[I received an ARC of this novel through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]
A story reminiscent of several “seeking one's beloved in another world” tales and myths, with an Indian twist and the including of reincarnation. This led to an interesting shift in balance, as both main characters sought each other, first Amar seeking, then Maya searching for Amar.
Amar is, obviously, the Mysterious Stranger of the tale: tall, dark and handsome, with love in his eyes and words but secrets that he cannot reveal before a certain event is past. In a way, his choosing Maya was akin to insta-love, which I usually don't like; here, it fit within the reincarnation theme permeating the novel, so at least there was *that* explanation. Not the best or the most original, but eh, it worked, and it was logical in that specific setting. Also, it helps that he was a pretty decent person overall: with a dash of “unnerving mysterious love interest”, yet never falling into the dominant-jerk template so many male love interests in YA seem to be created with. Although the mystery about who he truly was may have made him look at times a bit too “controlling” (in keeping information to himself) in spite of his claims of wanting Maya to rule as his equal. There are explanations to this secrecy later, tied into the supernatural/mythological background.
Maya was a good character to follow, in that she's born under a bad horoscope, has been shunned in many ways from birth in spite of being a princess, yet isn't complaining all the time. She may be petty with her tutors so that she can spy on her father (and learn the ropes of true leadership), resent the harem wives, but she didn't strike me as someone with a terribly negative, depressed view of life. She tried to remain stoic when faced with a dire choice with dire consequences, but kept looking for chances to grab a “third choice” (escape) when she could.
I admit I didn't like her too much when she made *the* choice mid-novel, though. I felt it wasn't exactly justified, prompted only by a few lies and one bit of conversation. It would've made more sense if Maya had been confronted to similar occurrences more than just a couple of times.
The prose was mostly flowing, with really vivid descriptions at times, conveying beautiful images of enchanted, preternatural lands where legendary beings dwellt as if this was the most normal thing in the world. And I think this was a strong point: the book didn't explain much about those beings, didn't justify their existence... but it was totally OK, because it managed to show them as part of the natural order, as unquestionable. It made sense, completely, and no explanation was actually needed.
On the other hand, in a “it's not you, book, it's me” fashion, I sometimes found it difficult to remain invested in the story. Perhaps it was the rhythm, or the descriptions? (I can appreciate beautiful descriptions, yet still want more action/dialogues; it's a bit paradoxical, I know.) I don't think it's any fault of the novel itself, just a bad reading timing on my part.
I would also have liked seeing more of Nritti's reasons for acting the way she did. I understand what prompted her to choose that path, however there was a bit of a discrepancy between her first appearance and the others, as well as some shadows on how exactly she followed “that path”.
A solid 3.5 stars (3 on Goodreads, 4 on other platforms, depending on the rating system)—and someone who likes descriptions more than I do may in fact rate it higher.