The Tiger's Daughter: Review
The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera is at once both one of the most beautiful books I've read and one of the most infuriating. At a whopping 526 pages, the first installment of Rivera's Their Bright Ascendency series introduces readers to a richly developed world and mysterious, villainous force that threatens to tear apart two warriors and their people.
Even gods can be slain….
The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.
Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.
This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.
The Tiger's Daughter is written in a very unique way. It starts off in third-person with O-Shizuka as she receives a letter from her longtime friend, Shefali. As O-Shizuka begins reading Shefali's letter, we too, start to read the same letter. We are thrust into Shefali's story and she often refers to the divine empress throughout her letters- for example, "you would have loved this" or "I know what you must have thought then." While this was an interesting play on perspectives, it was poorly timed.
I say this because Shefali's letter basically recounts her entire friendship with O-Shizuka, starting from when they were small children. We are immediately thrust into the story of their births and how the two of these warriors were destined for greatness from the start. I imagine this is a story O-Shizuka already knows. The letter thoroughly describes the different traditions of the Hokkaran and Qorin. This, I assume, is done for the reader's benefit because again, I'm sure O-Shizuka already knows about her own empire and doesn't need to be reminded of these details. However, this lengthy exposition is, frankly, boring. It's pages of world-building without any semblance of plot or action. It's an info-dump that could have been done in other ways. While I can understand that the letter is long and significant because of the nature of O-Shizuka and Shefali's relationship, it does little to try to hold the reader's interest.
That being said, Rivera is a masterful writer. There are lines that danced off the pages and startled me to the core. Words that read like poetry and had me grabbing my phone to jot them down to journal on later. And for the lack of plot, the world in which The Tiger's Daughter is, truthfully, very beautiful and detailed. By the end of the book, I felt that I intimately knew the ins and outs of the Hokkaran Empire, as well as the traditions of the nomadic Qorin (and I better have, after 526 pages!).
The relationship between Shefali and O-Shizuka is also quite beautiful. It flourishes quietly and ignites when given the smallest spark of flame. It's not without controversy and prejudice, though. The question of morality and prejudice is evident throughout the book as the Hokkaran people look down on the nomadic Qorin, who are seen as "barbarians."
At the end of the day, it was the beautiful writing that got me through this book. It was my amusement at O-Shizuka's brash arrogance and Shefali's quiet strength. It was not the plot or the magic that kept me reading.
I rate The Tiger's Daughter 3/5 stars.