A young sword prodigy must impersonate a lost princess and throw her life into a deadly political game, in this kinetic epic fantasy novel by the author of the award-winning Majat Code series
Naia dreams of becoming a Jaihar Blademaster, but after assaulting a teacher, her future seems ruined. The timely intervention of a powerful stranger suddenly elevates her into elite Upper Grounds training. She has no idea that the stranger is Dal Gassan, head of the Daljeer Circle. Seventeen years ago he witnessed the massacre of Challimar’s court and rescued its sole survivor, a baby girl. Gassan plans to thrust a blade into the machinations of imperial succession: Naia. Disguised as the legendary Princess Xarimet of Challimar, Naia must challenge the imperial family, and win. Naia is no princess, but with her desert-kissed eyes and sword skills she might be close enough…
File Under: Fantasy [ Warrior Foretold | Royal Massacre | Wrongful Heir | Forbidden Kingdom ]
Kashina's mediocre love letter to fantasy warriors is heavier on the swords than the sorcery, set in a ruthless desert empire styled on an amalgam of medieval Middle Eastern countries. Teenage orphan Naia is about to be expelled from her training to become one of the Jaihar, a group of elite blademasters whose most capable members serve as imperial bodyguards, when she's pulled into a traitorous plot decades in the making. Frustrated by the emperor's bloody rule, the heads of the Jaihar Order and the Daljeer Circle (the empire's scholarly caste) plan to orchestrate a succession contest upon the emperor's death. Naia has striking looks and natural fighting ability, and these plus the mysterious circumstances surrounding her birth make her the perfect candidate to impersonate a long-lost princess and make a bid for the throne under the conspirators' guidance. Naia's love interest is considerably older and more powerful than she is, which may make some readers uncomfortable. The text also lauds the beauty of characters with lighter skin, hair, and eyes, and suggests that male dominance of women in the fighting arena is only natural. Fans of Kashina (the Majat Code trilogy) may be willing to overlook flat characters, shallow worldbuilding, predictable plot points, and a rushed romance, but readers hoping for real depth and intrigue should look elsewhere.