Title: The Eyes of Tamburah
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Word/Page Count: 512 pages (paperback)
Publication Details: by HQ Young Adult (subsidiary of Harper Collins) on June 17th, 2019
RRP: $19.99 AUD (paperback)
Blurb from Goodreads:
Treasure hunting has never been more dangerous… Tomb Raider meets Poison Study!
New York Times bestselling author Maria Snyder begins an action-packed new fantasy series.
‘He thinks you are the thief…’
Shyla is a researcher who resides in the underground desert city of Zirdai, which is ruled by the wealthy Water Prince and brutal Heliacal Priestess. Even though Shyla is sun-kissed – an outcast, considered cursed by the Sun Goddess – she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps, and obscure historical documents. Her quiet life is about to change when Banqui, an archaeologist, enlists her services to find The Eyes of Tamburah: legendary gemstones that bestows great magic to its wielder. These ancient objects can tip the balance of power and give whoever possesses them complete control of the city.
But chaos erupts when The Eyes are stolen soon after they’re found – and Shyla is blamed for the theft. Forced to flee, with the Prince’s soldiers and the Priestess’ deacons on her trail, Shyla must recover the jewels and clear her name. A quest that will unearth secrets even more valuable than The Eyes of Tamburah themselves…
The last book I read by Maria V. Snyder was a sci-fi romp starting a new series set in the future where humanity has migrated out into the stars and is uncovering the meaning behind alien artifacts. And now here is the start of a brand new fantasy series filled with intricate world-building, non-stop action and a refreshingly unique premise! I’m in awe of authors who can swap genres effortlessly like this. ❤
Our protagonist Shyla is constantly harassed and discriminated against because of her blonde hair (viewed as a sign of the Goddess’s disfavor), but refuses to let her culture’s narrow-minded beliefs keep her down. I found Shyla so inspiring, she faced a tremendous amount of hardship in this book and while she would grumble or despair for a few moments, she never let any obstacle get the better of her. The easiest thing to do would’ve been to remain at the monastery where she was raised and enjoy the peace and quiet with the monks, but she refused to hide away in shame and pursued her dreams instead, determined to prove herself and make people see her value. Unfortunately it’s not that easy to overturn society’s prejudices, but Shyla stubbornly persisted in her efforts to make a life on her terms.
Throughout the story, Shyla was constantly on the back-foot, not knowing who to trust or where to turn or what was going on, but she was anything but a passive lead or the dreaded damsel in distress. I love heroines who use their brain and do their best to plan ahead instead of recklessly running headlong into danger without a clue what they’re doing, and that is Shyla to a tee. She may not have always made the best decisions, but it was always the best possible under the circumstances with what limited information she could glean. None of this ‘Too Stupid To Live’ trope happening here, thank goodness!
And as much as I like my warrior ladies, I think it’s easier to write about a character who are able to overcome adversity with a sword. Personally I much prefer seeing a bookish heroine who relies on her wits and cunning to get out of a jam. Shyla is resourceful, observant and just doesn’t know how to quit (as well as rocking a hilariously deadpan attitude), so she was a joy to read about!
As a die-hard Poison Study fan, my standards for the romantic pairing are pretty high, and I’m pleased to report that there is an immensely addictive OTP in The Eyes of Tamburah as well. I really appreciate how the author never gives in to the dreaded insta-love trope and instead builds up the relationship between our couple believably; it wasn’t telegraphed from the start who Shyla would end up with, there were a few possibilities and I’m so happy that the person I rooted for was the one to sweep her off her feet! ❤ In case you’re worried, there is definitely NO love triangle here, thank goodness! Shyla interacts with a few different key male characters who had potential as Designated Love Interest so I was in suspense for a while, but the development of the romance is beautifully natural and made me swoon. 😀
The world we meet Shyla in is so different and thought-provoking. Sometimes in fantasy/dystopian novels, there seems to be one arbitrary difference and other than that, not much distinguishes it from our own society. But Zirdai is a city of underground dwellers who live multiple levels below the surface to avoid the deadly temperatures from the sun that would otherwise cook them in minutes! This unique concept gives rise to new terminology (‘angles’ of the sun as measurements of time), new religious beliefs, new social classes and has so many more implications and consequences that are carefully woven into the story. It took me a little while to get my head around the lingo and grow accustomed to how things worked in this world, but I found it relatively easy to pick up from context and became second-nature the further I read on.
I did have an issue with some of the slang used; words like ‘kidding’ and ‘legit’ sounded too modern to make sense in this context. Plus ‘goons’ and ‘okay’ stem from specific cultural influences in our Earth history for which there would be no analogy in Zirdai so the usage jarred me out of the narrative – okay, I’m no scholar, my source is Google, so I could be wrong! But it was distracting enough that I put my book down now and then to google the etymology of these words. Given that I read an ARC, this could be revised in the finished edition, but it was something that distracted me enough to note.
The plot unfolds at a blistering pace and both Shyla and the reader barely have time to catch a breath in between threats against her life, making deals, getting betrayed, being captured and escaping, rinse-wash-repeat! The author is a very accomplished storyteller and has no shortage of thrilling twists and heart-pounding escapades for Shyla to embark on, it was nearly overwhelming! The Tomb Raider comparison is very apt on that front. 🙂
But sometimes it wasn’t very clear what a particular character’s motivation was or the reason behind a particular event taking place. We’re introduced to countless characters from rival groups with competing interests, some of whom infiltrate other organizations and have hidden agendas. One memorable triple-cross had my head spinning as I couldn’t keep track of that character’s real allegiance or what they were even trying to achieve! There was a little too much going on and as Shyla wasn’t privy to most of it, I felt pretty confused and unable to make heads or tails of what just happened. On a few occasions, I read a scene that I thought needed to be fleshed out more to have some greater significance or removed altogether as it interrupted the flow of the story. Again, this is all subject to change and I’d be interested to see if there is a difference in the final copy to smooth over some of the rougher transitions to make it easier on the reader.
Aside from this nit-picking, what I ultimately base my opinion of a book on is how I feel about it. The Eyes of Tamburah was thrilling, surprising and completely unexpected. It swerved between fun entertaining shenanigans and darker, more gritty and somber moments. It transported me out of my mundane life into a colorful and fully realized new world, and gave me a heroine I adore and an OTP I whole-heartedly ship. So whether you’re a Maria V. Snyder fan wondering whether this measures up or newbie contemplating jumping on board, I definitely recommend you pick this up!
Pros: intelligent heroine, wonderful romance, intricate world-building, imaginative plot
Cons: a bit confusing at times, minor depiction of torture and gore
Personal Rating: 4 out of 5 kitties recommend this book.
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Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.