The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I don’t honestly know where to begin. I put this book on a Christmas list last year just out of curiosity. I got to open it (2 weeks) early and immediately dove in. I had no idea what to expect and was a bit skeptical at first.
I. Was. Blown. Away.
I absolutely adore this book. The action, the drama, the romance. Everything was perfectly balanced for me. I could hardly put it down. I fell in love with the characters too. They are so well written. I love that nearly the entire story is written as a letter from one character to another, reminiscing about their lives together. I never felt like this type of storytelling was heavy exposition or anything along those lines. It felt genuine. I don’t know a great deal about Asian myth, culture or history to be able to compare, but I felt the book was written with enough influence to feel real, but the author made it into her own world that I enjoyed exploring and learning about.
This book very easily made it to my favorites shelf and I can’t wait to read the rest.
Full Review with Spoilers
This is the start to a wonderful epic fantasy series. While I definitely would classify this under epic, I want to point out that it doesn’t do so in the strictly traditional sense. The fantasy elements are almost subtle, the politics and characters relationships being the biggest driving force in the story. We are dropped into a fictional setting based heavily on Asian history and culture.
The way the author chooses to tell the majority of the story was, to me, unique and refreshing. Main character Shizuka is an empress that is obviously missing something in her life when the book opens. Most of the book is essentially us following along as she reads a rather lengthy letter from the love of her life, warrior woman Shefali. Shefali is exiled for reasons that are unclear to us in the beginning. The letter is Shefali reliving her life with Shizuka, from the time they met, stories she was told of their parents and all the events leading up to the moment she writes and sends the letter. This is broken up by chapters that take us back to Shizuka, needing a moment from reading to process her emotions and of course attending to duties as Empress.
I adore these two characters. They are both so drastically different from each other. Shizuka, selfish and a bit bratty, Shefali stoic and sacrificing. The story being told in Shefali’s voice is satisfying. Her loyalty to Shizuka is dizzying and it is interesting to essentially “listen” to her talk so much known how quite she is in her life. We learn early in the story that the two of them were born destined to be a part of each other’s lives.
I was a bit worried that there would be too much exposition in order for us as the readers to understand given that she is writing to another person who lived through the events. Instead the story felt like it flowed naturally and felt a bit more like she simply wanted her side of events to be understood.
While yes, there is a large scale story of good vs. evil in this series, it’s the romance that really hooked me in this book. The moment the characters finally cross the line of being physical is epic and passionate. Since the story is told in Shefali’s voice, we see the feelings and tensions strictly from her side. It’s at once heartbreaking and sweet. It’s Shizuka however that voices what they both had been feeling their whole lives and the intimate scene that follows is perfect. The rest of the story is the adventure they both go on to fix the world, but the constant underlying story of their love for each other is strong.
In the later half of the book the fantasy aspects become more and more apparent. We see demons both corporeal and not. The story takes a drastic turn when Shefali falls victim to the demon infection that has a 100% fatality rate. Shefali miraculously survives which sets off an additional chain of events including Shefali living with the infliction that seems to slowly turning her demonic.
I can’t stress enough how perfect this book was recommend reading to find out the conclusion to part one of this enthralling trilogy.