*NEW RELEASE SPECIAL* Review of Netgalley arc The Tiger’s Daughter – Book 1 of The Bright Ascendency by K. Arsenault Rivera

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This epic fantasy looked a bit different, so I requested it.

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests. Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons. This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

This is one of those lush, richly written fantasy tales that clearly has its roots in the Eastern tradition. Set in a large sprawling land that is a cross between Mongolia and Japan, it is the story of two girls born of two close friends. One is a Qorin ruler, leader of nomadic horse tribes, while the other is sister-in-law to the paranoid emperor. I was a bit concerned about the way the animosity between the Oorin and Hokkarans were depicted – would anyone call themselves flat-faced? While I enjoyed the fact this wasn’t a fantasy set in medieval/early modern Europe, I did wonder if it didn’t borrow rather too heavily from other historical conflicts.

These two girls, born close together, first meet as small children and then throughout their young lives, quickly forming a strong bond. This novel is actually a letter from one of the girls, written to the other and charting their adventures together and what they have done. It is a time-honoured structure and mostly successful – although I do think the pacing could have been improved, if only we had hints throughout of just what the stakes were, before they were fully revealed.

However, that grizzle doesn’t detract from the richness of the worldbuilding and the punchy characterisation of these powerful girls. While it is a coming-of-age romance, because of the manner in which their friendship turns into something far deeper and more passionate, it is certainly different. I thought the love between them was tender and convincing, though personally I could have done with less explicit sex scenes.

I liked the fact that though there is a great deal of powerful magic sloshing around, when people get hurt, there is a price to pay. This is a hefty book at 500+ pages, but especially towards the end, the pace really picked up and the story concluded with a nicely climactic ending.
7/10

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12 responses »

  1. I’m actually reading The Tiger’s Daughter right now (with about 100 pages to go, I think?). And while I too love the writing and most of the world-building, I’ve also felt uncomfortable about some of the word choices used to describe the Qorin or the Hokkarans. A Goodreads member from Japan actually posted a lengthy review of how offensive she found some aspects of the book. I doubt Rivera intended to offend anyone with her story… But it goes to show how careful writers / authors need to be when basing their fictional worlds on real cultures.

  2. This one looks interesting. A little different in setting being non-European. The cover looks lovely. Epic yet feminine, the flower in one warrior character’s hair. Wish I hadn’t stopped looking for books for a while.

  3. I’m still struggling along with this one but your review has made me want to persevere even more. Hopefully I’ll get into it!

    I’m not enjoying the letter aspect of the narrative I have to admit, although the writing itself is beautiful I do keep getting thrown because I’m wondering why the writer would mention certain things that clearly they both know and so wouldn’t have had to have been written about in a letter! I know it’s world building…. But it’s problematic for me.

    I’m also struggling with the depiction of culture but I so desperately want to try and see where the author is coming from with this one and to see if I can get past these issues…

    Thanks for the review and for giving me a reason to push through!

    • Yes… I hope you find it picks up – how far along are you? And I agree that I think the pacing could have been better handled, especially given how high the stakes actually are. But I did enjoy the characters and I am a bit of a sucker for that particular writing style…

      • I’m only 20% in! 🙈🙈🙈 the writing style is the only think keeping me going at this point! It sucks me in despite myself but then I keep getting thrown off course when I read something about flat faces or the like and also when she suddenly says something that makes me wonder why on earth she would have to write that in a letter if not to help me, the reader, get their bearings. I would have preferred a different narrative style…

      • Yes – I think the narration could have been better handled and those particular comments do graunch, don’t they? The only thing I ended up wondering is that if they are the way she is constantly talked about – maybe part of her has internalised those dismissive, belittling comments. I know it does happen… But it is unsettling – and maybe it’s designed to be.

  4. I abandoned this one and didn’t even write a review. I couldn’t get into the writing style and didn’t really care for the characterizations. Congrats for making it through and actually enjoying it. I certainly enjoyed yer review of the book even though I didn’t like the book itself.
    x The Captain

    • I fully understand – the writing style is one I think you either love or loathe. I’m aware quite a number of folks have found this one problematical and it certainly isn’t flawless, but I did enjoy the story arc and I cared for both girls.

      But I’ve DNF’d several books recently – and one of them has garnered universal praise and was shortlisted for Best Novel – and I HATED the semi-omniscient narrative and the fact I didn’t know exactly what was going on and frankly by about a quarter of the way in, I couldn’t be bothered… It’s just as well we are all different, isn’t it?

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