I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by Carina Press on July 19, 2016
Genres: Historical Fantasy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
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The bride candidates have been summoned. Their numbers are many, yet only one is an Amazzi warrior. Only one would give her life to protect him.
Evony of Aureline, warrior of her people, has no intention of becoming a hideous old man’s bride. Though her people have sworn their loyalty to the legendary emperor Galen, Evony knows little of courts and intrigue. It’s simply not her world.
Yet it’s on the palace training grounds where Evony’s archery skills gain her the respect of soldiers and legates alike. The emperor himself takes notice of the beautiful, ruthless warrior. In turn, the young, steely eyed Galen is nothing at all what Evony expected.
This man could very well conquer her heart. But does he feel the same?
As the rivalry among the remaining bride candidates intensifies and the plot for the throne unfolds, Evony must make a grave choice: fulfill her destiny and protect her people or follow her heart and pursue true love.
Either way, the honor of the Amazzi people and the future of the empire now rests with Evony of Aureline. For she is the Emperor’s Arrow.
I love it when a fantasy novel is rife with political intrigue, so all the world-building and scheming involved in Lauren D.M. Smith’s The Emperor’s Arrow ensured I found myself pretty engrossed from start to finish.
The book featured a refreshing main character in the form of Evony of Aureline, noble warrior of the Amazzi, a people made up of warrior women famous for their fierceness in battle. I’m sure the similarity of her people to the Amazons of ancient Greek legend—in name and culture—is not a coincidence, but I found my inner fangirl sparked by the fact that these people are more like DC Comics’ Amazons than those of Hellenic lore. If her home is an equivalent to Themyscira, the Evony must be like Diana AKA Wonder Woman, who serves as an envoy of her people to the land of men.
Although Wonder Woman would never venture out for the purpose of being a candidate for the bride of an emperor, which is Evony’s mission in leaving her home. She participates in a contest that is not all it seems, and she is one of the few people who realizes this is not just a question of finding the emperor a consort.
Through the course of this novel, Evony proves herself intelligent, skilled in combat and tactical thinking, a good judge of character, and fiercely loyal to the people she cares about. More, she exhibits a practicality toward matters of the heart you don’t see in many heroines (in fantasy or otherwise), and I just loved the proposition she and the emperor, Galen, worked out! Honestly, she provided much of the swoon factor here, because it would take a strong man to win her in bed, much less in love, and because she exhibited such an openness and honesty toward the issues of love and lust that it was a joy to see her catapult herself into both.
That being said, while I did enjoy the book a lot, I did feel as though there were some things that could have borne a bit more development or explanation. For example, the blurb declares Evony is “The Emperor’s Arrow,” but this isn’t really well-established in the novel. I mean, I would’ve appreciated a moment in which Galen appointed her as such or she claimed the title and explained what it meant to be the emperor’s arrow, as opposed to being a girl on the emperor’s side with wicked skills at archery.
Another thing I might have liked to see more of is the way in which the mystery unraveled. I mean, it was obvious that at least one of the bride candidates was a conspirator, and there were a couple of obvious candidates—so obvious that it would’ve been corny to find out it was them all along. But when I learned who it was, I didn’t get that satisfactory feeling of having clues “click” for me, and I guess I wish I’d been able to have that.
Still, these points were fairly minor when brought up against my overall enjoyment of The Emperor’s Arrow, in my opinion. And when I learned that this was Lauren D.M. Smith’s debut novel, I was very impressed. I felt like the world was rich enough that she could’ve built a whole series around it, and I’m hoping she does decide to do that. Even if she doesn’t though, I’m putting her on my watch list, as I’m keen to see what she puts out in the future.
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