I received this book for review from the author after showing admiration for her ability to infuse diversity in an otherwise closed minded sub genre of science fiction: Steam Punk.
I love steampunk. I absolutely love the world-building behind it. But unfortunately I typically avoid it. Why? Because it typically excluded anything outside of Victorian/White-British/European culture. I still adore it, but I don't have to stand for the exclusion when there are books like this out there to counter this idea that SteamPunk has become synonymous with Europe.
It's based in a fictional world that I take as a steampunk India, and there were many cultural aspects I found showed a great respect to Indian culture.
There was very little that I disliked about this book. If Im being honest, I thought at best I thought it would be just alright. I'll just break down my likes and dislikes of the book in the next few paragraphs.
What I loved:
At first I wasn't sure about the book's pacing, but fear not. If you judge a book by it's first 50 pages, it definitely peaked my interest by page 50. I found the pacing exceptional for the story that was being told. It focused on a princess named Aniri, whom due to her being the third born daughter, has the choice to marry the man of her choice.
Due to certain events, Aniri is asked by her mother to consider an arranged marriage with a feuding country. Aniri isn't sure whether her mother is testing her loyalty to her country, when her mother reveals that is it to spy, as there are rumors that they have a weapon of mass destruction.
All the twists and turns allowed me to never be bored with the story. In fact, there were a bunch of shockers, and only one was slightly predictable.
As far as character development, I loved Aniri. She reminded me of myself so much. Independent, but not always wise enough to make the right decision, but owning up to each bad decision made only made me like her more. She was in great shape and described as muscular! I love girls that work out, especially ones who can hold their own. I love promoting more images that highlight fitness. Girls are either model thin, or curvy(which is typically just busty) in books, and I always favor the fit-ties.
There were good balances of distributing backstory, as well as conflict for the story. It's not easy to spy on a man you plan to marry who you are secretly falling for, and that's a challenge within itself. There were also a lot of politics to the union of Aniri marrying Ashoka Milak, or her future fiancé, that provided plenty of conflict. This is my first dabble into a "Bolly-Punk" novel, so it gets the point for unique-ness.
I didn't have any huge issues with the grammar and writing style. I did see a few mistakes here and there, but it was never enough to remember them for long. I would say it fits an industry standard, as even those books aren't 100% goof-proof. There were a decent amount of beats between dialogue and storyline. I wont say it was perfect, but it wasn't bad enough to warrant a point off. To be honest, I cant believe this author is self published. She's avoided so many mistakes many self published authors fail. This book would rekindle anyone's faith in self published books, and it's why I cant give up on them.
The highlight? DIVERSITY!
Everybody was brown! Since it is a fictional India, I assuming, or at least I interpret everyone as such. All of the main characters were people of color. Aniri, her fiancé Prince Malik, her lover Devesh, her attendant Priya, her bodyguard ,EVERYONE.
And their beauty is not shunned, but highlighted. When I think of Bollywood, I typically think light eyes, fair skin. I mean there one way to look "Indian" but their caste system would definitely have one thinking otherwise. Indian women face many of the same issues Black women face. Colorism. It is very strong in both cultures, and I am so glad someone is highlighting the beauty in dark brown skin.
I'll be completely unprofessional and say every guy in this book was smoking hot. But Prince Malik, Aniri's fiancé was not just gorgeous, he was the sweetest character in the book, and what I typically see Indian men as. VERY ROMANTIC.
I think this book highlighted the best of East-Indian culture. It earned every diversity book I can possibly give.
Miscellaneous points? I think the title suits the books, it is indeed about the story's "Third Daughter", and while the cover to me is just ok, I think it fits the book, and at least it highlights Asian people, as opposed to whitewashing them. I loved the character descriptions, and could picture them well, and while the names are a little confusing, I did like them. I always favor the ethnic names, so I guess I cant complain.
What I didn't connect with:
Very little. My only complaints are actually rather minor. With any steampunk book, the descriptions of machina are always where I get lost. The machines and automatons were very hard to picture, and I always got lost in the descriptions. Nearly every one of them. Im sure this would confuse any reader who is very new to the steampunk genre. Im not sure how to fix this, as it is in nearly every steampunk book,and I will most likely always feel this way about the machina aspect.
Which comes to another point I didn't give out. The descriptions were at times a little too many. I understand that this is necessary, because these worlds don't actually exist, but it frustrated me to be so lost in description. Had a lot of brain farts because of it.
Overall this was a well written, diversely written book. I was stuck in a rut from the last few books I read,so Im glad between them I had this diamond in the rough. Loved it so much, I bought my own paperback copy.