Title: Third Daughter (The Dharian Affairs #1)
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Publisher: All Night Reads, 2013, 348 pages
Copy Source: NetGalley Read Now, in exchange for an honest review
“The cloudless night whispered promises to Aniri.”
Princess Aniri is the third daughter of the queen of Dharia, and it is two weeks until her eighteenth birthday. Sneaking out of the palace to meet the man she plans to marry for love, once she is of age, Aniri longs to leave her sheltered and pampered existence to search out and kill the men who murdered her father. But the barbarian prince of Jungali has come to Dharia to broker peace through an arranged marriage. The Jungali are rumored to have an airship, a flying weapon against which they have no defense. The Samarians are allies, but with an ancient history of enmity between them and the Dharians.
Aniri must choose between following her heart, and marrying her Samirian courtesan , or doing her duty for her queen and her country. Her decision takes her from the palace and into adventure, in ways she never dreamed. Traveling by train, the elephant-like Shashee, and steam-powered cable car, Aniri rises to each challenge, transforming from a pampered princess as she learns that nothing and no one are quite as they seem.
I hesitated to read this book, partly due to the “Bollywood meets Steampunk” marketing. While I’ve enjoyed Bollywood movies over the years, this description made me wary. Despite this, I quite enjoyed this YA foray into a steampunk world inspired by India. There are plenty of descriptions of fashion and quite a few kissing scenes, which are a nice counterpoint to an abundance of adventure and fighting (saber fight on top of an airship, anyone?) which may serve to widen the appeal within the YA market.
The author accomplishes her world building with a light hand. Steampunk elements are present, each serving a definite purpose and they are important to the storyline, without overshadowing the adventure and romance.
The side characters are well done, with Aniri’s perky maid Priya and personal guard/raksaka (assassin?) Janak adding interest to the story and Garesh, a general of one of the four Jungali provinces, being suitably evil. Aniri’s sisters, the Second and First Daughters, are introduced along with their situations as princesses trapped in arranged marriages.
Third Daughter is the first book in a trilogy and may serve as a gentle introduction to Steampunk for those who are unfamiliar. My main complaints against the novel are the surface nature of the characters (which seems to be the case in a lot of YA) and a small grammatical change that cropped up a few times towards the end of the book. The use of ‘ye’ and ‘thee’ seemed inappropriate and was jarring to my reading experience.
Overall, a fun and exciting read that should appeal to fans of YA and Steampunk. While the story does end with a wee bit of a cliff-hanger, the actual adventure is fully wrapped up and the romantic aspect is satisfying.
3.5/5 stars – I enjoyed a majority of the story. It did exceed my expectations and I might be tempted to read the next in the trilogy, Second Daughter, but I’m not rushing off to buy it.