Friday, July 12, 2013

Review: A Thousand Perfect Things

Title: A Thousand Perfect Things
Author: Kay Kenyon
Genre: Alternative history, fantasy, adult fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoy alternative histories and fantasy novels, and as an American anglophile of Indian origin, this book seemed like it was written for me! I can safely say I liked this novel, but it wasn't as good as I hoped or expected it to be.

The story is set in an alternate world that is separated into two main regions - Anglica, the seat of science and logic, and Bharata, the region of mysteries and magic. As in our own world, Anglica has attempted to colonize and "civilize" Bharata, although to little success. The story follows Tori, a spirited Anglican woman with a club foot, as she ventures to Bharata in search of a mythical plant that would bridge the gap between science and magic. Her grandfather once found and took a clipping of this mythical thousand-petaled golden lotus; Tori searches for the same flower in hopes of furthering her scientific career and discovering enlightenment.

I really liked Tori as a main character. She was very loyal to her grandfather's vision and worked to pursue her own dreams instead of societal expectations. Her club foot is almost a blessing in disguise, because it makes her "unworthy of marriage" and thus free to pursue her own scientific inquiries. I thought it was interesting how she could be logical yet open to magic and spirituality. She was also a very strong character who fearlessly spoke her mind and followed her heart.

I also enjoyed the storyline for most of the book, since it was both a journey of self-discovery for Tori as well as a story of political intrigue and cultural awareness. The ending got a bit convoluted, though, and after all the chaos of revolution, I thought Tori's choice in the epilogue was rather anticlimactic.

And now to the aspects of the book that made it a little less enjoyable. There were a lot of Indian words in the book, and I was familiar with many of them, so this didn't bother me terribly, but I felt like someone who wasn't familiar with them would find certain phrases hard to understand. There were also cases were these words were spelled in a nontraditional way or misused (spelling rani as ranee and jalebi as jellabie; calling someone yuvraj prince instead of simply yuvraj , which already means "crown prince").

A stronger annoyance was that both cultures presented in the novel seemed very stereotypical. The Anglicans were very prim and proper, and their speech patterns were stilted to the point of being laughable at times. Bharata also fell prey to the usual sexualization of eastern cultures. I had to keep reminding myself that Bharata was only loosely based on India (a point the author makes clear, so thank you for that) in order to keep myself from getting really offended.

While I thought this book had an interesting and original concept, I didn't think it delivered as much as it could have. It was still a fairly enjoyable read though.

*An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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2 comments:

  1. Oh, cool! I love the plot of this, and there's a main character named Tori! I sympathize with you on the phrases that would be unfamiliar to other people; I felt the same way when I was reading "Stormdancer". If I wasn't learning Japanese, I would have no idea what was going on since they filled practically half the book. Unfortunately if I wasn't learning Japanese, I wouldn't have minded the incorrect usage of some words.

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  2. Thanks Sydney!

    I've been meaning to read Stormdancer, but I've heard a lot about the confusing/incorrect Japanese words/titles. Do you think it's still worth reading?

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