“No one is entirely certain what brings the Emperor Sikander to Shalingar. Until now, the idyllic kingdom has been immune to his many violent conquests. To keep the visit friendly, Princess Amrita has offered herself as his bride, sacrificing everything—family, her childhood love, and her freedom—to save her people. But her offer isn’t enough.
The unthinkable happens, and Amrita finds herself a fugitive, utterly alone but for an oracle named Thala, who was kept by Sikander as a slave and managed to escape amid the chaos of a palace under siege. With nothing and no one else to turn to, Amrita and Thala are forced to rely on each other. But while Amrita feels responsible for her kingdom and sets out to warn her people, the newly free Thala has no such ties. She encourages Amrita to go on a quest to find the fabled Library of All Things, where it is possible for each of them to reverse their fates. To go back to before Sikander took everything from them.
Stripped of all that she loves, caught between her rosy past and an unknown future, will Amrita be able to restore what was lost, or does another life—and another love—await?” (via Goodreads)
The Library of Fates is epic in scope yet intimate in tone. It was so refreshing to have a white emperor framed as an evil invader rather than an awe-inspiring figure of manhood. Too often fantasy is set from a Eurocentric perspective, and by skewing the perspective away from that it changes the whole meaning of Sikander’s presence. Now it’s not a story about conquest but invasion. Sikander isn’t the grand emperor uniting the world under one rule but a power-mad bully Shalingar must stand up to. Just as delicious was all the Indian mythology and culture. Unfortunately I don’t know much about either of those topics, so I can’t comment on it too deeply, but suffice it to say I loved almost all of it.
Amrita’s world is lush and covers territory we don’t often get to explore in fantasy. Even though the narration can get bogged down at times with purple prose and clunky dialogue, it was a treat the way Khorana used Amrita to describe the world. Khorana’s attention to detail is impeccable, and everything about it made me want to step inside the book and let Amrita give me a guided tour. The descriptions are so vivid I could practically smell the jasmine in Amrita’s garden…
To read the rest of my review, head over to Tor.com.
“Have I ever told you the Parable of the Land of Trees?” he asked me, his dark eyes fixed on that elusive brim between earth and sky, before they turned to look back at me, a wistful smile twitching on the edges of his lips.
I shook my head. Outside my window, lanterns lit up the sterns of houseboats on the lake, their twin haloes reflecting in the water, suggesting another world underneath that channel, a mirror to the one we inhabited now. I wondered about the people who slept on those boats, who lived in that sphere I had still never seen. I thought about all the places I had never visited, that I had heard about only in the stories people told me.
And then in the gauzy lamplight, over the quiet, contented chirping of insects calling out to each other in the night, my father told me the tale. I didn’t understand then how stories have a way of staying with us long after people are gone. That night, I simply held on to his words: somber and thoughtful. I listened to his voice: calm, soft, measured, wise. It was how I would always remember it, taking for granted that it would always be there. I didn’t know then what I know now: that everything—my father, this moment, every experience that molds and shapes us—is ephemeral, evaporating into the air before we have a chance to grasp on to it, before we can truly even understand what it means.
Thanks to Razorbill for sending me a review copy.
Do the world a favor and buy this book from your local indie bookstore or borrow it from your public library.