Published by Razorbill on July 18th, 2017
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
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?
I read an excerpt on NetGalley and it captivated me immediately, so I decided to read the book. I am a puddle of disappointment, to say the least. I was unbelievably bored and the opposite of invested in the characters’ fates and the world. With the tale of the trees being chopped down at the start, Khorana also clearly advocates for climate change and nature awareness, which sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, this book was a balloon of hot air – there is no other way to describe it.
The Library of Fates plays with an intriguing concept, namely the mash-up of a fantasy kingdom with the historical world, and entails a lot of elements from Indian mythology. The intriguing storyline I discovered within the first five chapters, however, turned into a wild goose chase with little substance. Instead of a captivating story, I got me some insta-love, underwhelming plot twists, and a rushed climax. I wish I could say I liked this more, as I was so excited for this coming-of-age fantasy with Indian falklore, but The Library of Fates was not for me, at all.
♛ Bland characters. Amrita – princess of Shalingar and heroine of this book – seemed really likeable, at first, but then she started to irk me. She is a mess of naivety and altruism. Her upbringing and later revelations concerning her person can explain these traits to some extent, but she’s just no the kind of character I like to read about. I honestly prefer realistically flawed characters over unrealistically good-hearted ones. The side characters, especially the love interests (yes, plural!), were bland as cardboard. Her friend Thala, a seer who’d been held captive by a tyrant king, was the most interesting of the side characters, but Khorana doesn’t fully dive into Thala’s character either. Most of the characters literally have no distinguishing personality.
♛ Aimless plot. The Library of Fates read as though Khorana had thrown various stories into one without taking care to fully develop them. There were several potentially interesting storylines: Amrita’s arranged marriage, the threat of a tyrant ruler, or the mystery of the missing mother. None of those were properly spun to make for a good, engaging story. View Spoiler »Amrita’s arranged marriage is cancelled, which is lucky for her but it therefore didn’t create any conflict. The threat of the tyrant ruler was caused by a love triangle (will elaborate further on). And the mystery of Amrita’s missing mother is never properly solved. « Hide Spoiler After Amrita flees the palace due to a seizure of power by Sikander, the tyrant ruler of Macedon, the plot goes on a wild goose chase. The Library of Fates entails insta-love (albeit explained), a conveniently disrupted manhunt (or princesshunt, more like), underwhelming plot twists, a travel through time, and a rushed climax. Further, the whole set-up for the antagonist’s subplot made little sense to me. View Spoiler »If his great love choosing his best friend over him was what turned Sikander into a tyrant (which seems grossly oversimplified), then why did he conquer the surrounding kingdoms except for the one his former best friend ruled? Why did Shalingar remain unscathed for so long? I don’t understand this logic! « Hide Spoiler
I could hardly believe the source of the world’s problems was a love triangle.
♛ Unimportant library. So, this book is titled The Library of Fates and said library is mentioned several times throughout the book, but I feel like it played no role in the resolving of the conflict or the book’s general plot whatsoever. This book does its title no justice. Like pretty much everything else in this book, it seemed like a marvellous idea thrown into a story without further development. So, it’s a hidden library with a keeper that keeps books/records of fates, but what does it do? Why is it important? After going through so many pages, you’d think I have the answer to this, but I don’t.
♛ Interesting concept, Indian folklore and mythology, and lush descriptions. Some of the things I loved, albeit unable to make up for the disappointing rest, was the concept, the mythology that influenced the world-building and plot, as well as the lush descriptions of food. It struck me as strange, at first, to mash up a fictional realm with reality, mentioning the Silk Road and Persia in a kingdom that doesn’t exist, but I feel like it worked. In an interview, Khorana stated that she borrowed from different traditions and eras to build her world. “Shalingar doesn’t exist because there is no mythic utopia in the world, no society or kingdom or culture I could find that hasn’t engaged in some sort of transgression against the rights of some population of people.” Khorana makes fair few points about minority rights, clashing Macedon’s misogynistic society with Shalingar’s women-empowering one as well as demonstrating the importance of leaving secluded tribes in peace. I also loved the Indian mythology that inspired this book. Beyond the gods and goddesses, I’m a great fan of the giant spider (ha, no one ever thought I’d say that) whose mouth works as a portal through worlds and time.
“Macedonn is a place for the wealthy. If you’re wealthy, life is good, but if you’re poor, or disabled, if you’re a foreigner, or even a woman, Macedon isn’t so kind. This country is built on the backs of the disenfranchised.”
Though Khorana sends some empowering messages with her book, The Library of Fates is far from a captivating story with its shallow characterisations and weak plot. Khorana certainly possesses an intriguing imagination and the skill for lovely prose, but it’s not enough to write a good, diverse fantasy. I haven’t read The Star-Touched Queen but I got similar vibes from both books with regard to setting and romantic subplot. If you liked Chokshi’s debut, The Library of Fates might be of interest to you.