THE TIGER’S DAUGHTER, by K Arsenault Rivera
Tor Books, 2017
The Tiger’s Daughter, by K Arsenault Rivera, is an east Asian-inspired epic fantasy centred on the legendary love story of O-Shizuka, divine empress of Hokkaro, and Barsalyya Shefali, outcast daughter of the leader of the Qorin, a race of nomadic warrior horse-masters.
This is a fable, a ballad, an epic—a story cycle, even. The Tiger’s Daughter feels so familiar it drops right into place in the part of your brain—if you’ve a brain like me—where you keep Sam and Frodo, Monkey and Tripitaka. But this is no pale imitation. The characters are equally vivid.
One-Stroke Shizuka: the insufferably arrogant (yet every inch justified) princess of flowers, deadly with a blade. And her devoted partner, Tiger-Striped Shefali: literal horse whisperer, unbeatable with a bow, prey to relentless darkness.
Are you sold yet? How about if I mention how their love story is prophesied at their birth and grows real and true and passionate? How embracing their love, even in the face of society’s discrimination, lets them become more than human, leads them to fully occupy their destiny as legendary heroes?
The Tiger’s Daughter is unapologetically melodramatic in both its story and its tropes (demonic possession, anyone?). It’s full of fascinating, larger-than-life queer women. But Rivera’s characters aren’t one-dimensional. The novel treats its characters’ failings as honestly as their victories. (God knows I wanted to shake some sense into every single character at some point.) Shizuka and Shefali must face both external threats—in the form of genuinely shiver-down-my-spine-creepy demons as well as Shizuka’s villainous uncle, the Emperor—and their own equally life-threatening flaws and mistakes.
Speaking of the Emperor, I was a little disappointed by his fatness implicitly being his physical embodiment of villainhood. He was intended as nothing more than a one-dimensional bad guy type and he fit that trope perfectly, but I know personally it made me a little uncomfortable, so fair warning if it might you, too.
Nevertheless, Rivera succeeds tremendously at making this story a celebration of queer women being badass epic heroes. I adored this book, and when I finally reached the end I put it down (that’s a lie: I clutched it to my chest and shed a small tear) both utterly satisfied and at the same time heartbroken to leave Shizuka’s and Shefali’s side. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book of the Their Bright Ascendancy series, The Phoenix Empress, in 2018.
The Tiger’s Daughter is out now as an ebook from Tor Books. You can buy it from Amazon (US/UK), or your alternative ebook retailer of choice. The paperback edition is out 1st November 2017, and you can get it on Amazon, your local independent bookshop, or you can request it from your local library.