(Cover picture courtesy of The Quintessentially Questionable Query Experiment.)
The Third Daughter of the Queen wants her birthday to arrive so she’ll be free to marry for love, but rumors of a new flying weapon may force her to accept a barbarian prince’s proposal for a peace-brokering marriage. Desperate to marry the charming courtesan she loves, Aniri agrees to the prince’s proposal as a subterfuge in order to spy on him, find the weapon, and hopefully avoid both war and an arranged marriage to a man she does not love.
Third Daughter is the first 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 received a free ebook copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]
I almost didn’t pick Third Daughter to request because the cover gave me the impression it would be a stereotypical Bollywood sort of novel with no real substance. Still, the blurb was good enough that I decided to ignore the cover and give it a chance. And honestly, thank goodness I did!
I’ll be honest with you guys in that I really haven’t read much steampunk. It was only really last year that I actually picked up my first steampunk novel. Still, I absolutely loved the world-building in Third Daughter. It’s set in an Eastern-flavoured world on the verge of an industrial revolution. Many courts like the ones in Dharia favour the old-fashioned styles of dress with corsets and starched skirts, but at the same time there are things similar to handheld computers for long-distance communication and airships. It’s a time of upheaval as new weapons are being created and the kingdoms engage in subtle power plays for supremacy. Really, Susan Kaye Quinn couldn’t have chosen a better time as a setting for her fantasy world.
The characters are wonderful. I absolutely loved Aniri. She’s sort of your typical rebellious princess in the beginning but when she agrees to go on a mission for her mother you really get the feeling that she also cares about her country. Aniri isn’t selfish, even if helping her country means leaving behind the courtesan she loves and pretending to be engaged to a ‘barbarian’ prince. She and Ash (the aforementioned prince) develop slowly over the novel and their feelings for each other become more and more complicated as emotion gets in the way of duty. There’s a lot of romantic tension in this novel but it’s not a romance novel per se.
The plot was truly wonderful. I loved the twists and turns that kept me guessing right up until the end. I sort of knew who was behind the big airship plot but it turns out I was only half right. That’s the thing about Third Daughter: it keeps you guessing and just when you think you’ve figured everything out, Susan Kaye Quinn throws you for a loop.
Even if you’re not the biggest steampunk fan out there, I’d definitely recommend Third Daughter. It has great characters, is set in a well built fantasy world and the plot is fast-paced and unpredictable. You can’t ask for more.
I give this book 5/5 stars.