Author: Nathalie Mallet
Published: Night Shade Books (2009)
Here's a title I've been meaning to read for a few months now, ever since I won it through Graeme's Fantasy Book Reviews. I had been holding off for so long because I wanted to track down the preceding novel, The Princes of the Golden Cage. Unfortunately, I didn't have any luck at all through the libraries in my province or through used-bookstores. So, with 2010 revving up, I figured I'd quit pressing my luck in finding the first book and just read the second, The King's Daughters.
Thankfully, this sequel didn't feel like the second act of a very long play. It stood alone, but with some already established characters.
Prince Amir and his bride-to-be, Princess Eva, are heading via armed guard back to Eva's home country of Sorvinka during a cold and harsh winter. Prince Amir is one of several princes in the desert kingdom of Telfar--the first novel dealt with his ascension there--and has himself his fair share of enemies inside the family and out. And even though he's out of his element in Sorvinka, he still manages to make new enemies. All the while, Eva's sisters are going missing and no one is certain who is responsible. As a way to ingratiate himself to the King, Prince Amir begins his own investigation and quest to figure out who is abducting the princesses, for what purposes, and to rescue them before they meet a "grizzly" fate. I placed grizzly in quotes as a lame allusion to the fact that some monstrously huge bears play a role in the disappearances.
The novel has a fairly quick pace to it, establishing characters quickly and getting right into the action whenever possible. Unfortunately for me, since I hadn't read The Princes of the Golden Cage, I had a bit of trouble getting sucked into the courtship between Amir and Eva. There were some interesting moments of tension as a new potential suitor enters the story when they arrive in Sorvinka, but for me the real treats came in getting to know the supporting characters, namely Diego--a husband to one of the princesses and deceptively swashbuckling sort--and Amir's bodyguard and confidant, Milo--a eunuch with more balls than most of the king's court.
I was expecting swords in this novel, but the sorcery aspect kind of took me by surprise. I welcomed it, but it was just another one of those things that reminded me that this was the second book of a series. All in all, however, I think Mallet has a pretty good thing going with this series. If the rest of her novels are able to keep up an nontraditional, fast pace for a medieval fantasy series, I think fans of the genre could be in for a treat.
As for me, I'm still lukewarm on the medieval fantasy, swords and sorcery stuff, but I keep trying. Maybe one day I'll come across that one magical novel that'll knock my socks off--still haven't mustered the courage to read a Tolkien novel yet.