Heir to Malla Book Review
Happy Fri-yay and welcome back to another Coffee, Book, and Candle review!
With Valentine's Day fast approaching and it being Freya's Day, what better time for a romantic indie book? This week we're taking a look at Anna Bushi's debut novel Heir to Malla!
Genre: YA Romance
Category: Candy Book
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Rating: 3/5 Stars
Pairing: Nankhatais + chai latte
Princess Meera of Malla has just one problem—she has found love in Rish Vindhya, but will her father and the council allow her to marry a man below her station? She allows herself to hope so, at least until her brother, Crown Prince Jay, is kidnapped. With Jay missing and her father ailing, it's only a matter of time before one of their enemies decide to pounce on Malla. Will Jay be found, or will Meera be forced to sacrifice her love for duty?
*NOTE: I must preface this by saying that while I did receive a free paperback copy of the book from the author, this in no way affected my opinion or review of the story.*
Heir to Malla is a love story, but not in the sense one would think. While Meera starts off dwelling on her feelings for Rish, and her brother develops a forbidden romantic relationship with a neighboring princess, the book is centered around familial love.
There are also themes of love for your home and community, love that is not reciprocated, polygamy, and reasons for marrying. This was really refreshing because I was expecting a sweet love story between the protagonist and another man, when most of the story was focused on another romance and Meera’s was more about secrets and sacrifice.
Unfortunately (as with most indie books), Heir to Malla could have used at least one more round of revision. Most of the story was telling rather than showing, which made it hard to picture much of the environment or characters' features, while other parts were overly-described (such as every movement and breath of a character in parts of the beginning). There were a few grammar and formatting errors that made the story clunky at times, though these spots were broken up by sections that flowed nicely and painted a more vivid and complete picture.
The other major issue for me was a lack of conflict. The battle scenes were short and not very descriptive, which took a lot of excitement out of the war aspect of the story. When it came to potential conflicts and arguments, most of the characters kept a fairly level head and were able to reach peaceable agreements quickly. Even when a royal’s life is lost within another kingdom’s castle, there is hardly any uproar. I expect it will be coming in the next book, but it made the ending feel slightly rushed and anti-climactic.
I got confused while reading a few times because of characters having the same name—there are two Latas and two Rudras. I wasn't sure if they were the same people at first and found myself backtracking to make sure I hadn't missed something. While they are only mentioned in passing or as part of the king's backstory, it still felt uncomfortable and lazy.
Lastly, Prince Amar’s actions did not seem believable considering they were in Malla, surrounded by Meera’s guards among others. I feel like the instant they saw what he was trying to do, he would have been skewered and/or kicked out of Malla for good.
The cover is gorgeous. When sifting through review requests, this cover stuck out to me over most of the others for the pretty imagery and bright colors.
There's a map! I am a sucker for book maps. This is always an instant plus for me; it just goes to show how much the author cares by going the extra mile with little touches like this.
Meera is a truly good person—she cares about her kingdom, knows a great deal about ruling, and I adore her appreciation for art and history. Do her intentions justify her actions? It’s a very gray area, which gets me really excited. Now that she is learning more about shady court dynamics and I see she is willing to do hard things, I think she has the potential to evolve into a dynamic, intimidating force. I can’t wait to see how her decision affects her in the following books, especially once everyone finds out.
I’m also interested to see what happens with the prophecy that Meera’s son will be ruler of all three kingdoms, since she basically raised her brother but is now married and expected to produce heirs.
Jumping back and forth between Meera’s perspective and her brother Jay’s lets the reader go all over the continent and see what's going on in different kingdoms at the same time, while also giving us exposure to different minds and personalities. However, without a label or an indicator in the first sentence as to whose POV we're in, there were times I got a few paragraphs in before I realized who I was reading.
Aranya (Jay's love interest) giving him the fish pendant was one of my favorite parts; it was such a sweet scene, but it also made me think of the story of Ye Xian and the magical silver fish that connected her to her deceased mother. I am interested to see if any other similarities can be found in later installments.
Overall, the plot is solid and the characters' relationships are touching. Bushi's first chapter is very strong— she wasted absolutely no time introducing Meera, her initial goals, and the inciting incident. She also brings in more than one kind of conflict/mystery from the beginning, showing more than one side to a couple characters that makes you want to figure them out.
Aside from the need for more editing and revision, as well as expanding scenes and descriptions to paint a fuller picture, I enjoyed the book. I would've been more captivated if the world had been more vivid, but I still look forward to trying a few of the meals from the story (one of the things Bushi did a great job of including in her worldbuilding and descriptions) and seeing the land of Padi in the next story.
Considering this is her first novel, I believe Bushi is off to a great start and has a ton of potential for growth. If you are interested in a refreshing, unique love story that does not feel overly predictable and played out, you can grab a copy here or keep up with Anna's work on Instagram and her website.