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Book Review: The King’s Daughters by Nathalie Mallet

# Genre: Mystery, Sword and Sorcery
# Paperback: 384 pages
# Publisher: Night Shade Books
# Publication Date: July 15, 2008
# ISBN-10: 1597801356
# ISBN-13: 978-1597801355
# Author Website: Nathalie Mallet

French-Canadian author Nathalie Mallet has set herself a difficult challenge. Her novels, The Princes of the Golden Cage and the just released The King’s Daughters not only are written in the author’s second language, English, but combine the two genres of murder mystery and sword and sorcery. The former is difficult enough, but the latter historically has had little success among fantasy readers and none at all among mystery readers. But although Mallet makes some mistakes, overall, both her novels are thrilling adventures of intrigue and action.

The King’s Daughters picks up where The Princes of the Golden Cage left off. Prince Amir of Telfar was one of the few survivors of a purge of that kingdom’s royalty. In love with and hoping to be engage to the beautiful Princess Eva, Amir has accompanied her to her home country of Sorvinka, a cold, blustery country. But Amir and Eva’s arrival is less than fortuitous, as someone has kidnapped the king’s daughters, Eva’s younger sisters, and killed servants, guards and nobles, leaving them rent from head to toe. To add to Amir’s troubles, Eva’s father, King Erik, is openly hostile to Amir’s proposals, and Eva becomes emotionally distant. Amir must solve the mystery of the killings and the disappearances to get into the good graces of King Erik and Princess Eva. But it won’t be easy in a culture Amir doesn’t understand, among people openly hostile to him.

As mentioned before, Nathalie Mallet writes in her second language. A native French speaker, the reader will notice that Mallet occasionally struggles with English, sometimes structuring her sentences in strange ways by placing articles and adjectives in unusual places. It still works, even adds value to the story, but readers may tilt their head a little when encountering one of the more unusual sentence structures.

Mallet makes a few mistakes as well. The reactions to the killings happening within the castle walls seems almost blase, especially from the king and nobility. They almost have a shrug of the soldiers about people being killed each and every night. There really should have been a more volatile reaction. Although Amir solves the case, this whole plot line is unrelated to the primary plot (except in one crossover point), and could perhaps have been left out or done in another way that made more sense for the whole tale. The court politics lack subtlety as well. Mallet’s story is more about the mystery and adventure than the intrigue.

But what Mallet does well is create an exciting adventure and interesting, if a little simplistic characters. Amir continues to be a reluctant hero, but one of honor and skill. His companion Diego, a foppish nobleman with more to him that meets the eye, and Milo, his valet are nice foils to Amir’s singular perspective through which the whole of the novel is experienced.

Mallet mixes folklore and her own story together, and Michael Crichton readers (or The 13th Warrior movie watchers) will see a similar type of story, though Mallet’s tale is all its own. Bringing in the old Slavic folklore of the Baba Yaga was a wise move by Mallet, and it adds depth to the story for those familiar with the old tales.

Although readers may likely identify the culprit early on in the story, the adventure of the tale will keep you turning pages. Although I don’t think The King’s Daughters is quite as good as The Princes of the Golden Cage it is nice follow-up and brings more depth to the character of Prince Amir. I recommend the novel as lightweight fare that makes for great summer beach reading.

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