ARC Review – ‘The Eyes of Tamburah’ by Maria V. Snyder

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)

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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Sun Goddess – she is still renowned for uncovering innumerable archaic facts, lost artefacts, ancient maps, and obscure historical documents.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. ❤

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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.

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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!

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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. 😀

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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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Praise from other bloggers:

Annie @ READ3R’Z RE-VU    |     Sam @ Esoteric Elixir     |     A Record of Books

Disclaimer: Physical copy provided by publisher free for an unbiased review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

11 thoughts on “ARC Review – ‘The Eyes of Tamburah’ by Maria V. Snyder

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed reading this book! I always love reading books with intelligent heroine as well. Shyla does sounds like a strong woman by not hiding away but instead have her adventures anyway haha Great review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thank you! ❤ yes, I liked that she was bold but not reckless. she had a skill that she could use as her area of expertise with artifacts was highly sought after, so it's not like she went 'I'm going to be SEEN' and then had no plan and ended up starving on the streets, lol. I just really admired her tenacity, I would've hid with my tail between my legs at people being mean to me!

      Liked by 1 person

    • it’s out on Monday! I had a look on amazon.com and it’s released internationally the same day 🙂 it’s not exactly like Tomb Raider as Shyla’s not packing guns or able to wield swords like Lara, but it has a similar action-packed race against time to find an ancient artifact vibe!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Cool thanks! This sounds silly but I actually like Lara for her historical knowledge… lol.

        I mean the guns and swords and all the other stuff is cool too, but I’m a huge history nerd and I love the actual tomb raiding and parts too.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Ooh this book sounds interesting! I hadn’t heard about it till now, but this is a great review that makes me want to check it out. I love some competent female characters! And no insta-love or love triangles?? Yes please! The worldbuilding also sounds fascinating for this one, and that cover is beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

    • thank you! ❤ I hope you enjoy it if you pick it up! I'm always so excited when I find a book I enjoy with a competent heroine, you can't always count on it, unfortunately. and omg, yes, I adore the cover, it's just stunning. 😀

      Like

  3. I’m about halfway through (and late on my review copy!!) but I didn’t mind the spoken language / slang, but the one thing that has been annoying me is the new word use for day and year. Every time I read it I have to remember what it means and that’s what pulls me out of the story (and possibly why it’s taking me so long to read… I mean, apart from moving, etc!!). Great review!

    Like

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