Published by Razorbill on July 18th 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Source: First to Read
FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Aditi Khorana’s The Library of Fates is a beautiful coming of age story that follows the journey of Princess Amrita of Shalingar as she sets out to save her kingdom from the grips of the power-hungry emperor Sikander who is looking to expand his Macedonian Empire by invading and conquering Shalingar. Shalingar is a prized territory for Sikander because it is where the mystical Symballines are hidden. The Symballines produce a rare and powerful substance called chamak that Sikander is dying to get his hands on. Why? Because when given to Oracles, chamak substantially increases their ability to predict the future.
When the novel opens, Amrita’s father and Sikander have worked out a tentative arrangement to appease Sikander and hopefully keep him from taking control of Shalingar. Amrita is at the heart of this agreement because Sikander is determined to take her for his bride. Amrita is not especially excited about this match because 1) who wants to marry a power hungry Emperor and 2) she is already in love with someone else, her childhood friend, Arjun. But she’s willing to make the sacrifice if it means her people are protected.
When Sikander arrives at Amrita’s palace, however, things do not go according to plan and Sikander’s men go on a rampage, killing or imprisoning anyone who gets in their way. Amrita manages to escape from the palace, along with an Oracle named Thala that Sikander had been keeping as a prisoner but had offered up to Amrita as a wedding gift. Together Amrita and Thala set off on a journey to find the Symballines and warn them that Sikander is coming for them. At Thala’s suggestion, they also set out to find The Library of All Things, a library where according to legend, contains a book about every person. Thala tells Amrita that if they can get to this Library, then they can locate their books and edit them to change their destinies. Amrita can save her people, while Thala can go back and rewrite her history so that she was never imprisoned and taken away from her family as a young child. While the journey starts out as a physical one, however, it becomes so much more. It becomes a journey of self-discovery for Amrita as she begins to find clues that indicate she may not be who she thinks she is and that with her true identity, she possesses the power to change the course of history and save her people.
Amrita. I found Princess Amrita to be a very likeable character and one that was easy to sympathize with. Her life up until this point has been very sheltered, so when she first escapes from the palace under siege, she really has no idea how to fend for herself. In that sense we see tremendous growth from her throughout the course of the story. She also didn’t really believe any of the stories about magic she had been told all her life. In her mind, they were just that, stories. So I enjoyed watching her make this journey and begin to understand and embrace the stories from her childhood and the magic they describe, and what they mean for her. It’s a lot to take in, especially learning that you aren’t who you thought you were, but Amrita shows great maturity
My one disappointment with Amrita though was that I had hoped she’d be a bit feistier. Reading the book’s synopsis and hearing that she spends most of the book on the run as a fugitive had me envisioning lots of kickass scenes where she keeps evading Sikander’s men, but her journey ended up being much more subdued than that. My fault for building it up in my own mind to be so epic, but it was a little disappointing. She’s still a great character though and I especially enjoyed her growing friendship with Thala, especially considering how they are initially just thrown together by circumstance and forced to work together to get away from Sikander.
Varun. I think Varun actually ended up being my favorite character in the story. I can’t say much about him without giving away too many details about the overall storyline, but I will say he ends up being a very important character, way more important than he initially seems to be. Amrita first meets Varun while she and Thala are on the first leg of their journey, a pilgrimage to a temple. Varun pops up out of nowhere and self-appoints himself Amrita’s traveling companion as she hides among others who are making the pilgrimage to pay their respects to the goddess Maya. Varun is a charming young man who keeps Amrita entertained with stories about Maya. He seems pretty determined to educate her as much as possible and, in spite of herself, Amrita feels herself drawn to this boy. Even though my brain was screaming “No insta-love!” and “What about your childhood love, Arjun?,” I could see why she felt an instant connection to Varun. He’s immensely likeable and I loved his enthusiasm regarding the temple and the goddess and all of its history, especially once his connection to it all is made clear.
World Building and the Mythology. Khorana does a beautiful job painting a vivid portrait of both Shalingar, the Macedonian Empire, and all points in between. I also loved how she seamlessly wove in so many mythological elements to create a truly unique and incredible landscape for her characters to journey through. I found the Symballines and their world fascinating, as well as that of the vetala spirits, and so much more. It was like nothing I had ever read before so it made for such a magical reading experience.
Folklore. One of my absolute favorite parts of The Library of Fates is the parable that prefaces the story. It’s called the Parable of the Land of the Trees and it’s an enchanting story about self-sacrifice that features trees who used to be able to communicate with humans. It caught my attention immediately and had me wanting to know how it related to the rest of the story.
My main issue with The Library of Fates was that I felt like so much ground was covered in this one book that the author only scratched the surface on many areas that I would have loved to have read more about. I would have loved to see more of the folklore and mythology since that was probably my favorite part of the book and I loved the way the author integrated it into the story so smoothly. I also wanted more details in the various plots and subplots along the way because some of them could have used a little more detail to better elaborate what was happening and why. And while I know the book was meant to focus on Amrita and her personal journey of self-discovery, I still wanted more exploration of Amrita and her relationships with all of the characters she interacts with. As is, it was a lovely read but I was just left wanting so much more, either a longer book with all of these areas fleshed out more or maybe even a series.
Even though I had a few issues with it, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend The Library of Fates to anyone who enjoys a coming of age story and who wants to learn more about Indian folklore and mythology. I haven’t read The Star Touched Queen or The Wrath and the Dawn yet, but after reading this story and seeing that this book is recommended for fans of those, I’m more interested than ever in reading those as well.
RATING: 3.5 STARS
Thanks to Penguin First to Read, the author, and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This in no way shapes my opinion of the book.
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?