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The King's Daughters by Nathalie Mallet
Review by Colleen Cahill
Night Shade Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781597801355
Date: 15 July 2008 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /

In her first book, The Princes Of The Golden Cage, Nathalie Mallet took a pass at fairy tales and bought us a new version, with the Prince being locked away rather than the Princess. In her second book about Prince Amir, The King's Daughters we are again in a medieval fantasy setting, but this time we move from the Arabian Nights to a North Eastern European arena. The good news is Mallet continues to bring us a piece full of fascinating characters and intriguing plots, all presented in a compelling style; the bad news (for Amir) is that while the Prince might be out of the cage, life is not getting any easier.

Even as he escorts Princess Eva back to her father's castle in Sorvinka, Prince Amir is feeling a bit homesick. This desert Prince has no experience with snow or cold and he has not enjoyed the constant attacks the convoy has experience since they entered the country. Amir is surprised by the less than warm welcome from King Erik when they finally arrive and to top it all off, the King's youngest daughter, Aurora, has been kidnapped, making the atmosphere tense. The chill Amir is feeling is not just from the cold air.

While the natives are not friendly, not all are against our hero. Certainly Eva still hopes to marry her Southern Prince and Amir has the assistance of his valet Milo. During a heated meeting with the King's heir, Amir discovers an ally in Diego Del Osiega, Prince of Pioval. A dandy in appearance, Diego is also a master swordsman and very much in touch with the political and social currents of the court. Amir finds him helpful with many problems, such as learning how to dance, but there is definitely something odd about Diego, something that makes Amir distrust him.

Adding to the tension in the castle is the chewed bodies that keep turning up, with rumors of a ghoul being the problem, but no one seems to ever see it. Amir is shocked to discover that problem of the disappearing princesses is tied to magic in a pattern that is all too close to what killed his brothers back in Telfar; he fears history is repeating itself.

As in her first work, Mallet captures the feeling of a fairy tale, but never takes the expected path. The culture clash Amir experiences is well portrayed, with many errors due to ignorance, such as his gift of a bear skin to a King whose national symbol is that animal. His flowing robes are seen as effeminate, his manners insulting and even a simple request on the health of the Queen is regarded as rude; Amir just does not fit in. If not for his love of Eva, he would have left Sorvinka in a flash, happy to forgo the cold rooms, cold shoulders and cold beet soup. These barriers seem insurmountable and Mallet combines them with some unexpected turn of events, including one at the end of this work that caught me totally off guard.

This book is a good read for fans of medieval fantasy, especially those who want something that does not follow the standard plot. You need not have read the earlier work to enjoy this book, but I recommend both of them. On a cold winter's night, you can't do better than snuggling in with The King's Daughters.

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