He choked out his words in anger, emphasizing each one. “Fairy tales mean nothing to me. Stories have never saved anyone. Time moves forward, and you have to decide: Do you want it to move on without you? Think of the future of your kingdom. Think of Amrita’s future,” he said, and he pointed his hand at me, a gesture that made me shrink in my chair. “Right now, you have a choice. What happened to this Land of Trees of yours—that’s just the nature of the world. One can’t resist the world forever. And if you resist now, you won’t have the choice later.”
—The Library of Fates, by Aditi Khorana
Amrita is the crown princess of Shalingar, an idyllic and peaceful kingdom ruled by her father. She’s grown up happy and loved, wanting for nothing—though she does long to see the larger world someday, and she would have liked to have known her mother. When Sikander, the Emperor of a powerful and violent regime—and an old school friend of her father’s—offers to take her hand in marriage, she and her father agree to the betrothal for the sake of their kingdom.
But when Sikander arrives in Shalingar, when she finally meets him in person… she knows that she can’t go through with it. He’s hateful and cruel and dishonorable. He enslaves people by the thousand, believes in the subjugation of women, and will take any action to enrich himself no matter what he destroys or whom he hurts.
Marrying him won’t protect her people.
So she runs.
The Library of Fates is full of vibrant, gorgeous imagery—descriptions that provide a multi-sensory experience of sight and sound and smell and taste and color and texture—and once it gets going, it’s a fast-paced journey. Given her upbringing and background, Amrita’s reluctance to head out on that journey is entirely understandable, and seeing her come into her own—as well as make mistakes and then take responsibility for the fallout—over the course of that journey is emotionally satisfying.
It’s rough in spots—especially the expository dialogue and the moments in which one scene or subject shifts and transitions to another—but it’s such a quick read that it’s pretty easy to skate past the uneven spots. As much as I love finding stand-alone fantasy novels, this is one of those rare cases in which I think the story and the world would have been better served up in two or even three installments—that would have allowed readers to fully immerse themselves in this world, rather than just dipping a toe in.
It’s a hopeful book that engages with thoughts and questions about fate, responsibility, forgiveness, redemption, social justice, and identity, and it’ll make for some really intense, meaty conversation on all of those fronts. And part of that conversation will likely center on the resolution of the major arc of the story—so if you’d like to avoid spoilers, I’d advise skipping the next paragraph.
Basically, Sikander’s problem boils down to this: he was in love with Amrita’s mother, but she didn’t pick him. She picked Amrita’s father. And so Sikander turned into a murderous despot. Amrita solves this problem by going back in time to before he was horrible and explaining it all to her future mother… so her mother sacrifices her own happiness in order to keep it from happening. These two women save the world by giving a toolbox manchild what he wants—which is, again, Amrita’s mother—and that, as a solution, doesn’t sit well, especially when we consider the real-world prevalence of men committing acts of violence when women have the nerve to not want to date them. In terms of the personalities involved, and in terms of the themes of sacrifice and responsibility, it makes sense that Amrita and her mother would make that choice—and it especially makes sense given Amrita’s mother’s passion for social justice—but it still reinforces a narrative that, for me at any rate, is stomach-turning.
As always, though, I’m just one reader with one perspective and one opinion—and regardless, all of that will make for some seriously excellent conversation.
I’ll be picking up Khorana’s previous book for sure.
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom and The Backlist, is currently serving on the Amelia Bloomer Project committee, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.