tale where redemption follows tragedy, then this will definitely not suck for you.
Okay, so let’s get to the things I like about the book: Number one, this has all of the things I look for in a good story – adventure, tragedy, redemption, revenge, a little bit of violence, and supernatural phenomena. Also, to my surprise, the “bad” characters are not cartoon-ish or drastically psychotic. So, there’s that.
I’m also here for the fact that the main character is a young girl who, at the beginning, seems to be controlled by her circumstances – but then begins to learn about herself and who she really is. Dig it. She even has a divinely inspired revelation about herself that was, while a bit predictable, was still a nice touch and a satisfying resolution for a likable character.
Now, I wouldn’t say that there was anything I didn’t like – but I was particularly disappointed that the author gave Amrita a love interest. I mean, okay – I get it. It’s young adult fiction, and there needs to be dark-haired, mysterious dude with an intense gaze who gives her butterflies and what not. It’s just… YAWN.
Anyway, if I was asked whether I recommended this book or not, I’d say yes. This is a fast read with a lot of action and vivid passages.
And with the way it ends, there may possibly be a sequel.