“The Bookweaver’s Daughter is an #OwnVoices YA fantasy—a tale of magic, Indian lore, and radical female friendship, written by debut author, Malavika Kannan, when she was 17 year old.” We were so excited to have a chance to check out this young author’s debut.
Author: Malavika Kannan
Release Date: September 8, 2020
Review Copy: ARC from NetGalley*
In the ancient Indian kingdom of Kasmira, stories don’t begin with “once upon a time.”
Instead, Kasmiris start a woman’s story with those who came before her: her parents, grandparents, ancestors. For fourteen-year-old Reya Kandhari, her story always starts the same: with the fabled line of Bookweavers, tracing centuries back to the lost Yogis—the mythical guardians of Kasmiri culture who created the world itself. As a result, Reya’s entire life has been shaped by words. Words of mystique and mythology. Words of magic that allow her father, the Bookweaver, to bring his stories to life. Words of power that make him the target of tyrants who will stop at nothing to destroy magic in Kasmira.
Living in disguise as a peasant in the fields, Reya’s sole focus is protecting the Bookweaver’s secret. But when her father is taken, Reya must flee deep into the jungle, alone with her best friend Nina and one ancient book. Grappling with Reya’s newfound magic, the two girls find themselves in the center of a war of liberation where magic reigns unchecked, and destiny takes a dark turn. As the stakes get higher, Reya realizes that her father’s legacy contains more power than she ever imagined. For Reya Kandhari is more than just a fugitive—she is a symbol of revolution. And that makes her a threat.
In a tale of magic, Indian lore, and radical female friendship, Reya must pass the final test: the Bookweaver’s daughter must weave her own destiny. The fate of Kasmira depends on it.
I went into this book with expectations of being immersed in the culture of India and Indian lore. I had visions of great world building and was very excited about the promise of mythology and magic. I have always enjoyed a good YA Fantasy because of the extra creativity that goes in to balance out the reduced amount (or sometimes, absence)of romance, and I was ready to see where Malavika Kannan took me with her story. I was extra intrigued because Malavika was only 17 when she wrote this, and I found the prospect of reading a YA written by a young adult fascinating.
What I loved:
This book focuses on the incredible friendship of the main character Reya and the best friend she made while she was disguised as a peasant working in the Fields. As the story progresses, the constant driving force seems to be that friendship. Nina seems to be a very strong young woman, one that anyone would be lucky to have as their “ride or die”, and no one needed a person like that in their life more than Reya.
Reya’s life has seen many dramatic shifts and when her father is no longer the one constant in her life, Nina takes over. Throughout the story we meet many wonderful characters determined to be a constant in Reya’s life, and I loved those characters too. This book was a light and easy read, and I was bought in most by the characters.
The overall storyline was decent. I kept reading to see how it was all going to be brought together or play out in the end. The book tackled big ideas such as friendship, friendship between those in different stations, our propensity to allow ourselves to be held back when we aren’t educated, and even fate! There was magic entwined in the art of telling the story, which I found intriguing.
What I Didn’t Love:
I felt like the author focused on making profound statements or realizations through her characters arcs, but they occurred in the short term rather than building throughout. And they were spelled out for the reader,rather than letting us come to the conclusions ourselves.
The world building lacked for me. I struggled to see Kasmira on the level I think the author intended. I felt like all the cities, the palace, and the Fields existed in a space as large as my neighborhood.
The magic, while being made out to be integral part of the story raised more questions than it answered. I found myself frustrated by the magic and its role in the story at many points throughout the book. The frustration came in large part from an imbalance – too much at some times and little to none at others. Additionally, magic was mastered in a relatively small amount of time without any real clarity as to how the mastery took place.
I feel as if this book aimed for “epic” and missed the mark. However, I see potential and can imagine this author reaching that epic level in the future. I can’t speak to the cultural aspects of the book, but I can say that I expected to be more immersed than I was.
I did not dislike this book. It read fast, and I probably could have finished it in one sitting. There are beautiful moments and glimpses of a fascinating world that I know *I* could not have dreamt up at the age of 17! The characters are wonderful, and the theme of friendship absolutely hits the mark. There were a few little twists that are entertaining, as well. I would seriously love for the author to one day take this story and get it to a place that it lines up better with the description in the blurb.
Malavika Kannan Info
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The Bookweaver’s Daughter is an #OwnVoices YA fantasy—a tale of magic, Indian lore, and radical female friendship, written by debut author, Malavika Kannan, when she was 17 year old. Malavika is an Indian-American novelist, feminist writer, and political activist raised in the suburbs of Central Florida and currently a freshman at Stanford University.
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