Book Review: War of the Three Kings by Anna Bushi
War of the Three Kings is the second book to indie author Anna Bushi’s Land of Magadha series. If you haven’t read the first novel yet, check out my review of Heir to Malla.
Before we get into it, I must state that while I was gifted a free ARC copy of War of the Three Kings by Anna Bushi and StoryOrigin, this did not affect my opinion of the book, nor will it color my review.
Genre: YA Romance
Category: Candy Book
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Rating: 3/5 Stars
Ten peaceful, prosperous years have passed since the closing of Heir to Malla, yet Jay and Meera find themselves once again having to defend their kingdoms against betrayal and conquest.
Bushi takes very little time getting to the conflict and introducing many of them: the death of a king, as well as the myriad of secrets Meera has locked away which threaten to consume her and her loved ones.
War of the Three Kings felt more engaging than the previous installment; Bushi added more action and described it well. I could tell Bushi’s writing improved, especially in the last quarter of the book. I found myself excited and worried about what would happen to characters as enemies, secrets, and sickness threatened them.
While I appreciate how Bushi is working to create a Game of Thrones style story with complicated family ties, secrets between kingdoms and loved ones, sudden plot twists, lots of murder, and the battling for a throne, I feel the execution could have fared better with a heavy round of editing, revision, and beta readers:
A pattern I’ve noticed in The Land of Magadha series is the reuse of names. Having multiple characters with the same name gets confusing. After one of Jay’s guards, Giri, sacrifices himself to a spear meant for the Crown Prince, we’re immediately introduced to a new Giri in a council meeting. There are also two characters named Karan—one a traitor, one loyal. For a while, I was afraid for the royal family because Karan was near, until I realized there were two.
There are a few unbelievable parts, such as when Meera’s personal guard (who is deeply in love with her) falls asleep while bathing in a lake, and a python manages to wrap itself around him. While that isn’t completely unbelievable, I wasn’t convinced the python sat there without attacking as Meera stabbed it multiple times. It also felt a bit cheesy that the only way to snap Meera out of her shock from the python was for the guard to kiss her.
Halfway in, Bushi begins backtracking at each new chapter and POV. She revisits scenes and plot points to go into more detail about things we’ve already been told. More tediously, she does this after revealing new information or when one character confronts another. The backtrack does little for the plot beyond reiterating what we already know. This is confusing to the reader, and a tad annoying, especially when there’s no warning that we’ve gone back in time. I understand wanting to show different angles and expand on details, but I feel it could have been executed better.
There are grammatical and structural issues (clunky wording, missing or misspelled words, issues with paragraph spacing and punctuation, and incorrect comma usage) that make it difficult to maintain reading flow or picture the characters and surroundings. At times, it reads more like a play-by-play account with descriptions peppered in rather than a textured story. Much of the description is used for items of little consequence. Some are contradictory, like when Meera is brushing her daughter’s “knots” and describes them as silken. There's also a lot of repetitive phrases, particularly “a sari in the color of . . .”
Some instances seem to imply readers know the characters better than we do. These hidden messages don’t come through clearly because we don’t get to see deep enough into the character’s minds to follow the hints.
However, there are moments where the author finds the story's flow and latches onto a writing style. Some parts are more fluid, where it’s easier to picture what's going on—especially in the last quarter of the book. With more restructuring, the writing would be a lot smoother, consistent, and easier to read.
I'm happy to see that Bushi headed the chapters with each character’s POV we’d be reading from, which helped cut back on confusion from the first installment. I enjoy swapping back and forth between Jay and Meera’s sides of the country and plot.
As stated earlier, I went from feeling little attachment to the characters or investment in the story to not wanting to put it down. Bushi manages to wrap everything up neatly, in a way that's both a happy ending and a tragedy. Part of me was sad this was an ARC because I wanted to see the epilogue—I felt teased!
Because of this, and the fact that Bushi’s writing improved between installments, I have faith that the third book will be even better.
I'm interested to see what happens with the newly-crowned royals, especially when they find out the truths of their lineage. I’m also very much intrigued by an old woman who has popped up momentarily in each installment, who seems to have prophetic knowledge of the royal family.
Though I’m not sure if or when I’ll be able to forgive Bushi for killing off one of my favorite characters. We’ll just have to see when the next installment is released.