(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)
Skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue…
With the war begun, Aniri, Third Daughter of the Queen, has to battle not only a prince with a deadly skyship, but her own sister, the First Daughter, who finally sees her chance to become Queen. With their mother gravely ill and the Second Daughter kidnapped along with Aniri’s husband-to-be, Aniri embarks on a desperate mission to save the people she loves from a war that will tear all three countries apart.
First Daughter is the third book in the The Dharian Affairs Trilogy (Third Daughter, Second Daughter, First Daughter). This steampunk-goes-to-Bollywood (Bollypunk!) romance that takes place in an east-Indian-flavored alternate world filled with skyships, saber duels, and lots of royal intrigue. And, of course, kissing.
[Full disclosure: I requested and received a free ebook copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.]
For a series that I initially thought sounded kind of dumb, by the last book I was quite emotionally invested in all of the characters, particularly Aniri. Susan Kaye Quinn has a real talent for bringing her steampunk (Bollypunk?) world to life and making us care about her characters. That’s not common in any genre.
Of course I’ll start with the characters: I loved them. Aniri really came into her own in First Daughter, what with her mother’s injury and her falling out with her own sister over their battle strategies and politics. Nahali really didn’t come off as a good character at first, but when you realize that she’s only doing what all of us try to do, our best, it’s easier to sympathize with her. She’s not perfect, but then again no one is, particularly when they’re in a leadership position and everyone feels free to criticize them but to not actually do anything about the problem. I loved how Aniri matured and eventually realized that she had to try to see things from Nahali’s point of view as well, not just immediately dismiss her older sister. Being able to compromise and understand someone is an important part of growing up and Aniri does a lot of that in this book. It was really satisfying to see her huge transition, especially when you consider how she was in the first book. She was never stupidly immature, but she lacked confidence in herself and in Ash, who also underwent some pretty awesome changes throughout the story.
The world-building in The Dharian Affairs Trilogy really is just amazing. Susan Kaye Quinn did such a good job creating a society in the middle of an industrial revolution while still retaining much of its dependence on the old ways. That’s why Dharia is so rich and is the most important of the three kingdoms: they’re not the most advanced, but they’re the breadbasket of the area. Their farming allows them to grow rich, even though they don’t produce the amazing industrial advances that they do in Samir. It was really interesting to see how that tension between the agrarian but rich Dharia and the industrial but relatively poor Samir play out. The author really knows her politics because the tension plays out in a believable way and even though the book ends, you still get the feeling that maybe not all of the world’s problems were solved by out protagonist. Shocking, I know!
This tension also contributed quite a bit to the plot, particularly the parts about the Samir rebellion. Dharia is richer than Samir, but they don’t have the airship fleet of their smaller neighbour. Can Aniri avert a deadly war, launched either by Samir’s second son or her own sister? That’s pretty much the whole conflict of the book, but there are some interesting subplots that tie up loose ends we were introduced to in Third Daughter and Second Daughter. And of course we get a little bit of romance between Aniri and Ash, although that’s far from the main focus of the story when they’re both trying to avert a potentially catastrophic war. The plot also has so much political intrigue that it never really slows down and you’re left guessing what will happen next. That was one of the really strong points of the book: you have to actually pay attention to the details because if you don’t, you’re going to miss out on so many good things.
Essentially, First Daughter was a good conclusion to the Dharian Affairs trilogy. It tied up most of the loose ends without it seeming forced and therefore it left me feeling satisfied, which is something rare in a trilogy ending. The characters were great, undergoing amazing changes; the plot was fast-paced and complex and the world-building was as good as ever. You really can’t ask for more in a final book.
I give this book 5/5 stars.