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A book you chose for the cover.
"The world moves to the tune of logic, even if it wears the mask of chaos."
We start our story with Vikram, a bastard prince who wants to rule over his kingdom. He is offered a once in a lifetime opportunity to compete in the Tournament of Wishes in Alaka, a kingdom in the Other World. But there's one catch: He needs a partner.
That's when we meet Guari. A political prisoner on track for execution in Vikram's Kingdom.
They join forces to participate and ultimately win the Tournament, devised by the ruler of Alaka, Kubera. He's very "change-able" and flighty in his decisions that he even admits that there's never set rules in the trial, he makes them up as he goes along.
The world is a little confusing, but it works and comes together really well. It cuts from setting to setting in a way that makes me feel like this would work as a film. I can see the action really well in my head, and you get a really good sense of what an on screen character dynamic would look like.
The novel alternates between Vikram and Guari's perspectives. Gauri's chapters are written in first person, Vikram in third. That's probably what I dislike most about this book. When it switches back and forth between first and third person point of view, it can be a little bit jolting. I'm all for getting different character's perspectives on what's happening, just not in a different type of point of view.
That being said, the characters are amazing. They're written to be normal but extremely wise due to their past life experiences. Their partnership is reluctant at best in the beginning of the novel, especially because their kingdoms aren't allies. They're equals, even though it balances out in different ways.
Vikram is wise, a voice of humour and reason, and knowledgeable. Gauri is a warrior, strong in different ways though a little hesitant, but knowledgeable all the same. Guari uses logic, Vikram uses instinct (and often has "I told you so" moments because his instincts are usually correct). Their story is a little cliche, though. They go from enemies to reluctant friends pretending to be lovers for the sake of the game.
The vetala in part one is also a very intriguing little guy. He's like a monkey, but he can talk and is obnoxious but also a magical creature so he's helpful. Unfortunately, he disappears about a third of the way into the book as Vikram and Gauri move on to the next part of their challenges.
The midpoint of the book is when Gauri realises that she has feelings for him, so cliche like I said, but still an incredible journey to let unfold in the pages.
Then we dive into part two, when they've reached Alaka and the Tournament begins.
Trials in the Tournament can be anything, in fact, one of them was even their journey to Alaka. In total, there are three trials. Each more difficult and dangerous than the next, and each having riddles woven throughout that Vikram and Guari have to solve either together or apart.
In part two, we get another new character, Aasha. She isn't human, rather, she's a vishakanya. A human turned magical creature, trained in the art of seduction. Think veela from Harry Potter, but instead of being born that way, they're transformed, and a lot more deadly. Their powers are killing with a touch and feeding off of desires.
We also, nearly get a very satisfying confirmation of feelings, but then they are ripped apart as the second trial in the Tournament begins.
And when they're reunited at the end of the book and we get that sweet satisfaction of knowing they're destined to be together forever, it's in the best way possible. I can't get over it.
What I like most about this world is that it shows a darker side of magic without getting too dark. Most magical worlds paint it as this beautiful, fun, thing. In this book, rich in Indian Folklore, all sides of magic are revealed. There's beauty and pain, and darkness and light.
I also love that it's a story where so much relies on the story that Vikram and Gauri will leave behind after they compete in a tournament. The creator of the tournament, the Kubera, refers to them (the stories) as a true source of magic.
And who am I to disagree? I read and write stories to get away from the world, to transport and live in someone else's life. If that's not magic, what is?