Book Review: The King’s Daughters by Nathalie Mallet

2204426Title: The King’s Daughters (The Prince Amir Series #2)
Author: Nathalie Mallet
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery and Suspense, Romance
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Publication Date: July 18th 2008
Rating: 4,5 stars
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Review copy provided by the author.

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?

I have to say that I’m totally entranced by Nathalie Mallet’s fantasy series involving Prince Amir of the faraway land of Telfar as a main character. I loved the first book, as you can read in my review, and I instantly dove into the second one. I admit that I probably enjoyed The King’s Daughters even more than I enjoyed the previous book in the series. On the one hand, I liked the setting better. Telfar, Amir’s homeland, reminded me a lot of Arabia, and although that is mysterious and refreshing, the setting of this book, Sorvinka, a country reminding me a lot of Russia or Romania, made me even more intrigued. I’ve always loved Russian/Romanian folklore, and tales of witchcraft, superstition and the Baba Yaga, and I got all of that in this single book. Additionally, there is something strangely intriguing about a country covered in ice and snow, with harsh winters, impressive mountain ranges and foreign customs. The second reason of course, is the fact that I already knew some of the characters, in particular the main character, Amir. I already knew how he was at first, what journey he went through in The Princes of the Golden Cage, and the person he turned out to be by the end of the book, so I was excited to read more about what happened to him next.

Unfortunately, Amir’s arrival in the cold country of Sorvinka is anything but pleasant. In an attempt to get back at him for ruining her plans, Princess Livia gave him the worst presents imaginable for the king and his daughters. So when the King upon return threats him cold-heartidely and without any respect, it’s not a surprise. But Amir feels threatened in this strange and foreign land. One misstep on his behalf could practically cost him his head. On top of that, the king’s daughters are dissapearing, one by one. It’s only a matter of time before Eva is next, and Amir isn’t planning to let that happen. But when Amir goes out to investigate the strange happenings, along with his faithful servant, the eunuch Milo and his new-found friend, a dancy called Diego, Amir must solve this riddle and save the kingdom of Sorvinka from losing all the potential heirs to the throne.

As you can gather from the synopsis, this story fits in perfectly well with the story of The Princes in the Golden Cage. It seems as if Amir is in fact some sort of Sherlock Holmes detective avant la lettre. Wherever he goes, he is swiftly followed by mystery and suspense, death and betrayal. But those are the kind of things that make an intriguing main characher. I loved how Amir’s personality changed throughout this novel. In the beginning, we meet him right where we left him at the ending of book one. He’s a bit more trusting than at first, a bit less paranoid and a lot less egocentric. But he’s still arrogant and vain – referring to his family’s flawless profile like a dozen times – and arrogant, but I can’t force myself to find those personality traits annoying. I mean, he is a prince. He is vain by nature, and his royal blood has given him a fair share of arrogance as well, and it makes him all the more authentic for it. Nathalie Mallet is definitely not afraid to add some less than diserable personality traits to her characters, and I applaud her for that. While in real life, I might have a bazillion and more reasons why Amir and I could never get along – I would probably duel him to the death within the hour – but for a book character, he’s interesting, funny – although he doesn’t notice it himself – and totally refreshing. He isn’t someone who does good simply because it’s in his nature to do. He has reasons as to why he does the good thing. Although he is noble and protective, he can sometimes act like a coward as well, especially when it concerns matters of the heart. Like any other normal human being, he often has to choose between two options, and he doesn’t always make the best decision. He’s not flawless, but he’s incredibly enjoyable, and he has a complex personality that kept me intrigued till the very end. On top of that, his personal journey throughout this novel is no less impressive than it was in the previous one. By the end of this book, the prince Amir we see is much more introvert, a lot wiser and less cursed with the impatience and arrogance of youth.

Princess Eva, Amir’s love interest, goes through a very intriguing change as well throughout this book. Whereas in The Princes of the Golden Cage, she appears as a bland, dull character, and the love between her and Amir is less than inspiring to say the least, she transforms into a true, multi-dimensional character by the end of this book. She truly cares for her sisters and her kingdom. In fact, she cares so much that she’s willing to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of her kingdom. If that doesn’t scream princess-worthy-material, then I don’t know what does.

The mystery at hand is even more complex and stunning than the one we are presented with in the previous book. Whereas The Princes of the Golden Cage still had some loose ends, and a lot of crucial events were based on pure coincedence, we don’t have these issues in The King’s Daughters. The story is well though-through and developed, and the mystery isn’t easily solved. I loved the mixture of folklore with the mystery at hand, and the way everything blends in well together.

The supportive cast is a lot more developed than in the previous book as well. Take Milo for example. Although he’s merely a servant to Amir, we do get to know a lot of his personality as the story continues. I actually liked Milo and found it impressive that for a servant, he really did have a mind of his own. Diego, another one of the supportive characters, a true dandy, proves to be more than expected at first. I thought his appearance brought much-needed humor to this otherwise rather grim story. Additionally, Khuan and Lilloth, the two foreign emissaries present at the court of Sorvinka, were intriguing as well. It wasn’t initially clear whether they were the good guys or the bad guys, and this duplicity added a lot of mystery to them and constantly made me (and Amir, for that matter) wonder whether they could be trusted or not.

I liked The Princes of the Golden Cage. I loved The King’s Daughters. So far, the Prince Amir Series has presented me with an intriguing and outstanding mixture of mystery and suspense, fantasy, history and romance, and I’m loving every bit of it. The more I get to know Prince Amir, the more irresistible and charming I find him. He doesn’t have the typical hero-personality, which gives him an edge that I particularly like. The supportive cast is a varying group of people at well, each with their own unique quirks. The storyline itself is strong and well-developed, and with enough plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat. As usual, I enjoued Nathalie Mallet’s writing style, which manages to be both descriptive and straight-forward when needed. I recommend this book to all readers who enjoy mystery and/or fantasy.

This book counts towards the Mystery and Suspense Challenge, TBR Reading Challenge and the Epic Fantasy Challenge.

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