After enjoying my first steampunk novel (and while waiting for David Barnett to publish the next volume) my eye was caught by a book with all the Victorian automata and goggles required by the Steampunk genre but set in a world with many similarities to India. Of course they called it ‘Bollypunk’.
The story involves Aniri, the third daughter of the title, a princess who hopes to marry for love. Her older sisters have married for political reasons, but seem happy, but Aniri has her heart set on a dashing court fencing-master (and courtesan – gender roles are rather reversed in this world) from a neighbouring state. However, when her mother, the Queen of Dharia, hears that the barbarian nation to the north has developed a new weapon – a flying ship – she asks that Daria agrees to travel there to find out the truth of the rumours. The only way she can do this is by accepting an offer of marriage from Prince Malik, the ruler of the northern state.
Aniri is certainly on the feisty side – she is an adept swordfighter and climber – but she is still politically naive. Alone in Jungali, the northern land, apart from a couple of servants, she struggles to know who to trust – Prince Malik, her lover Devesh, her bodyguard Janak or even her own mother. And her growing attraction to the Prince (who sounds like an awesome kisser!) doesn’t help. The plot rattles along, with fights, flights, fires and the odd fainting fit, and you are carried along by the need to know who deserves Aniri’s love. The characters are good – the ones who need to be obvious, like the scheming Jungali general, are obvious but the rest have plenty of depth and are realistically drawn. The ending had me on the edge of my seat (even though, as the book is the first of a trilogy, I knew the heroine at least should survive).
I really, really enjoyed this book. It was fast-paced with a gripping plot and, although you did realise who the heroine would end up with part way through, it didn’t fail on the twisty-turny front. It is an action packed romance which would be suitable for young adult readers. My only disappointment is that, at the moment, it is not being stocked in the shop. But I am certainly going to be begging for it to be added to the catalogue – this is such a Bradford book I feel we really have to have it!