Three out of four stars. Would be four stars if it didn't have that one sex scene.
Sci-fi, action, mystery, romance... Nathalie Mallet successfully combines them all in the second installment of her Prince Amir’s Adventures series, The King’s Daughters. Normally, such a large grouping of genres would ruin a story, but Mallet manages to focus all these genres under the roof of her fantastical world, a world very much like our own.
As Prince Amir travels with his beloved Princess Eva, he has high hopes for a marriage approved by Eva’s father. Amir and Eva enter an increasingly hostile environment, however, when they arrive in Eva’s homeland, Sorvinka. Bandits have already attacked Amir and his men on the roads surrounding the kingdom; and once he arrives at the castle, Amir receives a greeting as cold as the icy winter environment that surrounds him: The king does not like Amir, one of Eva’s four younger sisters has been kidnapped, and an unclassified beast revisits the castle every night, killing anyone in its path. The king fears that his enemies, the Farrellians, are behind the evil deeds, but Amir suspects something far more mysterious and evil. Already having trouble making a good impression, Amir adds to the difficulty of his stay as he determines to solve the mystery. He explores the castle, meeting ghouls, gods, magic, and suspicious characters that all seem to have a motive. Meanwhile, the queen’s health fails and Amir begins to wonder whether more than just the princesses are in peril.
Could the culprit be the witch in the woods, known for kidnapping children? What about the one-armed lord and his three sons, loved by the people and next in line for the throne after the king’s nephew? Perhaps the two barbarians that don’t speak the country’s language and that seem to have the ability to walk through walls and be in two places at once had something to do with the kidnapping. Or maybe the green-eyed girl seen near the plant used to make deadly potions? It seems that even those closest to Amir cannot be trusted.
Mallet keeps her readers guessing, revealing clues that may or may not contribute to solving this mystery. A master at deceiving the reader until the very end, Mallet weaves characters and their stories together. Characters blend, clash, and fight, making for the perfect mystery filled with action and adventure.
Now, don’t forget the romance. There’s plenty of that in store, even a racy, yet non-explicit sex scene that lasts about a page. Although Mallet could have easily left the sex scene out (this is not a Harlequin romance), she does a good job of describing the lovers’ actions without becoming too detailed. Eva and Amir are the only characters in King’s Daughters that appeared in the first book, making it easy for anyone who has not read the first book to follow the plot. Some might worry that a continued romance from the first book would ruin the second book (just look at TV: every series ends after the couple gets married), but Mallet does not disappoint. Eva stays away from Amir for the majority of the book, but she plays a crucial role in Amir’s motivation to find the missing princesses, as well as in the book’s conclusion.
Mallet’s talent for words amazes readers, as she wrote both her fantasy books in her second language: English. Her characters are lovable, believable, and easy to relate to. One character named Diego proclaims himself a “dandy” and resembles the famous literary hero The Scarlet Pimpernel in both his wit and his charm.
Mallet includes all the details needed to make the setting feel real, leaving only one or two gaps unfilled -- not enough to confuse the reader or stop the reader from reading. In fact, Mallet pulls everything together in the end with a satisfying finale that leaves the way open for future books. A page-turner for young-adults, adults, and fans of fantasy and mystery, The King’s Daughters delivers big time. Unlike its story, the book’s success will be no mystery.