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The Bookweaver's Daughter

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Member Reviews

I was really looking forward to The Bookweaver's Daughter and it partially succeeded in matching my expectations. 

This book was enjoyable and interesting even though the pacing was too fast and all over the place, the plot a little underdeveloped and the writing juvenile at times (the author was 17 when writing, so this can be forgiven). 

It's a pure 3 stars for me, due to everything mentioned above. 

Now, I've seen some reviews explaining  problematic aspects of the book but *I* personally haven't noticed any while reading. It's not my culture/country so that's probably why. But their concerns deserve to be heard. 

*Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review*
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I don’t want to beat around the bush about this. Whenever I take up an #ownvoices South Asian YA book, I always go in with so much expectation and hope. And recently I’ve been very happy that desi YA is getting specific – characters’ nationalities, communities, the languages they speak are not glossed over. And when I heard about The Bookweaver’s Daughter, I was very excited to read it, because it was marketed as a tale about oppression and resistance, it seemed to be a fantasy based in Kashmir, and it was an ownvoices book written by a young debut author. Which is why it pains me to write this review – to tell you that The Bookweaver’s Daughter is incredibly problematic, features harmful rep about Hindu-Muslim conflict in India, and shows a blatant lack of research.

The book treats South Asia as a monolith, despite being set in a very specific space – Kasmira is based on Kashmir, but let’s come to that later. For example, Reya, the MC of the book, comes from a family of Bookweavers, who are supposed to be descendants of Yogis. Now Yogis are a very distinctly Hindu concept, but Reya’s family name is Kandhari, which is an Afghani surname. They drink rasam, which is a South Indian and Tamil dish. The ancient Kashmiri language – which is supposed to be the language of the mages – is made of Latin words, and sound like Harry Potter spells.

These might seem nitpicky, but they are all over the book. You know how I am constantly annoyed at chai tea, because it’s essentially a repeat of the same word? Well, there’s tabla drums, dhol drums, naan bread, aharya mountains – they are all phrases that make no sense because the second word is the translation of the first. I essentially gave up when Reya described her own skin tone as “the color of deep chai”

But honestly these seem trivial to the actual problems of the book. The Bookweaver’s Daughter has a rather harmful rep with regards to Hindu-Muslim relations in India. Reya is rebelling against the Zakirs – a every obviously Muslim name – who have invaded Kashmir. There’s no sense of where they are from, but it’s established that they are invaders, they are ruthless, and the King Jahan – another Muslim name – have driven away the mages, the descendants of Yogis – as I mentioned before, because of the association with the Yogis, they are obviously supposed to stand in for Hindus. (One of the Zakirs is named Gilani, which interestingly the surname of a controversial former prime minister of Pakistan)

The Bookweaver’s Daughter is set in a fictionalized version of Kashmir, called Kasmira. If you know anything about Kashmir, you know that it is a highly militarized place. Ever since the partition between India and Pakistan, Kashmir has been caught in a tug of war between these two countries. The problem with the Zakirs driving away the mages, is that the situation is very close to a historical event. There was a major exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in the 1990s- Hindus who originate from Kashmir – and they were threatened and persecuted by Islam extremists and militants. (Pandits are also historically associated with knowledge, education and scriptures, so the comparison to mages and bookweavers is very uncanny) It’s a rather terrible event, however it has also been used as a common propaganda against Muslims in contemporary India , as the fascist government has weaponized this history to perpetuate Islamaphobhia.

Yes, this book is ownvoices. But ownvoices is not as straightforward as you think. This is why it’s so important to do extensive research even if it’s your own culture and country, and this is why sensitivity readers are vital. I am appalled by the blatant ignorance that I saw in this book, and today I want you to please educate yourself with what’s happening in South Asia, what’s happening in India and Pakistan, and what’s happening in Kashmir.
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This book was not very well written and needs to go through thorough editing and revision to eliminate all the problematic details and also make the plot clear enough for a reader to understand.

AS an #ownvoicesreviewer I am very disappointed to not have liked this book and the amercanisation of the Indian culture in this book.
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There's a lot that I hated about this book. From its treatment of Kashmiris to the weird way in which it's written for a white audience, to the choppy writing snap rushed scenes, and the overdramatic sentences that made me uncomfortable.
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Based on early reviews I've seen, I will not be reading and reviewing this book because of the problematic aspects that were outlined in Mish's review: https://chasingfaerytales.com/the-bookweavers-daughter-by-malavika-kannan-is-rather-problematic/
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I have decided to edit the review based on my experience while reading the book and realizing that my concerns about the book were legit.
The Bookweaver's Daughter is the first book I have read by an Indian-American author based in Indian folklore and I was very excited to read the book. Mainly because it would be a book which had something that reminded me of my culture and upbringing on every page, Since its a fantasy book I expected it to have some discrepancy than reality but for the most part, the book felt like I was reading it from a white person's point of view. Whether it was the names, historic relevance, food or clothes, they at times felt like props. I hoped the book would be a lot more relatable and close to home than the other American based books that I have read.
The book follows, fourteen-year-old Reya Kandhari as she struggles to survive an ongoing war as a new ruler takes over her beloved homeland. Reya, who belongs to the fabled line of Bookweavers, is forced to live as a peasant hiding her identity to keep her father safe. But when the only thing she wants to protect is taken from her, Reya finds herself right in the middle of the rebellion.
Reya Kandhari is a strong character who knows her strengths and also her weaknesses. Her character arc from not trusting herself to be able to lean on others was the best part of the book. Malavika writing style was the second best part. There are several scenes where I could feel myself racing through the pages because I was feeling every bit of what the MC was feeling and I couldn't stop reading. I immediately needed to know what was going to happen next.
I also really enjoyed some of the other characters like Nina, and Devendra (OH MY GOD). I haven't loved and hated a character as much as Devendra while reading a book. I would have loved to see some more of the deep friendship Reya and Nina share, than hearing about it from Reya. I would specifically like to mention that I enjoyed Malavika's writing and the book would have been felt better if the Indian folklore was left out of it.
Even though the book is based in fantasy and the world-building about a bookweaver was pretty interesting, it lacked cultural references and influence on the characters. Not just that, but given how the book talks about a place called Kashmira which is a huge kingdom taken over by a new ruler, reflects poorly in the current situation. over here (at home).
Talking about cultural references feeling like props, words like naan bread, chai tea, interchanging saris for words like silks and dresses as well as character often eating mangoes irrespective of the season, or tripping while wearing sari gave a very shallow representation of the reality. Other than these few mentions, the book pretty much followed other American books. As for based on folklore, India has a very diverse history which changes from state to state, it is hard to pin point folklore in the country as it is, but by only mentioning yogis it does not make the book based in Indian folklore.
Overall, I want to know if something happened to Devendra and I would be interested in Malavika's future writings if they are well researched.
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Let me get this straight. The prologue and the first few chapters made me think that this is going to be my new favourite book. Oh boy, was I wrong about that.

I am going to be splitting this into two sections, things I liked and thing’s I didn’t.

->Things I Liked About The Book

-STRONG FEMALE PROTAGONISTS. Reya and Nina’s friendship is something I truly enjoyed and adored.
-Reya being sassy and savage: “Please. I said. You are just a kid with daddy issues” was one of the quotes I laughed so much at.
-The opening lines: “This book is for everyone who felt like their favourite books weren’t woven for them. To all the girls who looked for a heroine in their bathroom mirrors. For a twelve-year-old writer who thought she wasn’t magical. This one is for you.”

->Things I Didn’t Like About The Book

-The representation. Yes, the REPRESENTATION. I am very aware that this book is an #OwnVoices book, but I was very disappointed by the representation.
It is stated that the rulers of the kingdom of Kashmira is the Zakir Dynasty, but the prince is named “Devendra Zakir”. The problem with this is that ‘Devendra’ is a Sanskrit name whereas ‘Zakir’ is a Persian/Muslim surname. Like what?
-Many cultures from all over the Indian Subcontinent are mashed up and it just doesn’t make sense.
India is a country of many cultures and most of them are unique in their own way and don’t co-relate to each other.
-Lack of research.
I feel that if the author had done even a little bit of research, the book would have been a lot better. She clearly did not take the recent events into consideration. In the book, it was stated that the yogis/mages, who are clearly inspired by Hindu mythology, were well respected before the Zakir dynasty invaded Kashmira and started killing/exiling all of them. This seems very similar to the Kashmiri Pandits Exodus of 1989, where the Hindu pandits were forced out of the state. If you didn’t know, The conditions between the Hindu and Muslim community at the moment aren’t best because of the fascist regime in the country. The 1989 Exodus was stated as one of the reasons for the annexation of Kashmir, I understand that she is a diaspora author but a little bit of googling would have easily avoided all this because writing something which can be potentially inspired from a real-life event which is a sensitive topic for millions of people is very ignorant in my opinion.
-The book could definitely use a bit of editing because the constant changing of tenses and voices made the writing seem a bit off.
-Small things like the usage of random Latin and “naan bread”.
-The plot was very predictable which lead to basically no suspense.

I give this book 2.5 Stars
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I literally could not. I didn't want to post my review anywhere online at first because it is still an ownvoices debut by a teen but this book is so awful. It was riddled with plotholes, not to mention an overused plot and poorly put together writing and dialogue. 

The worldbuilding was confusing and info-dumpy, none of the characters felt very three dimensional. Honestly all of this info dump and all the "foreign" sounding words could have gone in a glossary. Oh and really? You had to say naan bread? (This is one specific example, there's a lot). The author then proceeded to subtweet my friend after we joked about the mention of naan bread, which is not a good look. 

Yes, the author may be diaspora but I am too and it is very annoying to see the clear lack of research. If you're going to write about your heritage, Google some current events. Especially if your fantasy world is supposed to represent Kashmir. 

Overall, not a good book, clear lack of research.
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2.5 stars

Oh, had this book potential! The idea is solid, the characters could have been very interesting, but it was all underdeveloped. I feel like this book could have benefited by having at least 100 more pages. But given that is a debut novel, I expect more, better books from the author because the talent is there, it just need to be nurtured.
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Malakiva Kannan is a very talented writer. It’s impressive to have published a book at the age of eighteen. Her words flow beautifully, and her writing is very professional.

The Bookweaver’s Daughter starts with an intriguing tale that pulled me further in. Her world was reminiscent of Kipling’s The Jungle Book with fascinating descriptions of a world like India. Her characters weren’t as well developed as I had hoped, but they were still written well enough that each contained their own personalities and differences.

All of the legends and tales woven into the narrative gave the storyworld depth and life. Kannan’s writing still reflects her youthfulness, but I think over time, she will come to be a very talented and very popular author.

Overall, I think that The Bookweaver’s Daughter is an excellent book filled with a unique storyworld, and a wonderful start to a long career.

NOTE: I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes only. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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The Bookweaver’s Daughter is a delightful tale of reclaiming lost legacies and carving one’s own path, peppered with fiery female characters, undying loyalty and ofcourse, lots of magic and witchiness!

The plot is fast-paced and tightly packed with action. In 250 pages, Malavika Kannan has managed to chart Reya’s awe-inspiring journey from just-another peasant girl picking mangoes for a slave lord to a phenomenally powerful mage fighting to keep her father’s legacy of bookweaving alive by fighting off narrow-minded tyrants clamping down on magic. While the story is simple and without any major twists and turns, gorgeous prose and powerful characters bring it to life making it a thoroughly enjoyable read.

The prose of this book is a joy to behold. Malavika’s writing is gorgeous and descriptive, without being too flowery. The natural beauty of the kingdom of Kasmira is brought alive with vivid imagery. I loved the subtle nuances of culture infused in the writing, from Reya’s beautiful saris to the grand mahal of the ruling king. I have lost count of the number of quotes I highlighted on my kindle.

The characters of Reya and Nina are extremely relatable and easy to root for. Their friendship and undying loyalty for each other made me wonder why we read so less of strong female friendships in literature. While there wasn’t enough depth to differentiate the two characters much from each other, I still genuinely appreciate that both of them received equal ‘limelight’ and Nina’s character did not come across as just a sidekick to Reya.

Although The Bookweaver’s Daughter has some wonderful elements, I really wish it was slightly longer, with more time taken to flesh out the characters and solidify the world-building. The whirlwind pace of the book made it difficult for me to really know the characters in and out and get invested in them. With Malavika’s gorgeous writing, I would have gladly read a 500-page long book with an intricately carved out magic system, a more detailed history of bookweavers and their powers and more layered characters.
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This is the worst book I have ever read. Not only is the writing and the plot structure really bad, the way it just mishmashes so many of Indian subcultures and doesn't think of the political connotations of its storyline is a very bad look to have. The way the words from different languages are written serves to exoticise the cultures for those with orientalist attitudes.
Also, an Indian author using the words "naan bread", I don't even know what to say about that.

I'll be writing a longer review detailing every single one of my grievances soon.
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I enjoyed this book.  I would recommend it to others and I would like to read more from this author in the future.
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I don't even know where to start with this book. I'm going to attempt to form coherent words and sentences, but if I don't, know that it's the book's fault for scrambling my one brain cell. 

When I saw that this book was up for request on Netgalley, I was quite excited. I'd seen the book doing rounds on the internet, I was on a bit of a desi literature kick, and the premise sounded genuinely intriguing. The thing that sold me on it was the fact that the setting was a country called Kasmira, which sounds very similar to Kashmir and I thought "HEY! I've never read a fantasy book that's set in a Kashmir-inspired place before!!" And that made me very excited. Oh, boy, was I misguided in my excitement! 

Now, this book doesn't have the worst premise. It's something that you see a lot in fantasy, and it's something that could be worked with to make a great book. There's this girl who's been orphaned. She's got secret magic, and a best friend. Her father left her a secret magic book she could use, she's got an entire kingdom hunting for her as she comes into her powers...I mean, you've seen this stuff before. And you've loved this stuff before. And you'll probably love it again. Just...not here. Because, see, the concept doesn't make the book. The execution does. And the execution in this book was…..abysmal! 

The pacing was all over the place, the character dynamics were not worked at well - every change came out in a moment, like there was a switch flipping inside these fake people's heads. The writing itself started out well in the prologue and the first chapter, but it was downhill from there. There were so many infodumps, and I don't usually mind them when they're part of the story, but there WAS NO STORY! This book is riddled with plot holes and contrivances and it's just...not a good experience! 

Before I completely rip into it, there are a few things that are…bearable about this book? I guess? For one, it tries to be wholesome, and halfway succeeds. I guess? The writing isn't bad, just very rushed, but like I said, it did start out nicely enough. There's no romance? So that's good? Kind of? And...ugh…there's this 15-20% of the book post the halfway mark where if you shut down your brain, you'll probably not hate it. And...that's about it for me. I know I've rated it two stars instead of one, but that's just because I have respect for a finished book that doesn't anger me to the point where I'm pulling my hair out. So that's not really an indication of anything for you xD 

Now that that's out of the way…let's talk about THIS BOOK! 

My first and biggest issue with this book is the REPRESENTATION. Yes, you heard it right. The REPRESENTATION. I'm aware that this is an OwnVoices book, but I am also an OwnVoices reviewer and I have to tell you, this is by far some of the worst, haphazardly thrown together desi representation that I've EVER seen!? There was definitely no research that went into the writing of this book. The author borrows from cultures from all over the sub-continent, but doesn't put them together in any meaningful way. They're just all mashed together, and it's supposed to be…..what, exactly? All I saw was a mess. 

The book alludes to "ancient Kasmiri" being a language and has multiple characters mention it and talk about it, but it just sounds like words of sanskrit and Latin thrown together to me. It's kind of sad. The contemporary language that the characters use, however, is also not desi. It's just English. The Zakirs have a "Z" on their turbans? BTW THEY HAVE TURBANS. When Reya is teaching Nina how to read, she starts with the alphabet and IT'S ABCD??? LIKE NO MA'AM PLS STOP??? 

The rulers of this Kasmira kingdom are called Zakirs, which is clearly a name that is inspired by Persian/Muslim culture. But the prince is called Devendra??? Which is VERY MUCH a Sanskrit name. Why?? What does that even mean?? How does that make any sense??? Are you trying to imply that your culture in this fantasy novel is secular? If yes, then why is this secularity not in every other aspect? Why is it that only the- to use my friend's words - discount Zuko who gets the Hindu-esque name??? IT MAKES NO DAMN SENSE!!! 

And speaking of this whole thing, the mages and the Yogis and all are clearly inspired by Hindu mythology. They are scholars and are respected by the whole country pre-Zakir invasion. After the Zakirs seize the throne, they're all exiled and/or killed, leaving very few of their families in any decent social standing in the country. If this Muslim regime shoving Hindu people out of "Kasmira" sounds very familiar to you, then you are not alone. I was APPALLED at the similarities between this and the Kashmiri Pandit exodus of 1989! And I was even more horror struck by the fact that THIS BOOK was written NOW, IN THE YEAR 2020, when the tensions between the Hindu and Muslim communities all over the country are at an all time high because of a facist regime. WHEN THE GOVERNMENT HAS USED THE VERY EXODUS AS A JUSTIFICATION FOR THE ANNEXATION OF KASHMIR!!!!! How out of touch from reality do you have to be to put something like this in your book???? I get that the author is a diaspora author, and she's very young, but this is NOT AN ANCIENT, OBSCURE THING!!! This is a very important, contemporary issue that's being talked about EVERY DAY in India and if you had even done an OUNCE of research, you'd have known it right away!!!

Just to be clear, I don't think the exodus was something that was excusable. It wasn't. I don't understand the political context well enough, and I am still educating myself, but throwing someone out of their home because their beliefs are different from yours is just not acceptable. But the same can be said for what the state has been doing to Kashmir recently. And while I understand that all stories need to be told and heard, there is also the contemporary context that you must keep in mind. At a time when the state itself is villanizing a religious community, and touting another one as the superior one, you writing a book elevating the status of the oppressor and villanizing the oppressed just DOESN'T SIT RIGHT WITH ME!  And that's why I'm angry. 

Just this whole implication and veiled Hindutva nonsense (intentional or not, that's how I saw it) made me so angry that I didn't even register the technical problems with the novel until someone pointed them out for me. There are constant changes in tenses and voice throughout the novel. There are even places where the perspective feels off - it's supposed to be first person perspective but I think third person slipped in here and there. The words "naan bread" were used. These are definitely small things, if thought of as isolated incidents, but they are mistakes that appear all over the book and make the reading experience that much worse. 

To add to this, the Bookweaver's daughter being an instant target has NO EXPLANATION whatsoever - at least not until the very end. And why does everyone think "she is their only hope, their beacon of light, etc.,"??? How do people conveniently either know or not know about her father and her family?? How does this idiot protagonist LITERALLY FORGET what her uncle looks like??? Why do random hunters who have shown no indication of kindness and have to be incredibly wary and careful to escape the king's forces allow two random girls into their camp FOR NO REASON??? What even is the magic system here?? Even if all these things aren't 100% impossible, there is a way in which you need to write them to sell the reader on them. But that didn't happen here. Again, not the worst of premises, but really terrible execution. 

To top it all off, this book baits the shit out of you. Nina and Reya's relationship is platonic, but it doesn't read that way. It definitely carries a lot of sapphic subtext, but Reya just shows up at the end and is like "she's LIKE MY SISTER" *eyeroll of the century*. Reya also "develops" (nothing develops in this novel tho lmao) this intense friendship with a character that's introduced at like the 60% mark called Naveen - who is also conveniently a mage- and there is SO MUCH SUBTEXT there too. Nothing happens anywhere and it's fine but what is even going on??? YOU DON'T GET IT, I DON'T GET IT, NO ONE GETS IT.  It's like the opposite of Oprah in here. 

Overall, I think an attempt was made, but it failed spectacularly. This book needed a lot more editing and a BUNCH of sensitivity readers from the Indian subcontinent. The plot itself wasn't unsalvageable, but it needed big edits. It was too convenient and contrived and a lot of elements came out of nowhere and went nowhere and I just didn't understand what was even going on! All that, coupled with not-so-good writing and horrible representation just made this book a very very sour reading experience for me. I cannot, in good conscience, recommend this to anyone. I know it's still an ARC though, so I hope the publishers take criticism well and try and push back the release date so some more edits can be made. 

The author is young and a woman of colour, and I know that the industry is not very forgiving of mistakes when you're someone like that. I truly believe that if she educated herself and redid this story, she might have something important to say to the world. And I really hope that is what happens. I would hate to see another WOC's voice silenced for mistakes that white authors don't even get a slap on the wrist for.
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Thank you to Netgalley for giving me this ARC in return for my feedback.

While I cannot say that I enjoyed my time reading The Bookweaver's Daughter, mainly due to trope choices, plot point decisions, and what feels like little oversight from the editing side of things. 
However, I am so incredibly pleased to see such a young woman of colour becoming published. I cannot wait to see what Malavika Kannan weaves next for us. It is an incredible feat to not only have a manuscript by 17 but also having it published and winning awards.
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Thank you to the publishers, author and NetGalley for the free copy of this book!

This definitely beat my expectations! At times I felt you could tell this was a debut novel from a young author, but then the next moment the poetic narrative would draw me in again. I don't know how I feel about the main character- I felt she was just a little too one dimensional at certain moments. I think this is a great read for young readers, and I would enjoy any future novels by this author!
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more like 3.5 stars

[ARC provided by the author via NetGalley as an exchange for honest review]

Listen, for high schooler author is a great book: characters, plot, writing are amazing, or spectacular, I'd like to say. OwnVoices trope by POC is another incredible part of this book. But I believe that it's not a peak. This is why I gave it 3 stars. Can't wait to see what Malavika tells us next!

Also, don't consider it as Young Adult, as for me, The Bookweaver's Daughter is middle grade.
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2.75
Thanks to NetGalley and Tanglewood publishers for me eARC, all opinions expressed are my own.

When I saw the gorgeous cover I was immediately gravitated towards it, upon further knowing that it is #ownvoices novel with Indian rep I was very excited. Before I say anything I have to tell that the author is an 18 year old and this is her debut book, I have to give full credits to her writing which flowed softly from chapter to chapter. She is good with creating atmospheric ambiance with the third person poetic narration that is included in the book, the plot is greatly influenced by Indian mythology with a vivid imagery and a good representation of Ancient India.

I loved the strong friendships between the characters along with the premise, but I have to say it unfortunately didn't deliver though it started off great.I was extremely confused with the timelines because there is no specification of "period" in the book, although it is advertised as "Ancient India" there are times at which her writing felt pretty "modern" with her references. My other qualm is also with the rushed plot and weak Protagonist Reya and equally week antagonists- the emperor and the crown prince.

Reya the MC's character oscillates a lot leaving you puzzled because you can't comprehend her notions and hence you can't form a clear picture of her character thus failing to establish any emotional connect with her. I found the ending to be very week because the emperor's final "test" didn't make sense as it contradicts the core point of the plot on which the entire story revolves.

That being said, this can be considered as a great first step by a young author who definitely has an appealing writing style. I think she will have a promising future with YA writing and I would definitely want to read more from her in the future as she evolves.
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I immediately fell in love with the feel of The Bookweaver’s Daughter even without knowing too much about the story. The vibe it gives off is very 1001 Arabian Nights, and I adore that. It’s very different from the fantasy books that I usually read, so a completely new experience for me.

The story itself is about Reya, the Bookweaver’s daughter, who has to take over her father’s duties when he is brutally murdered by the King. She flees the city along with her best friend Nina and tries to avoid being captured by the Crown Prince , and given over to the King as well. While on this journey she triest o come to terms with who she is and how she wants people to perceive her.

For me the story moved much too fast, Of course, that was tob e expected for a 250 page fantasy novel, but I think this book could have benefitted so much from a more elaborate and descriptive writing style as well as more explanation about the past and the set-up of the world and characters. There is so much potential tot his story, but I think it might just need a bit more work to make it all that it could be. Additionally, I learned that the author of the novel, Malavika Kannan, is only 18 years old, so I am thoroughly impressed with her creativity and talent. I think with a bit more practice she could be a brilliant author, and I look forward to reading more of her books in the future.
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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

"The Bookweaver's Daughter" is set in a fantasy world inspired by India and I really liked learning about it, especially that the book is #ownvoices.

The characters are typical for YA genre - young girl hiding enormous magical powers, her best friend, evil king, rebels, dead parents etc. Most of them, even though they were cliche, were also likeable and I enjoyed the friendships and familial relationships presented in the book.

The plot sometimes felt a little bit rushed and they were tiny moments when it didn't really make sense. The book is only 250 pages, so it definitely could be lengthened a little bit and the plot would definitely benefit from it.

The magical system is also very interesting and I liked how it fits into the book.

If you want to read a #ownvoices book about a girl with magical powers, set in an India-inspired fantasy world, this book is for you.
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