Thursday, 23 July 2009
‘The King’s Daughters’ – Nathalie Mallet (Nightshade Books)
It doesn’t seem like two years ago that I read Nathalie Mallet’s ‘The Princes in the Golden Cage’, where does the time go...? This is actually a really good thing, in its own way, as Mallet’s debut work stayed in my head for all the right reasons. There were a few too many secret passageways for my liking (I’m surprised that the palace didn’t collapse as it seemed that there were more tunnels than foundations!) but that didn’t stop the book itself holding my attention the whole way through and being thoroughly entertaining at the same time.
The teaser section at the back, for ‘The King’s Daughters’, ended at just the right moment for me to find myself really eager to read the book and find out what happened next. I finally got that chance when my copy of ‘The King’s Daughters’ arrived, a few days ago, and I have to say that I enjoyed it just as much as its predecessor...
Following the events of ‘The Princes in the Golden Cage’, Price Amir has travelled to the kingdom of Sorvinka to ask the King for his beloved Princess Eva’s hand in marriage. Sorvinka is a dangerous place to live however and getting to the King’s castle will prove to be only the least of Amir’s troubles. Infighting, in Amir’s home land, has reached north and conspired to give him the coldest of welcomes from the King. Amir must also find his place in a hostile caught where the slightest faux pas could set his cause back irretrievably. When one of the King’s daughter’s is kidnapped Amir sees solving the mystery as a chance to gain favour with the King as well as protect Eva (who may be next). What can one man, in a foreign land, do though? Will Amir’s efforts be enough?
‘The King’s Daughters’ is one of those books where you find yourself filtering out the noises and distractions of the outside world so you can pay more attention to what is happening on the page. That’s certainly what I found myself doing with an intriguing mystery interspersed with moments of intense swordplay. You’re given plenty of clues to work with but the answer that Mallet gives us, at the end, won’t be what you were thinking. Even though the reader is given an ‘answer’, early on, which is obviously a red herring Mallet keeps her cards well hidden and deals them out in just the right way to cause a few suprises! I never saw the story turning out the way it did but, looking back at the story, it couldn’t have gone in any other direction. All the clues fit together in a way that complements the ‘detective’ element of the plot and the story sets up plenty of developments for the future. I’m certainly interested to see where it all goes next.
Mallet also paints a convincing backdrop for events to play out against. I’m used to bad weather (living in the UK) but that is nothing compared to what someone used to plenty of heat must endure when visiting Sorvinka. I sometimes found myself shivering on Amir’s behalf! Mallet makes Sorvinka suitably dank and forbidding with forests, in particular, that crowd in on characters whilst hiding dangerous secrets at the same time. I’m not sure that I’d want to live there but Sorvinka was definitely an interesting place to visit.
It’s ironic that a book I enjoyed so much was slightly marred by the main character himself and the issues I had with him. If you read ‘The King’s Daughters’, you will see Amir as either a man out in the wide world (for the first time ever) dealing with what life throws at him or you will see him as a whiny brat too dependant on others to be able to make a decision for himself. I could see how he might be the former but I ended up seeing him as the latter.
Here’s a guy who has plenty going for him, enough to make him worth following, but cannot escape his dependency on Eva to do anything worthwhile for himself. Everything he does is motivated by her and if she cannot see him then Amir finds himself fighting debilitating panic attacks. More than once I found myself wanting Amir to give himself a slap round the face and just get on with it!
Luckily though, Mallet supplies us with a cast of supporting characters worth sticking around for and uses Amir’s fears to send the story off in an interesting new direction...
Even though I found myself sometimes wanting to throttle Amir I still had a great deal of fun reading ‘The King’s Daughters’. Amir will return in ‘Death in the Travelling City’ and I’ll be there when he does.
Eight and a Half out of Ten