A fantasy romance influenced by Hindu cosmology concludes its quest with exhaustive thoroughness.
In Sundari, a fantasy land with the flavor of the Indian subcontinent, Marinda spies on her former masters. Marinda was raised as a visha kanya, an assassin so packed with snake venom that she murders with a kiss. She’s now working for the Raja to bring down the followers of the Snake King, who’d almost succeeded in sacrificing Marinda’s beloved baby brother to their god. The machinations of the Naga leave her exhausted. Marinda’s old friend Iyla is here as well, and she also claims to be working for the Naga. Is she double-crossing the Snake King or triple-crossing Marinda? In first-person chapters from both Marinda’s and Iyla’s points of view the two girls navigate their desire to do right, their love for one another, their history of betrayal, and their romances with two handsome young men outside the Naga. Marinda learns to speak with serpents, while Iyla discovers the gods made manifest in human form. Uneven worldbuilding diminishes the coherence of this mostly preindustrial, mostly desi society, and a tidy resolution sweeps away any magical messiness in favor of uncomplicated smooches.
A strong thread of the importance of female friendship makes this adventure rise above Marinda’s bland romance. (Fantasy. 13-15)