Published by Razorbill on July 18th 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Diversity, Romance
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A romantic coming-of-age fantasy tale steeped in Indian folklore, perfect for fans of The Star-Touched Queen and The Wrath and the Dawn
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?
With a lush, opulent world, breathtaking plot, and endearing heroine, The Library of Fates was a wonderful read. I think the mention of The Star-Touched Queen in the blurb is very apt for this one – I can see aspects reminiscent of the former, and not just because of the foundation of Indian folklore for both worlds. No doubt, fantasy readers will adore The Library of Fates and the journey that Amrita embarks on. I could also gush on and on about the ending, and the smile I had after I read the last page. I haven’t heard much about this book until recently and I think it deserves much more attention!
The story starts with the introduction of Princess Amrita of Shalingar, a quiet kingdom based on Indian culture. She’s preparing for the arrival of the guest Emperor Sikander, the ruler who expanded the Macedonian empire, and her arranged marriage to him. Upon arriving, however, Sikander’s cruel machinations lead to the downfall of Shalingar and Amrita suddenly becomes a fugitive in the nation she grew up in.
Raised in a heavily sheltered life, Amrita was really easy to like as a character. She’s quite selfless and definitely cares for the people of her kingdom. Amrita is a flawed character as well, as readers can see that her cautious attitude makes her hesitant on actions. This caution stems from fear, whether it’s for the consequences her actions would instill or how it would affect the people she loves. Amrita is also biracial, being half Shalingar (the Indian-inspired kingdom) and half Macedonian. Reading in her first person POV narrative was really enjoyable. However, Amrita is also quite ignorant on the world outside her home and quite clueless when she finds herself on the run. Luckily, she creates a bond with Thala, an oracle who was enslaved by Sikander for her prophetic abilities. The two girls work together towards the Library of All Things, where Thala tells Amrita that it holds the power to change their fates.
I wanted to choose my own future.
I didn’t want to be Sikander’s bride.
What I wanted was too impossible to say aloud, too dangerous, too fraught.
Amrita is a bit unbelieving at first. The grandiose world of The Library of Fates has a historic backdrop, with references to ancient civilizations such as Anatolia and the Silk Road. Although the creation of the world is rife with magic and folklore, the closest to “magic” that she has encountered is the prophetic abilities of oracles such as Thala. However, as Amrita meets new people in her adventure towards the Library of All Things and discovers secrets hidden in her past and kingdom, she may just start believing in the myths that she grew up hearing.
I wanted to believe that there was magic woven into the world in which we lived; something underneath the surface of what we could see, an entire universe we didn’t quite understand, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t exist.
The journey that Amrita takes physically is a fun adventure with gorgeous settings and unveiled mysteries, but the internal journey Amrita’s character takes was also extremely phenomenal, and one of the stand-out points of the story. She starts the book off with everything: doting father, peaceful kingdom, loving court who are basically like her family, and even a developing crush. After Sikander’s invasion, however, she starts losing each of these, one by one. But on her journey towards the Library of All Things, Amrita may also discover her gaining others things, even as the loss heals into a scar.
I might have been ready for death but if I wasn’t Amrita, who was I? If I wasn’t the collection of my experiences, then what was left of me?
I really adored her friendship with Thala, the oracle that escapes with her. While Amrita is cautious and wary, Thala has no regrets with her actions. We see her pain when she recalls being taken away from her family by Sikander, and her support for Amrita as the princess without a kingdom deals with her own losses. There is a romance that occurs, but it’s very light and not expanded on. It’s a romance that deals with two souls finding each other again, against all odds. It’s a romance rich with history and love and loss and sacrifice. Although there is quite little development in the pages-wise (I felt like it was put aside for the plot progression), there is no doubt that the romance has layer and depth that makes it compelling despite the page time.
The story really packs a punch in the 300-pages that The Library of Fates encompasses. There’s a physical journey, a mental journey, and a steady plot and pace ready to make readers gasp at surprising twists. The writing was melodic and easy to follow; no purple prose too, for readers that are wary of that! I finished this book quickly, but no doubt have plans to turn back to it – especially with how the story will linger in my mind for months to come.
The Library of Fates was stunning. I’m trapped in between a 4 and 4.5 for a rating because I feel like some aspects of it could have been expanded, thus giving me more of a connection while reading. One of the biggest things is Amrita’s relationship to others; for example, the love for the people who work with her father was there, but fleetingly. I do think that the non-stop plot got in the way of such development. Another would be the romance, which I feel could have had more expansion while the two characters were together. However, Amrita’s gradual character growth and learning journey was great to see, even as the plot itself kept me surprised and captivated. Fantasy readers will love this one, and I highly recommend it to readers looking for an introspective, strong heroine who is ready to change the world she lives in.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Thank you Penguin for the review copy!