Sunday, 17 April 2016

Review: His Princess by Kiru Taye

3.5 stars

His Princess is the third story included in Kiru Taye's Men of Valor boxset. I enjoyed the setting of pre-colonial Southern Nigeria so much that I read straight through all three stories in a day, but His Princess was the stand-out for me, for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, it was longer, which meant more time for character development. Our heroine, Ezinne, is a slave/servant. When her mistress returns to her home kingdom to visit her father, she gifts Ezinne to her husband, Prince Emeka, as a 'companion' while she is away. Ezinne is resentful of the arrangement, but she's irrevocably bound to her mistress, and intrigued by the kind prince. Emeka has long been interested in Ezinne, but he's not about to take her as a concubine, nor as a second wife. Emera is an upstanding man and I thought Ezinne was an excellent heroine, who was strong but vulnerable, and who had secrets that needed protecting. 

His Princess is one of those rare stories where I had no inkling as to how the complications were going to resolve themselves. That was partly because the characters are at an impasse, but also because - to my shame - I have no knowledge of pre-colonial Igbo culture (Even after some Googling, it's a guess that the stories are set in Igboland - someone correct me if I'm wrong). In settings and time periods I'm more familiar with, I know the rough likelihood of a divorce or annulment, and I might be able to speculate on other ways the author would resolve hero married to a woman that isn't the heroine, but here, I literally had NO CLUE what the socially acceptable options were. 

The ending was even more of a surprise than I expected - a bit melodramatic and fairytale-like, but in a good, Brothers Grimm way. The road to the HEA was rougher than the other two stories, and so, in the end, the pay-off is bigger.

His Princess also featured slightly better editing than His Treasure and His Strength, where there was some inconsistent first/third person narration. It was minor - all that was needed was to italicise the first person sentences so that it was clearer that they were thought processes - but still annoying. 

However, I'd still recommend all three stories; the other two are probably 3 star reads for me. Throughout all three stories, Taye weaves certain historical realities, such as slavery and polygamy,  throughout and yet never alienates a modern reader used to different social norms. This is undoubtedly her strength. Again, though, His Princess gets a special mention: because it's set at the royal court, it features the most interesting socio-political context. 

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