The Tiger's Daughter
Even gods can be slain….
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.
“A strange thing happens when one speaks aloud: words take on their own meaning. They move in through the listener's ears and make themselves at home, decorating their meaning with whatever memories they find lying around.”
― K. Arsenault Rivera
….and strangely, this book resonates only for its beautiful prose in which it has been written. Hardly would I call it an epic fantasy, rather an attempt at creating a world with such aspirations that failed to follow through.
Set in an Asian inspired Empire, The Tiger’s Daughter is a story told in 2. Person narrative looking back at the past in way of letters. Shefali and Shazuka are the two main characters in this novel. They are warriors from different Empires. Raised together, this story begins looking back at their ages of 8 years old and follows through their early adulthood and wedding.
The deeply rooted cultural imaginations and side characters created a beautiful tapestry with an Asian backdrop. Yet, I find that the novel failed to pull together when it had such a potential. There were a few battle scenes, intrigue, history, and animal creations to where I would call it perhaps ‘soft’ fantasy. It mostly though reads as a deeply moving love story between the two female characters.
“Ah, Shizuka, I could write for years about the kiss you gave me then. It was the barest thing, the lightest caress of your lips against my chin-but even that is more potent than a thousand poems. In the twenty Ages of Hokkaro’s history, we have loved each other. Before the Qorin began telling stories, we swore our eternal devotion. Before Grandmother Sky yearned for Grandfather Earth-yes, even before then, our souls entwined together. How I miss you. Gods above, how I miss you. “
- K. Arsenault Rivera (p.420)
I think if romance wouldn’t have been the main premise of this book, I would have enjoyed it more. That is not to say that the love proclamations weren’t beautifully expressed. But I did not have that disclaimer before I read the book. I was going in expecting battles, strong female protagonists, and a climax to the whole story. But it felt uneventful. The author’s talent to write very descriptive and in gorgeous prose, outshone the context. Perhaps I went in reading it with the wrong expectations. Perhaps I was allured by the beautiful cover and the idea of reading about a Mongolian Empire fantasy?
What not really worked for me, was the way the narrative was told. I usually don’t mind some letter format, but it was throughout the entire novel. This was Arsenault Rivera’s debut novel and I think she has great potential. Her next book The Phoenix Empress will be released this year and I am curious if she will keep up the same format.
All in all it is difficult for me to rate this book, as prose outweighs the content. I will settle at a generous 3 stars.