Review: Third Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn (Spoiler-Free)

 THIRD DAUGHTER
4 stars

Susan Kaye Quinn//Third DaughterSUMMARY

Princess Aniri is the third daughter of the Queen of Dharia, and as such, has limited social and political responsibilities; she’s always been aware that once she turns 18, she’ll be allowed to choose her own husband rather than be saddled with an arranged marriage like her two older sisters. As her birthday approaches, however, the threat of war with the neighbouring country of Jungali looms over Dharia, and the only way that Aniri can help her mother is by agreeing to marry Ashoka Malik, the Jungali “barbarian” prince.

Third Daughter is the first book in the Royals of Dharia series, which is followed by Second Daughter (#2) and First Daughter (#3). It was originally published in 2013.

STORY [4/5]

Despite seeming at first glance to be a straightforward, arranged-marriage-leads-to-true-love story, Third Daughter’s plot had a surprising amount of depth. There’s plenty of history – and an interesting power dynamic – between the three main countries of Dharia, Jungali and Samir, and each one’s interests are represented in the three main characters. There’s also plenty of court politics to navigate, particularly once the Jungali arc begins, and Aniri finds herself surrounded by foreign customs that she has to navigate.

This book also has a great deal of action in it, from Aniri’s spy mission near the beginning, to sword-fights and mysterious super-weapons near the end, and Quinn manages to weave all these elements together to create something quite unique, and incredibly enjoyable.

CHARACTERS [4/5]

Our heroine is Aniri, a tough but relatable teenager, who’s lived in the shadow of her two older sisters for most of her life. Instead of resenting this, however, she’s come to appreciate it, as it means that she’ll be allowed to marry for love instead of politics – and she’s a definite romantic. In particular, I appreciated her sheer awkwardness when trying to spy on people that she genuinely liked, as that was pretty much exactly how I felt about it – and how I often feel about spy books, when both of the parties involved are nice people.

Devesh is Aniri’s lover and fencing instructor, and a “courtesan” (he’s actually a courtier, which is quite different, but Quinn erroneously uses the word courtesan throughout the book) from Samir, Dharia’s long-standing ally. He comes across as an interesting, intelligent character, but of the three main protagonists, he’s probably the least fleshed-out, as he’s only present in the first and last sections of the book…

Lastly, there’s Ash, the “barbarian” prince who loves poetry, and wants peace for his people above all. He’s selfless and kind, and often self-conscious; he’s incredibly surprised when Aniri accepts his proposal, even though he knows that their marriage would be in Dharia’s best interests as well as Jungali’s. Ash was definitely one of my favourite people in this book – he’s just so sweet! 😀

Other important characters include: Janak, Aniri’s guard; Priya, her handmaid; and, on the more antagonistic side of things, General Garesh, who rules one of the provinces of Jungali, and is dead-set against Ash and Aniri’s marriage, or peace of any kind between their nations.

ROMANCE [4/5]

There were two significant romances in this story: One between Aniri and Ash, and the other between Aniri and Devesh, and I really liked the contrast between the two. Aniri and Devesh were all fire and passion, and sneaking out at midnight, and, although their relationship was already established at the beginning of the book, it’s indicated that it developed quite quickly after they met. Ash and Aniri’s feelings, however, grew slowly over the course of the book, with them starting out as indifferent acquaintances, and gradually becoming friends before admitting that there might be something more between them. I personally preferred the relationship with Ash, but I appreciated them both, and feel that they were both incredibly important to the development of the story, and of Aniri as a character.

The love triangle aspect of the relationship between the three of them was technically present, but understated, since the romance turned out (much to my surprise) not to be the main focus of the story, and since Ash and Devesh rarely appeared in scenes together.

WORLD-BUILDING [4/5]

Going into this book, I had no idea that it would be a steampunk novel, since it’s not mentioned in the blurb, or shown on the UK cover (which is the one that I was shown on Amazon when I bought it). That said, I think the steampunk elements were really well-incorporated into the setting: They weren’t hugely prevalent – with the exception of a few plot-significant technologies – but they were a notable part of the backdrop of Aniri’s everyday life without feeling out of place. I do feel that the story would have benefitted from a bit more in the way of interesting steampunk gadgets (notably, it would’ve been nice if that clockwork elephant that Aniri was given had had more importance), but this also wasn’t a huge issue for me.

A final note about the world: It was really, really nice to read about a fantasy world that wasn’t primarily influenced by Europe. I don’t know how much Dharia is actually like India (since I’ve never been there), but it definitely made the book stand out from a lot of the other fantasy books I’ve read.

WRITING [3/5]

The writing in this book was very solid, though nothing particularly special. It was well-paced, slowing down during the emotional parts, and speeding up for the action sequences, and Quinn did a really great job of balancing the two. The main problem that I (and many of the other reviewers whose opinions I’ve come across) seem to have with the writing was the way that Quinn replaced a lot the terms for traditional Indian items with descriptions. For instance, she occasionally refers to “a sweep of cloth over one arm”, which is presumably meant to be a saree… This was perhaps done in order to make the world more accessible to readers with little to no knowledge of Indian culture, but came across very clumsily, particularly when the (often long) descriptions are repeated over and over, where one word would suffice.

OVERALL IMPRESSION [4/5]

A great steampunk adventure/romance story, with a dash of politics and espionage. The plot is engaging, the characters relatable, the romance incredibly cute, and the writing fast-paced and easy to read. I really, really enjoyed this book, and am looking forward to continuing on with the series.

RECOMMENDED FOR…

I got much the same vibe from this book as I did from both Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy and (more surprisingly) Final Fantasy XII. The romance may also appeal to fans of Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding.

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March Wrap-Up

Another good month of reading! I spent most of the month feeling pretty slumpy, since it felt like I hadn’t finished a book in ages… but it turned out that that was just because I was reading so many different books at once, and it was really slowing down my progress. Finishing several long books within a few days of each other was pretty satisfying after that! 😳 In total, I managed to read 6 novels and 2 short stories in March – and in the process, I finally managed to finish an anthology that I’d been working my way through for about 2 years now! 😀 Success!

Dahlov Ipcar//A Dark Horn BlowingA Dark Horn Blowing by Dahlov Ipcar. An eerie, atmospheric fairytale about a woman who is lured from her home by a magic horn, and taken to Erland in order to nurse the evil Erl King’s sickly son. The story draws from various different folk tales, which make for an interesting and enjoyable mix, and the writing was very pleasant to read. The main draw of this book, though, is the characters. I wasn’t a huge fan of Nora’s early chapters, which were very slow, but once she regained her memories, I felt more of a connection with her, and she became a much more sympathetic character. Eelie, too, was hard to warm up to at first, spoilt and fussy, but he really grew as a character in the book’s second part. My favourite parts were the odd friendship that developed between Eelie and Owen, and the small glimpses we got of Eben’s perspective. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, but I wish there’d been more of it. So this is a very high three stars. (Just so you know. 😉 )3 starsRainbow Rowell//Kindred SpiritsKindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell. An adorable short story (written for World Book Day) about queuing overnight to see the most recent Star Wars film. 🙂 Familiarity with Star Wars is recommended for this book, but probably not necessary, and there’s nothing even vaguely resembling a spoiler. I don’t have much else to say about this, since it was so short, but I’m always amazed by how well Rainbow Rowell is able to portray fan culture; everything in this story just felt incredible relatable, even though I’ve never been in an overnight queue…5 starsYoung Zaphod Plays It Safe by Douglas Adams (from The Time Traveller’s Almanac). A prequel novella to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which features Zaphod Beeblebrox before he was the President of the Galaxy. I found that I enjoyed re-familiarising myself with Adams’ humour, from which I’d been taking a long, much-needed break (I gave up at some point during the Hitchhiker’s series, simply because the overabundance of silliness was beginning to grate at my nerves), and what I read was both interesting, and amusing without being over the top. The plot, however, was quite unmemorable, with the exception of the ending – which was remarkable only because it didn’t really feel like an ending at all. :/2 starsAnn & Jeff VanderMeer//The Time Traveller's Almanac Part 1: ExperimentsWhich brings me to the end of The Time Traveller’s Almanac Part I: Experiments, edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer, which was a very mixed bag of stories; some brilliant, and others absolute rubbish. This book is definitely worth getting hold of (and I actually have the bind-up of all four parts myself) for die-hard fans of time travel fiction, but I very much doubt that there’s anyone who’ll be thrilled with every story in the collection (particularly, I sense, in the case of this first volume, which is much more eclectic – hence the title “Experiments” – than the others seem to be). My own personal favourites were Another Story OR A Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. Le Guin, and Hwang’s Billion Brilliant Daughters by Alice Sola Kim. [For my individual ratings of each story, see my review on goodreads.]3 stars

Marie Phillips//The Table of Less Valued KnightsThe Table of Less Valued Knights by Marie Phillips. A comic adventure with a backdrop of Arthurian mythology, following Sir Humphrey – once a Knight of the Round Table, but now relegated to the Table of Less Valued Knights – on a quirky, twist-filled quest to recover the kidnapped fiancé of a damsel in distress who shows up at Camelot a little too late to present her quest to a more prestigious knight. Also featuring: Elaine, the aforementioned (and secretive) damsel; Martha, a reluctant Queen and even more reluctant wife; Edwin, a delightfully incompetent villain; and Conrad, Humphrey’s half-giant squire. The plot was silly, but without going so far as to be ridiculous rather than humourous, and although it was slow to get started, it was ultimately quite satisfying. The real highlight, however, was in the character dynamics – in particular, I loved the relationship between Humphrey and Conrad, and later Martha as well.3 starsJames Patterson & Lisa Papademitriou//Homeroom DiariesHomeroom Diaries by James Patterson & Lisa Papademetriou. The diary of a high school outcast who’s just been released from a psychiatric ward after being abandoned by her mother… This book evoked quite mixed feelings from me, but since it was my Library Scavenger Hunt pick for March, you can read all about why in my mini-review! 😉2 starsPeter V. Brett//The Daylight WarThe Daylight War by Peter V. Brett. The third book in the Demon Cycle, which I’ve been readalong-ing with Chloë. There was another prominent new POV character introduced in this book: Inevera, one of the more important side-characters from The Desert Spear… And I actually liked her (numerous) chapters a lot, though I still don’t like her as a character; Brett was able to explain a lot about why she is the way she is, without making me feel like I was being pushed to like her against my will (unlike Jardir’s chapters). This book was also a lot more consistently good than the last two, which were both awesome most of the time, but with significant bits that really bothered me. Which is not to say that this book was perfect, but I definitely feel like the series is getting better as it goes on.4 stars

Gene Wolfe//The Shadow of the TorturerThe Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe. The story of Severian, an apprentice in the Guild of Torturers, who finds himself in trouble with the Guild when he falls in love with one of their prisoners. This was… a strange book. I actually ended up liking it a lot, but there were a lot of things about it that bothered me as well: Wolfe’s made-up words were all over the place, and often quite confusing; the story was told in a very anecdotal way (particularly in the beginning), and often didn’t seem to be going anywhere; Severian’s views on love were particularly strange; and the book didn’t really have an ending at all – it just stopped. I’m definitely interested in reading more, but probably not too soon, as this one was quite tough to get through…3 stars

Susan Kaye Quinn//Third DaughterThird Daughter by Susan Kaye Quinn. A steampunk adventure set in a fantasy world that’s inspired by India. The story follows Aniri, the third daughter of the Queen of Dharia, who – since she has little political influence – has always believed that she’ll be able to choose her own husband once she’s of age. As her birthday draws near, however, she is instead asked by her mother to accept the hand of Ash, the “barbarian” prince of Jungali, in order to prevent a war between the two countries. I went into this book expecting it to be a romance, and while there was definitely a strong romantic sub-plot, the actual bulk of this book dealt with Aniri’s attempts to discover the truth of Jungali’s mysterious weapon. The steampunk elements took me a little by surprise, as well, though – with the exception of the skyship – they were mostly relegated to the background, and not too noticeable… Overall, though, this was an incredibly fun story, and I really look forward to reading the rest of the series sometime soon. I’ve also written a full review of this book, which should be up in a few days (i.e. about a week late. :/ ).4 stars