Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
“I do not believe ambitious men who say the only route to peace and prosperity lies in giving them more power—particularly when they do it with lands and people who are not theirs.”
A behemoth compared to the first two installments in the City of Brass trilogy, The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty is divided into three POVs, in which readers trace the experiences of Nahri and Ali as they gather allies to conquer Daevabad, and Dara, who is now the infamous general of the Banu Manizheh after seizing Daevabad. With most of the emphasis placed on these three characters, particularly Nahri and Ali, I can’t help but notice the inconsistencies of Ali’s character development over the course of the trilogy. Drifting in the boat along the Nile with Nahri, he is hit hard with guilt and grief over his inability to save Mutandhir, who Ali believes is dead.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang
A book inspired by the history of China in the 20th century, The Poppy War follows a peasant girl, Rin, throughout the novel. She aces the entrance exam for the Empire’s military academy. After entering the academy in the hopes of gaining recognition of the society, she slowly becomes disillusioned by the country’s seemingly meritocratic institution. As an outcast, she is scorned for her skin colour and humble background at the academy. As the story progresses, she discovers her lethal, mystical power gifted by the gods of Nikan and makes tough decisions during the battle against the Federation of Mugen in the Third Poppy War.
Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
A Feminist in the Medieval Age – Addie LaRue
“Adeline has decided she would rather be a tree, like Estele. If she must grow roots, she would rather be left to flourish wild instead of pruned, would rather stand alone, allowed to grow beneath the open sky.”
The quaint, peaceful, French village of the eighteenth century is captivatingly written by V. E. Schwab, setting up an intriguing premise, but what really drew me into The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is its protagonist, Addie LaRue. A strong-willed, independent young woman, Addie, is forced into an arranged marriage with a man she hardly cares about. I feel deeply sympathetic for her situation, and I admire her determination to preserve her freedom. In modern terms, she can be described as a feminist in the medieval age. Her fear of being trapped by a life of domesticity, housekeeping, raising children, looking after her husband, is sure to resonate with countless women today.
Warning: Spoilers ahead!
Regarded as one of the best representatives of the high fantasy genre, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss has earned great acclaim and a massive following. Now an innkeeper of the Waystone Inn, Kvothe Kingkiller, tells the Chronicler the story of his life in the style of a memoir. He recounts his journey from his childhood, the murder of his parents, to his days at the University.
“I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. You may have heard of me.”
As a coming-of-age novel, Kvothe takes the center stage in The Name of the Wind. Of all the characters, I dislike him the most. After witnessing his parents’ gruesome death at the hands of secretive, mythical figures, he enters the University with the hope that he will gain the information he needs to avenge his parents. After he is admitted, however, he seems to wander aimlessly during his time at school. He was banned from accessing the Archives in his early days at school, which was essentially the only viable route for accessing the information needed to solve the identity of his parents’ murderer. He doesn’t make serious attempts to regain access for 90 percent of the plot. The times when he does make an attempt to do so are done halfheartedly at best. Kvothe soon becomes involved voluntarily in the drama and the petty rivalry of his classmates. The memory of his parents’ murder gradually slips from his mind while his school work, friends and rivals soon consume all his energy. When he isn’t studying or going on adventures outside school, he devises plots to trip his rivals at school, namely Ambrose, a higher-ranking student. Although Kvothe can be spiteful at times, it is hard not to admire his resilience and courage. His days in Tarbean, a dangerous place for any 12-year-old orphan, are spent in loneliness and abject poverty. Without his family to support him, the young Kvothe is entirely alone. Despite these obstacles, he is able to lift himself out of hardship and gain entrance to the prestigious University using his wit and musical talents.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead!
“Carlin often said that history was everything, for it was in man’s nature to make the same mistakes over and over.”
The premise of The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen seems familiar at first glance. An ordinary teenage girl with a humble upbringing, discovers on the verge of adulthood, that she is the heir to a powerful ruler in her country. This so-called “the chosen one” trope can be found in almost every well-known fantasy novel. As I delve deeper into Kelsea’s world, I begin to discover a rich and complex society, with a tumultuous historical background and conflicts that have been manifesting for centuries. Observing this world through Kelsea’s lens and hearing her internal commentary provide readers with insight into her character. Growing up in a foster home, especially under the tutelage of the authoritative Carlin Glynn, Kelsea’s early education has had a far-reaching impact on her ideas of social justice and governance when she assumes the throne of the Tearling. As a historian formerly employed by the royal family, Carlin taught Kelsea the relation between history and cultural dynamics of the Tearling. Carlin’s authoritarian style of teaching is shown through Kelsea’s flashbacks, and it was clear that Kelsea was wary of Carlin’s disapproval. Whenever Kelsea became tired of school, she was met with her mentor’s disappointment and returned to her studies every time, yet soon after Kelsea is crowned Queen of the Tearling, she quickly asserts herself as a just and righteous ruler who has the courage, or audacity, to face down a hostile nation ready to tear down her country. Knowing that stopping the shipment to Mortmesne may draw the ire of the Red Queen, she gives her first order as queen and releases the Tear prisoners on the verge of being shipped to the enemy. This transition from a meek teenage girl to an authoritative ruler feels rushed and confusing, as authoritarian parenting is linked to shy and socially inept children who cannot make informed decisions for themselves.