Reading The Archers Heart was truly a pleasure. This beautiful fantasy novel draws on elements from the Mahābhārata and is set in a land, not dissimilar to India, called Marhavad. It is a tale of caste, magic, betrayal, adventure, war and love. I spent a week sloping off to bed early just so I could read more!
I think the first thing that appealed was the setting. The Indian influence that saturated Marhavad was delightful and with most of what I’ve read in fantasy set in more European influenced worlds, an enjoyable change. It made me remember reading The Far Pavilions (incredible, beautiful story) and sneaking out to watch The Jewel in the Crown when I was younger. I cannot express how nice it is to read about somewhere a little different and loose some of the Anglo-European centric feel that many fantasy novels have. No LOTR template here and no singing hobbits either!
The world building was tight with magical elements blending seamlessly within the historical feel of the novel. It was also well paced with nothing glossed over or rushed despite the book covering a period of several years. There were the odd bits that lagged, but for the most part I was kept well entertained.
I liked the character of Keshan Adaru, who is a man with change at the forefront of everything he does. He is determined to see a society where all men and women are treated equally and the caste system removed. He is charismatic and beautiful. The romance that blossoms between him and Prince Jandu Paran kept me up way past my bedtime. I think, of the two characters, the depth and growth of Jandu was what really captured my interest. He begins the story a brash young boy and grows into a man worthy of his title. And yeah, all serious waffle aside it was kinda hot. heh.
The inclusion of Tarek Amia, whose story runs along side that of Keshan and Jandu, was very poignant at times. I enjoyed his stoic, soldier like nature and unrequited love for his Prince. Such an honorable man, I wanted someone to ruffle his hair occasionally.
If I have any whinges it’s that I did find Jandu’s curse a little odd in the scheme of things. While it did move the story along it was a little different and unexpected. I also felt a bit uncomfortable at the unsympathetic portrayal of Keshan’s wife and wondered if this could have been handled a little differently.
I think the most charming thing about this book is its uniqueness. I don’t think I’ve really read anything quite like it before and this was probably its most appealing quality. Beautifully presented and a distinctively different read that is well worth reading. Liked it lots!