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Ascendant #1

The Tiger’s Daughter

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Even gods can be slain….

The Hokkaran empire has conquered every land within their bold reach―but failed to notice a lurking darkness festering within the people. Now, their border walls begin to crumble, and villages fall to demons swarming out of the forests.

Away on the silver steppes, the remaining tribes of nomadic Qorin retreat and protect their own, having bartered a treaty with the empire, exchanging inheritance through the dynasties. It is up to two young warriors, raised together across borders since their prophesied birth, to save the world from the encroaching demons.

This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil.

526 pages, Paperback

First published October 3, 2017

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About the author

K. Arsenault Rivera

13 books391 followers
Puerto Rico born and New York raised, K is a lifelong fan of all things nerdy. She drew on her love of tabletop gaming for her debut novel, THE TIGER'S DAUGHTER. An out and proud queer, she lives in Brooklyn with her partner.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 833 reviews
6 reviews42 followers
June 18, 2017
Let me preface this review: I wanted to love this book. I wanted to see well developed Asian lesbians that has been my dream for so long. To see queer representation that looks like me. I was so excited to read the first four chapters released early by Tor.

And I cannot express how absolutely disappointed and disgusted I am at this singular example of everything it is to experience racism as a Japanese woman.

"The shorter one—who was squat and had only one braid—only snorted. I don’t know why. “Rice-eater” is not a piercing insult. “Ricetongue” is far worse. And on top of that, they called both Kenshiro and me pale-faced, when only Kenshiro is pale. I’m dark as a bay. Anyone can see that. "

It would take me paragraphs to unpack everything offensive in just this passage: the context of thousands of years of animosity between East Asian cultures as well as the colorism that is still very prevalent in modern East Asia can’t be neatly summed up. Ricetongue. I literally cannot. Did anyone run this by a sensitivity reader?????

To a Japanese reader it shows Rivera’s clear ignorance of our culture, though honestly I shouldn’t be surprised. Her author bio on her own website speaks of her interest in Japanese culture as something consumable. (FYI watching Magical Girl Utena does not make you an expert in Japanese culture.)

Even the name of the main character is enough to give me pause. In the very first sentence of Chapter 1, we are introduced to Empress Yui, a name that is confirmed in later chapters to mean “alone”. Right off the bat, Rivera is using Japanese words in her fantasy novel.

So why is this a problem? If a book is set in Japan, why should the author not use Japanese words?

If Rivera were writing historical fiction, that would be appropriate. But this is not historical fiction by any stretch of the imagination.

This book is set in Hokkaro, a badly concealed analogue for Heian era Japan. And if you thought the word Hokkaro sounds an awful lot like the very real Japanese island of Hokkaido, you aren’t far off.

Rivera does this constantly, changing a letter or a syllable here or there and expecting her readers to applaud her originality. The honorifics of -san and -tan become -sun and -tun. The Mongolian drink of fermented mare’s milk kumis becomes kumaq.

I find it somewhat ironic that Empress Yui’s name among the Qorin people (Rivera’s badly concealed Mongolian analogue) is Barsatoq, which apparently means “Tiger Thief”. It’s nearly self aware, as The Tiger’s Daughter is a blatant example of outright thievery from Japanese, Chinese, and Mongolian cultures.

Before her ascension to Empress, Yui’s name was “O-Shizuka”, which is strange on a number of levels. For one shizuka means “quiet” or “gentle” in Japanese, which is hardly the sort of name you’d expect for a Warrior Empress, as she is described in the book’s summary.

For another the honorific prefix O- (お) , which is used to exalt or make a word more lovely, is something a Japanese speaker would never refer to themselves as, which O-Shizuka does, and often. You might refer to your own mother as okaasan (おかあさん) as a sign of respect, and someone else’s mother is always given the formal word, but generally when speaking of your own mother the word haha (はは) is used. To do otherwise is to seem boastful or arrogant.

Rivera also takes other Japanese words such as kami or naginata, to fill in the gaps of her fictional setting. The result is a strange mixture of the familiar and the bizarre, and it comes with some rather troubling implications: namely that Japanese is so exotic a language as to be interchangeable with fictional words, or worse, fictional itself.

But wait! It gets worse! Because we also have examples of:

"Hokkarans rely on numbers and superstition more than they rely on sense, so when you popped out of your mother’s womb on the Eighth of Ji-Dao, the whole Empire boomed with joy."

"My mother arrived on the twenty-second of Tsu-Shao."

Those words are distinctly Chinese, and according to google “Ji Dao” actually means “to knock down”, so if Rivera hoped to make up vaguely Chinese-sounding words she didn’t bother to check if they already had a translation.

Does Rivera think that there are no Japanese words for the names of months? Japan used the Chinese lunar calendar pre-Meiji Restoration, but in the 4 chapters I read, we are not given any reason to believe that the Hokkaran calendar is a lunisolar one.

There’s also this little snippet, which carries a lot of East Asian historical context an outsider might miss:

"My tutors won’t tell me why they don’t like Qorin, but I’ve heard the way they talk about your people. I’m five years old. I’m not stupid. They don’t like Xianese people, either, but they’ll wear Xianese clothes and play Xianese music all the time."

This is horrific on a number of levels. The Xianese are obviously meant to play the China analogue to Hokkaro’s Japan. Combined with the Chinese-inspired names of the month, it seems Ms.Rivera has misinterpreted the exchange of culture between Japan and China as “Japan copied China”.

We adopted the Chinese writing system, but we made it our own. Our version of Buddhism, passed through China into Korea into Japan is not like China’s Buddhism. We traded in silk, but we had our own forms of historical dress, and we do not interact with Confucianism in the same way Chinese culture does.

I shouldn’t be surprised. After all, Rivera has made it her career to copy + paste East Asian culture. No doubt she thinks Japan would do the same.

And that’s just one issue. The context of that paragraph is explaining the Hokkaran (Japanese) mindset towards the Xianese (Chinese) and Qorin (Mongolian) peoples. The historical context of thousands of years of war are not something to be used lightly in a fantasy setting. Have another example:

"No one writes to her in Qorin. No Hokkaran courtiers bother learning it. Horselords are beneath them, and thus there is no reason to learn their tongue. It’s the same reason only Xianese lords learn to read and write that language, the same reason Jeon is a cipher more than a tongue, the same reason one only ever reads of Doanese Kings in faded, musty scrolls."

There are still people living today who remember the Second Sino-Japanese War. Does the Rape of Nanking ring a bell? It should, because as much as Japan likes to deny it happened, it was one of the largest incidents of mass murder and mass rape in history, and it was all done to fuel Japan’s Imperialist agenda.

"One of the newer pages scurries to the threshold. He’s wearing black and silver robes emblazoned with Dao Doan Province’s seal."

Again we have a Chinese-sounding name of a province of this Hokkaran Empire. We don’t know for sure if this is a conquered province or not, but considering the nomenclature doesn’t fit with a Japanese aesthetic, it’s fairly easy to assume so.

I am proud of my Japanese heritage, but I will never take pride in Imperialist Japan. And neither should anyone else. There is no glory to be found in genocide and conquest. That will forever leave a stain on our history, and for Rivera to whitewash the atrocities committed in the name of that Japanese Imperialism does a disservice to those both dead and living, who are still suffering its effects.

Our animosities cannot be boiled down to "elves vs dwarves" levels of petty dislike. History will not permit.

Rivera cannot even keep her character descriptions from being fetishizing and racist:

"I liked touching your hair. It’s so much thicker than mine, Shizuka, and so much glossier. I wish I still had that lock of hair—I treasure all my remnants of you, but to have your hair in a place so far from home…"

"I have my mother’s round cheeks, which you always seemed to have an unending fascination for. I have her wavy hair, her skin, her height, her bowleggedness, her large hands, her grass green eyes. But of all the features on my wide, flat face, my nose stands out. It is narrow, pinched, and begging for a fist to reshape it. My father’s stamp on me."

For the record? No Asian woman would ever refer to herself as “flat faced”. That’s an insult that’s often hurled at us for not conforming to Western ideals of beauty. We also have an example here of a half-Hokkaran half-Qorin character facing racism from her own people. Asian-on-Asian racism, which carries far more weight than the average biracial story of “where do I belong?”

The last example is perhaps the smallest, and the least significant in the grand scheme of things. But it was at this point that my heart broke completely, because Rivera has no idea of what it means to hear a Japanese-coded woman say this:

"'Why not a naginata?"

You scoffed. “The weapon of cowards,” you replied. “The weapon of those who think our only enemies come from the North.”

Considering the entire novel is about the adventures of a Japanese-coded Warrior Empress, I find it hard to believe the author did not once google “Japan + Female Warrior.” If she had, Rivera would know of the Onna-bugeisha, an order of women warriors whose signature weapon is, you guessed it, the naginata.

The naginata was the weapon of choice for Japanese women because of its superior reach compared to a sword, which could offset the disadvantages of generally having less upper body strength than men. With it, Japanese women could protect themselves or their families and defend their homes.

Some of Japan’s most famous legendary women were onna-bugeisha: Empress Jingu, the very first Japanese Empress. Tomoe Gozen, who fought and was recorded in the Tale of Heike during the Genpei War. Hojo Masako, known as “The General in Nun’s Habit”, who fought to change 13th century Japan’s inheritance laws so that women could inherit equally.

The naginata is not and never will be the weapon of cowards, and O-Shizuka’s rejection of this is a gross act of misogyny when taken in the context of Japanese culture. None of the information listed above is obscure. A simple google search will reveal Wikipedia articles on all of it, and more. Rivera has no excuse.

I’m so tired of this. I’m so tired of Doctor Strange and Ghost in the Shell. I’m tired of seeing Iron Fist and being told to be grateful for what little scraps of representation we receive.

And the worst part? Somewhere out there, an East Asian woman is trying to get her story, our story, published. And yet this is what slips through the cracks. The stolen story of a girl named “Tiger Thief.”
Profile Image for Victoria Schwab.
Author 28 books103k followers
February 9, 2017
My official blurb: "A love letter to my favorite kind of fantasy―rich, expansive, and grounded in human truth. It is a story of star-crossed loves, of fate and power and passion, and it is simply exquisite."
Profile Image for Cesar.
355 reviews235 followers
May 21, 2021
2 stars

*sigh* Here we go. This should be fun.

The Tiger's Daughter caught my interest when I first heard about it from other reviewers and from Twitter. Not only did it have such a beautiful cover, but it took place in an East Asian inspired world. Combine that with promises of demon slaying and you would think this would be a good book, right?


Short review: The Tiger's Daughter is an epic fantasy romance story of two warriors killing demons falling in love.

Long Review: There was so much potential for the Tiger's Daughter to be a great fantasy book. When the reviews started to come in, I made sure to have not any high expectations considering most of my friends and other reviewers were mixed on it. Hell, some people dnf'd the book. I wanted to see if there were any positive stuff in it. Sure, there were a few, but they paled in comparison to the many problems I had with the story, the format, and the characters.

To give you a basic rundown, The Tiger's Daughter is a fantasy story about two warriors, Shizuka and Shefali, and their journey from how they met and the events that lead up to them fighting demons. The story is told in 2nd person letter format where Shefali writes the events of when they met up to where they are now with short interludes from Shizuka's POV set years after their adventure.

When reviews started coming out of how the book was long and a little bit boring, I braced myself to expect the same thing. That's exactly what I got. A boring pile of bland pudding.

The one thing I sort of liked but feel a bit iffy about it is the setting.

If you guys haven't heard, there's been some talk about the use of Mongolian, Japanese, and even bits of Chinese influence on the setting. Basically, an East Asian setting. However, there have been other reviewers who say that it wasn't executed in a good way. When you're combining the elements and cultures of three different countries, you're bound to be called out for some inaccuracies.

There's also the issue of how honorifics are used. I get that Rivera was drawing inspiration from the use of honorifics and tried to change them, but I think it would've been best if she had stuck to the original use of honorifics instead of creating a new type. There is no glossary so it's hard to keep up with how someone should be addressed. For example, Keiko-Lao. Lao what? It was just messy.

I'm giving Rivera the benefit of the doubt and say that it was mostly human error on her part. She did not intend to make some inaccuracies. Could she have done further research? Yes, but these were just mistakes from the product of human error.

I'm not of Asian descent nor did I ever study the cultures, so I won't go into specific details about the inaccuracies. But keep an open mind and read other reviews and see what they have to say.

Other than the setting and writing style (Which is pretty great), those were the only positive aspects of the book.

As for the negatives...


Right off the bat, I did not like the format of the story. I do like when letters are implemented in a story, but the letters (yes, plural) Shefali wrote were just redundant in my opinion. Not to mention they didn't make sense in a narrative way.

The letters primarily spoke of the girls' lives from when they met, how they got together, and up until where Shizuka is reading them with Shefali absent. I kid you not when I say that some parts of the letters were just filler. There were several times when I just wanted Shefali to get to the point instead of writing about something that had no relevance to the plot.

This was me throughout the story.


I'll admit, I put down the book just because of the long letters, and I even avoided reading it on a few occasions because of the letters, which is why this review is a little late. I just cannot see why they had to be so long.

Adding to the long letters, the format didn't make sense to me in a narrative way. The point of the letters was for Shefali to recall the times they've been together through the best and worst of times. That there was a major flaw that I and others have seen.

Shizuka was RIGHT THERE for the majority of those letters. She was with Shefali as they fell in love and (rarely) fought demons. If she was right there the entire time, then why write letters about those moments?


You could argue that it offers a different point of view and goes into more detail about what they were doing and I can sort of agree with that. But in a narrative sense, the letters were just redundant. What is the point of them being there if Shizuka and Shefali were together for the majority of the letters? Unless Shizuka has the attention span of a goldfish or has crappy memory, the letters didn't need to be there.


There was none.


There was hardly any plot development. The synopsis does say that the girls would fight demons but that was a rarity. The story was just them falling in love. Now, I don't mind romance in a story so long as it doesn't take over the plot and the characters don't make stupid decisions for the sake of love. And while Shizuka and Shefali didn't make rash decisions, their romance took over everything. This is a character-driven story so there won't be that much plot, but even then, I was not a fan of the romance being the overall arc of the book.

To top it off, I did not like Shizuka or Shefali. Shizuka was this pissed off girl who has anger issues and Shefali was constantly putting Shizuka on a high pedestal to the point where it got annoying. I will give them credit for being these powerful warriors who can slay demons, but I still found them annoying, especially Shizuka's anger.

Speaking of Shizuka, there wasn't enough development for her. To me, all I got to know about her was from Shefali's constant boasting about her. The book was telling instead of showing us about Shizuka. And the short chapters that were from Shizuka's pov were too short and didn't help her character arc. Not to mention that for 90% of the time, she was angry.

Shizuka = A N G E R Y

Did I think the romance between them was good? Yes.

Did I think the romance took over the story? Also yes.

It's a bit sad to say that I was disappointed in The Tiger's Daughter because I really wanted it to be good. However, it wasn't. Already, the next book, The Phoenix Empress has been announced and hopefully, that will be better than the Tiger's Daughter.

1) it doesn't seem like it will be in letter format.
2) it has an actual plot.

Here's hoping it's better.


The Tiger's Daughter was a disappointment to me. With a narrative that didn't make sense, a romance that took up most of the book, unimpressive characters, lack of plot, and redundant letters hindered this book.

Thanks for reading my review!

Profile Image for Bentley ★ Bookbastion.net.
242 reviews553 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
September 26, 2017
DNFing at 43%

Me with my kindle at the prospect of returning to this book:

I had such high hopes for this, and hate to report that I'm let down.

A Fantasy novel inspired by Japanese and Mongolian Cultures with a F/F romance. On the surface, that sounds amazing, but I find the execution sorely lacking. Much of the plot is waylaid by repeated infodumps of the author's world-building notes in the place of actually telling a story.

Better fantasy authors know that worldbuilding is best done with the advancement of the story. Here, very little happens at all as either one of the 2 narrators explains endless minutiae about their respective cultures when very little of it actually pertains to what's going on.

I have to talk about the romance for a second. I spent the entire time reading in a state of incredulity in regards to the ages of the two characters. For pretty much the entirety of what I read, the two female romantic leads were children. Much of the start of the story recounts their time when they were 5 years old, then 8 years old, and 10 etc., realizing that they were in love, and soulmates. I get where the author was going with it - that these two souls are bound to each other - but it felt so cliched to me.

Most people rarely, if ever, have found their true loves at 10 years old. So all the sweeping declarations about never leaving each other, always being together and how beautiful they thought the other girl was felt heavy handed and I'm going to be honest - a little bit creepy.

I wanted much more plot than we get in this book. This needed balancing between romance and fantasy plot movement. Heavy editing might have done wonders for this.

The way the story is told is enough to make me wonder if the author has ever picked up a book in her life. The book starts with the Present-tense POV character, Empress Yui, receiving a letter from her friend. The POV then switches into second person present as the author of this letter waxes philosophical about their entire childhood to her penpal/romantic interest.

At first, I thought the letter was just going to be a few pages long, which I had no problem with. However....

It just.



I'm not a huge fan of second-person narrative voice, but it can be fun when it's executed correctly. It's not here.

What sort of friend sends an entire novel to her childhood romantic interest, re-telling all of their experiences that she was there for the majority of? It makes zero sense and was probably the most frustrating aspect of this book for me.

It also should be noted at this point that this book is only 6 chapters long. And the first section of the letters before the switch back to Empress Yui's POV is over 2 chapters long. I kept getting distracted trying to guess how long the letter was going to ramble on for.

There are also a number of complaints I've read from other reviewers better suited than I am to address the issue about a concern of the author lifting too much from Japanese and Mongolian cultures to create her own. She shifts certain words and spellings here and there, and makes some pretty awkward errors that might offend some readers of Asian descent who are familiar with the history of these cultures. Check out the review that better explains those issues than I ever could

I'm sorry to do it, but I have so many other books to read and can't handle another minute on a book that's just not catching my attention.

Withholding a Starred review as I didn't actually complete the book.

A huge thank you to Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley for an advanced copy of this book!
Profile Image for Simona B.
892 reviews2,985 followers
July 14, 2017
Sloppy (on my part because, well, DNF) buddy read with Elise. She will vouch for my initial enthusiasm and the disappointment that followed, and she will forgive me for being so untrustworthy.

DNF 45%


First of all, let me tell you I am absolutely broken-hearted to have to rate The Tiger's Daughter two stars. To be honest, hadn't I been so hopeful and excited for this book, I think I would have rated it even one star, and you know I am no sentimental, so just think how bitter must I be now if I was so invested as to let that influence me, instead of judging the book only for what it is, as I always proud myself on doing. But enough of me being dramatic.

•My main reason to be mad at The Tiger's Daughter is that this book seriously challenged my suspension of disbelief. The reason is very simple, and I think many, many readers, when the book comes out, will notice it and be dumbfounded.
The book is rather long, but comprises only six, though long, chapters. In the very first chapter, one of the the main characters, Empress Shizuka, receives a letter from Shefali, our second protagonist.
And this letter is my problem.
🡲 This letter was still going on when I gave up, well into chapter four, that is to say, nearly half the book. In short, it reached the length of a short novel. Who would write a letter that long?
🡲 This letter is full of info-dump, even about the culture and life of the addressee. It also tells events in which the addressee herself took part, and that therefore she must know. Who would write to someone just to tell them, extensively, the story of their life, with no other apparent motive than the mere telling?
Yes, you get it. The problem is that this letter is the dumbest and least reasonable and believable thing ever. It goes on and on, saying "You did this, and said this, and I answered that." It's stupid, perplexing and I honestly thought it must all be a joke, because that was the most generous hypothesis I could think of, the least being that Rivera has no idea of how readers interact with what they read, resulting in my necessary conviction that she has never picked up a novel in her life.

•My constant preoccupation with the telling technique clearly hindered my progresses and my enjoyment of what I was reading. I did not care for the characters and I felt I was given no reason to. It's been a very long time since I have felt so apathetic toward a whole set of characters.

The plot is astoundingly aimless. Halfway through it, I still was honestly in the dark as to what this story was supposed to be about, apart from a lesbian couple. Pretty much the same happened to me with The Bone Witch, which I also dropped because life is to show short to spend it being led by the nose by books that look as disoriented as it gets.

The romance was, with the Asian setting, what I was really looking forward to about the book, but just as the setting (see next paragraphs) it gave me no gratification, mostly because I didn't care for the character, which means that, in order to win me over, the romance should have being nothing less than off-the-charts, which it wasn't at all.
Moreover (but at this point I guess this is super secondary) the one sex scene I read was quite cheesy. There was a line especially ("When you positioned yourself over me, I swear I was looking up at the Eternal Sky," and yes, she is clearly talking about her lady parts) fit to be compared to Maas's best expedients. But as I said, this almost becomes marginal if we consider how poorly convincing all the rest is.

⚠️ Speaking of which, The Tiger's Daughter is not a young adult and I don't understand why it is shelved as such. It's definitely adult.

⚠️ At one point in her never-ending letter, Shefali refers to herself as "flat faced", which set off an alarm bell inside my head. So I browsed through the reviews that the book had already received (as of now, the publication is still several months away) and, luckily, I stumbled upon Laurelinvanyar's, which you can read here. I don't know the first thing about Japanese, Chinese or Mongolian cultures, but this reviewer, being Japanese, certainly does, and I think it's important for all the readers of this book (those who like it and those who don't) to listen to what Laurelinvanyar has to say about appropriation, the consumability of culture, history and female warriors, and respect in general, because it's never too late to learn something about that.

I am so disappointed with this book. I thought it was one of the most promising releases of this year, and I had great hopes, but the flaws of The Tiger's Daughter being not of the subjective kind, I can't even blame my expectations for this fiasco. I can't begin to explain how much it saddens me to see all this potential wasted.
Profile Image for Eliza.
594 reviews1,375 followers
September 10, 2017
I received an ARC off of NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. This does not persuade my actual opinion of the novel.

1 Star.
DNF @ 29%

You know, I don't even know where to start with this review. I don't have much to say. Nor do I feel like reviewing this. It's quite a shame, because I've had this book on my TBR list for months. So when I was approved to receive an ARC, it was pretty magnificent and close to a "dream-come-true" (I'm exaggerating here). But then, within the first and second chapters, it had to go and disappoint me to no end. Everything just dragged and I did not enjoy a single thing.

Being completely honest, I don't even know what was going on. There were these letters that seemed important ('cause letters usually tend to add to the story somehow), but these ended up being a bunch of information-dumps that ticked me off to no end. I'm wondering why they were even in the novel, and why they were so long too.

Overall, this is a short review because I have nothing to say about this novel, other than: I did not enjoy it. Plus, I didn't read too much of it, so there really isn't much for me to say. But, I definitely won't be coming back to this one. It's just not for me. And I do feel bad about rating this poorly. I don't like doing that. It's also a big shame to me too because Victoria Schwab loved this novel (she's one of my favorite authors), and I didn't.

Thank you NetGalley, for providing me with this ARC.
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews190 followers
November 11, 2018
The Tiger's Daughter is an f/f adult fantasy story that follows two warrior princesses. f/f adult fantasy isn't as common as it should be, so this was one of my most anticipated books for the second half of this year. Most reviews I've read weren't good, but I really liked this.

I think it's really important to get into this book with the right expectations. It's a tome (500+ pages) and it's told through letters. It's slow, really slow. And if you're expecting an epic fantasy adventure that just happens to have a f/f romance in it, you will be disappointed.

The Tiger's Daughter is mainly a slow-burn love story. Yes, Shefali and Shizuka will go on adventures, will duel demons and kill tigers. But the story isn't about that, it's about their love for each other. I didn't think that was a flaw.

I loved Shefali and Shizuka, both as characters and as a couple. We see them growing up from the PoV of Shefali, who is writing the letters. We see them go through challenges and fights, and still they get out of them, together.
The side characters didn't disappoint either.
I also really liked that there was a trans character. Ren doesn't appear for many scenes, but I loved her and I want to know if we'll see more of her in the future books.

The pacing wasn't perfect, but that's often the case with books that are told through letters or mixed media. The writing got a bit melodramatic sometimes, but for the most part I liked it.

The premise didn't make much sense - Shefali is writing letters to Shizuka, and sometimes she says "I don't need to describe [x] to you, but [description of x]", and she's telling Shizuka things she already knows. In the end the whole thing did make a little bit more sense, but still.

The worldbuilding was inspired by the cultures of Japan, Mongolia and sometimes China, and as some reviews will tell you, it isn't done well (you can't solve your inaccuracies by changing some letters here and there and hoping your readers won't recognize what you're talking about). Hokkaro is as Japanese as Ravka from Shadow and Bone is Russian or as Kenettra from The Young Elites is Italian - not at all. It may seem Japanese from an outsider perspective, but it isn't, and if you, unlike me, are familiar with Japanese culture, that's probably going to bother you. So, consider that.

I really liked the worldbuilding, especially what we see of the Qorin (the nomads). Maybe it's because everything was written in Shefali's PoV and Shefali is Qorin, but I felt like we never really got to know Hokkaran customs. The descriptions were really pretty, that's true, but they didn't feel as real. The way Shefali talked about the Qorin, her love for her people - that did, and it was one of my favorite parts of the book.

11/11/18: reread, raising rating to 4.5 stars. I'm so glad this book exist, we do not usually get fated love stories for f/f content, or stories that are completely focused on the f/f romance outside of contemporary. Also, I love Shefali and Shizuka both as characters and as a couple, I care about them enough that I was never bored during this reread, and this is a long book
Profile Image for Heather.
319 reviews288 followers
Want to read
June 13, 2017
Well .....

so .....


Because this sounds ah-ma-zing!

Also ... girls kissing? I'm SO in!

One of my most anticipated reads of 2017 just got a lot closer <3
Profile Image for Kitty G Books.
1,551 reviews2,937 followers
May 16, 2018
Okay, it's really long overdue for me to read this as it was a book I was highly anticipating last year, and some how I just didn't find the time to read it. I am super happy that I made time recently, because this is one of my new absolute favourite reads, and I am now SO excited for the sequel.

This is a Mongol-inspired fantasy setting with an Empress of the Hokkaran and an heir to the Quorin at the centre of the story. They are childhood best friends (their mothers were best friends too) and we follow their story through letters and present day. Both are women of great importance in their world. They have powers that are unique to them, and a personality which shines through in all situations. They are strong, powerful, brave and noble. They radiate their calm and collected-ness, and they are some of my favourite ever fantasy ladies to read about.

Also, they are in love.

I have never, ever read a fantasy book which focuses on two main characters with a lesbian romance. This is just something that is sorely lacking in the genre, and I am so happy when I see books like this one which boldly break the mould and focus on the relationship between these two women right from the start.

As I mentioned before, this is a story largely told through letters and therefore it's second-person, but not addressing the read, addressing the Empress who is the one receiving the letters. Our Empress is called Shizuka and our Tiger's Daughter is called Shefali. All we know at the start of the book is that they grew up together and have formed a bond so strong that time and distance will never break it. We also know that although Shizuka rules, her childhood was fraught, and Shefali is now not with her, and is undertaking a very dangerous task.

Honestly, this book starts a little slow, we follow the letter and the Empress in two storylines, with the present-day story taking a back seat to the ruminations on the past in Shefali's letter. I was a little unsure if I liked this style at first, but very soon the story gripped me, and I found myself absorbed and loving the immersion.

The pacing, once it gets going, is super fast, and I feel like especially the second half of the book there were heaps of elements I didn't expect and that I really enjoyed. We see different types of magic, some of which is inspired by nature, animals and legends. We also get influence from Eastern cultures which inform parts of the story such as the mythology and the tribe-like–Empire relationship.

Honestly, this is by far one of the best books I have read this year for it's originality, it's story, and it's characters. I am super duper excited for the sequel, and you can bet I will read that one quicker than I got around to this one. It was solidly a 5*s read for me :)
Profile Image for Nina.
306 reviews407 followers
August 29, 2017
2.5 stars

The most valuable member of the clan is the person who tells the best stories around the fire.

Frankly, anything blurbed by V.E. Schwab I expect to love. Alas, this was not the best story told around the fire, albeit showing immense potential.

Mid-book, I feared I was going to end up rating one of my most anticipated releases less than 2 stars. The first half lulled me to sleep, resulting in a lot of skimming. The second half was distinctly better, the last 100 or so pages interesting even. From 5 stars to DNFs, you'll see everything among this debut's ratings, as it is a peculiar book and simply subject to individual taste.

The Tiger's Daughter entailed a beautifully written same sex romance with two heart-winning heroines, but the action-packed fantasy I'd hoped for based on the premise was nonexistent. To me, The Tiger's Daughter was more an epic love story than an epic fantasy novel. The storytelling – the point of view written in form of a letter – was not to my liking. Though the book ended better than it started, I lowered my rating to 2.5 stars because it couldn't make up for the earlier amount of bored skimming.

Side note: In my understanding, this book is going to be published as adult fantasy, and its content warrants being shelved as such (or NA), but definitely not YA.

I had a rocky start with The Tiger's Daughter. I am not the greatest fan of present tense in fantasy novels, and though I quickly got used to the tense, I struggled to adapt to the point of view. The story switches between few chapters written in 3rd person POV and most of the chapters in the form of a letter in 2nd person POV. The point of view will be one key point deciding whether you'll connect or disconnect from the story. It took me way too long to adapt to this peculiar perspective which dampened my enjoyment of this book. As mentioned, most of the book is written as a letter from one lover to another. A friend of mine correctly pointed out that it makes no sense to write a letter in order to describe experiences in which the addressee took part, but I'll leave that unquestioned for now. Unfortunately, noticeable parts of the letter contained info-dump to establish the world-building. This improved as the story progressed but it made me put The Tiger's Daughter aside after one chapter and pick it up several weeks later. Again, this may be subject to individual taste, but it certainly wasn't how I would've chosen to tell the story. Arsenault Rivera demonstrates excellent skill with regard to writing but there were also passages that felt choppy or forced to me.

You can tell how much work went into the world-building but it does have its obvious flaws. The realm Arsenault Rivera has created is rich in its influences from several Asian cultures, which would've been amazing, had it not blatantly mirrored them. The two (main) differing ethnicities – the Hokkaran people and the Qorin tribe – seem to have been heavily inspired by Japanese and Tibetan/Mongolian culture (one Qorin character even bore the last name of a Tibetan friend of mine). I did enjoy the "clash" between these two ethnicities; the Hokkaran who deem themselves superior to the tribes of the steppes and the Qorin who wouldn't trade their freedom under the stars for Hokkaran golden cages. But it would've been better if these fictional ethnicities hadn't been so similar to the actual world cultures. It doesn't go unnoticed that Arsenault Rivera freely mixed Asian cultures, for example Japanese and Chinese, which can be problematic, especially for readers of the respective origins (Airy's review and Laurelinvanyar's review confront this issue better than I can!). There are also several terms Arsenault Rivera uses with disregard of offence to these respective cultures, such as a description of being "flat-faced". If readers personally affected by this consider this racist, then it's racist, end of story.

In the centre of golden palaces and the vastness of the steppes, Arsenault Rivera placed two opposites attracted to each other like moths to the light. As with everything I like about this book, it took me 250 pages to realise that I was fond of these characters. O-Shizuka aka Empress Yui is an overly confident, spoiled, rampant peacock of a royal but with a fierce protective sense for her lover and her people. Barsalyya Shefali is a shy and observant warrior from whose point of view the letters are written. I really enjoyed how these two characters balanced out each other's flaws. The Tiger's Daughter features many diverse elements, the obvious ones being the same sex romance and the various ethnicities. Shefali's mother, though mute by choice, communicated in sign language which was amazing.

Apart letter format and the point of view, which I needed time getting used to, it was the plot that let me down most. The story switches between the present, told from the perspective of O-Shizuka, and the past, told through a letter written by Shefali. However, the letter is predominant and, for most of the time, I was a bit confused of how the past related back to the present. Besides, I was simply bored out of my mind for the first half of the book. Mid-book, it seemed like barely anything had happened, save for a few tiny adventures, character bonding, and a hint of political intrigue. Up to that point, the plot had felt entirely without aim. I expect a good book to hook me within the first 50 pages but, sadly, that didn't happen. During the second half, the plot improved noticeably. The romance got serious, the book finally spouted some demons, and the political intrigue turned into a full-blown conspiracy. I also saw a swordfight carried out over more than two passages for the first time since O-Shizuka had always beaten her opponents with one strike before. I love heroines that are good at fighting but this seemed a little extreme. I was disappointed with the plot, mostly because the premise had me expect something fast-paced and action-packed.

The romance was well written, following the growing love between two girls who had wrestled each other half to death as children but became each other's most trusted companions as they became older. I thought the characters were a little young for the mature way they behaved, and there is some explicit/graphic content (!) with regard to love scenes (see my earlier remark about this not classifying as YA). It's also unlikely someone running a high fever would have the energy for mind-blowing sex, just saying. Last but not least, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Arsenault Rivera certainly knew how to let her story advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. The same sex romance is considered forbidden but these societal standards are continuously challenged by the two lovers and trusted side protagonists, and I believe this will be a great example of a fictional realm who will learn to accept same sex relationships as a given.

"We're both girls," I said.
You grabbed me by the flap of my deel. Mad with strength, you rolled us over. Hot tears fell on my chest and face.
"Did you hear me?" you roared. "I don't care! In all the lands of the Empire, I've only ever wanted to marry you. You fool Quorin! You do not hesitate to slay a tiger, but you hesitate to kiss a girl?"

Though the same sex romance was one of the reasons I'd been curious about this debut – f/f relationships are so rare in fantasy –, I was disappointed by how much stronger the love story was than the plot. The political intrigue was enjoyable but I'd have needed more of it and earlier in the book. The fantasy elements seemed underdevelopped until the very end. Albeit having improved, The Tiger's Daughter was a letdown for me. Lastly, there is also the issue of appropriation of East Asian culture and potential racism as pointed out by a reviewer of Japanese origin, which should be taken seriously.

**I received an eARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thoughts are my own. Quotations may be subject to change in the final copy.**
Profile Image for Dannii Elle.
2,034 reviews1,421 followers
September 3, 2017
The synopsis reads: "This is the story of an infamous Qorin warrior, Barsalayaa Shefali, a spoiled divine warrior empress, O-Shizuka, and a power that can reach through time and space to save a land from a truly insidious evil." But this is also a story about so much more than that.

The Empress is an isolated and much feared individual, but as she reads through the written history of her own past, we get to view the person she was and how she altered into the person she became. Her childhood friend Barsalayaa Shefali is the one who penned this history and their shared story is both an epic adventure quest, the sweetest of budding romance stories, and the fantastical memoir of two fearsome and unstoppable females.

The narrative structure is what immediately grabbed my attention. I found it much like the beloved The Name of the Wind, where the reader is introduced to a present-day character and their, and another's, shared history is relayed to the reader in the form of letters and memories. This unusual format paved the way for a novel that continued to challenge the expected.

Kingdom fantasy is my ultimate favourite genre. The one overwhelming flaw of the high fantasy genre, however, is its lack of diversity. There are numerous fat tomes detailing the fantastical lives of questing knights, and silver-bearded wizards. There are also, in more recently penned fiction, a fair amount of bad-ass female assassins, witches, and warriors. But I have found a severe lack of books that primarily focus on characters that are not white and heterosexual, in non-Western inspired settings. It was refreshing to find an alteration to this status quo, here.

I realise what a massive hypocrite I must sound like! In numerous reviews I have slated fantasies that derive from their central quest to become absorbed in a pointless romance. And yet here I am shipping the heck out of this thing! That's because this gets the division of interests just right. This isn't a fantasy world which gets stifled by an obvious love story, but a story where every facet is allowed to grow simultaneously, and in which the romance actually serves a purpose to the story-line. There was no plot filler or romance for romance sake, but a sex-positive, non-cliched, and utterly adorable f/f romance that enhanced and worked cohesively with the already gripping plot. It also helps that every one of the central characters were the most fearless, bad-ass group of women that I have ever encountered in this genre!

This gave me everything I so adore about fantasy - a unique and richly textured world and a heart-stoppingly tense adventure - but it also gave the genre a necessary revamp, and provided subtle differences to the conception of the world and the inhabitants within.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, K. Arsenault Rivera, and the publisher, Tor Books, for this opportunity.
Profile Image for Tweebs♥️ .
184 reviews837 followers
Want to read
June 21, 2017
i got an arc of this and i feel so content with life.

Profile Image for Maraia.
470 reviews173 followers
July 9, 2017
This is a hard book to review. It was one of my most highly anticipated books of the year, but it left me feeling mostly disappointed.

The good:
- A fantasy setting that isn't European-inspired.
- The main characters are both lesbians, as are some secondary characters.
- It's sex positive.
- The fiercest warriors in the book are all women!
- I was invested in the story and characters.

The bad:
- This is a personal preference, but the story is told mostly through a letter, and second person narration is my least favorite.
- Personal preference again, but chapters that take 1.5 hours are tedious to read.
- Even though I liked the romance, I wish it hadn't started with instalove.
- The book starts in the present and then goes back to the beginning of the story, but it leaves a huge gap, and I'm not exactly sure what the point of the entire thing was. I thought it was working up to a certain event, but it skipped right over that. Maybe it's planned for the next book, but I'm not sure I want to read on. Either way, it was underwhelming and unsatisfying.
- It's great to have same-sex romances in fantasy, but I'd really love to see same-sex romances set in worlds where they're actually accepted! Isn't that the point of fantasy, to create worlds different than our own? We see enough homophobia in the news, and there are plenty of contemporaries that deal with the topic, so I wish fantasy authors would create worlds where a same-sex relationship isn't cause for shame, punishment, or death. The world in this book actually does have an accepting society, but it's unfortunately not the one in which the main characters live.
- Lastly, but most importantly, there's the issue of the book's being an offensive appropriation of Japanese, Chinese, and Mongolian cultures. One thing that stood out even to me, as someone not familiar with these cultures, was a character repeatedly referring to herself as "flat faced." For a comprehensive explanation of how this book is insensitive, I recommend reading this review, written by a Japanese woman who can actually speak to this topic with authority.

I really want to be able to recommend this book for the positive aspects (particularly the fierce lesbian warriors, who are all too rare in fantasy), but after reading the review I linked, I don't feel comfortable promoting a book that causes so much harm.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
Shelved as 'zzzzz-did-not-finish'
August 8, 2020
7/16/2017: I hate kindle reading and got ditched by my BR partner (you know I love you, Simona) so this has gone on hold. I'M REALLY SORRY. But it's kind of incredibly boring and I'm in a reading slump?? and I don't want to push myself through a book I was so, so excited for.
Profile Image for Aentee.
136 reviews438 followers
June 17, 2017
I am writing this from the grave bc this book slayed me. Full review to come closer to the release date but needless to say: add it to your TBR immediately.
Profile Image for Angharad .
117 reviews102 followers
August 10, 2019
RTC but this book is my everything right now.

Okay I'm going to do this in a bullet list form because my thoughts are not coherent and never will be because I loved this book so much. I got accepted for it on Netgalley but am making it my mission in life to find it in physical ARC form.

+ LGBTQIA COUPLE ARE THE MAIN FOCUS OF THIS ENTIRE NOVEL! The love between Shefali and Shizuka was literally destined since the moment they were born. Yes, Shizuka's first reaction to Shefali wasn't exactly romantic but they more than make up for it. This book does not deviate from their relationship despite the plot going in different directions. Their love bursts from the page and was so intimate I felt as though I was sometimes intruding. Can I just butt in and say also... HEIGHT DIFFERENCE. The author has even said that Shizuka is around 5" and Shefali is 6" so I'm not crying you are. TOL AND SMOLL.

+ Amazingly atmospheric, the world is detailed - both its history and its present. Shizuka and Shefali come from very different backgrounds - Shizuka coming from royalty and destined to be the future Empress and Shefali coming from an outcast tribe, the Qorin. However, due to their mother's bonds, these girls spend their lives together (apart from when they can't but don't touch me because I'm too emotionally fragile to discuss that.)

+ The story is about these two, quite different but with an incredible bond, warrior girls to team up against the demons that are threatening to end the world. There's aspects of high fantasy, sci-fi, magic realism. I like that it doesn't fall into one category because the one main thing, and most important, is the love between the two female protagonists. Everything kind of makes sense when they are together and saying they would die for each other is quite the understatement. They are star-crossed loves who fight side by side, love each other indefinitely and entered the world destined to be together always. Like Romeo and Juliet who?

+ This story has stayed with me since I finished it a few days ago. It is rich, mesmerising and could make the most cynical believe in destined love. The characters were rich and vibrant, the world was multi-layered and alive, from the tiger the girl's fought when they were children, to the demon's they continue fighting along the way. I couldn't recommend this book enough but if I still haven't convinced you, just look at that cover.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,961 reviews485 followers
November 4, 2017
Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Well, it took me nearly three months to complete this brand new fantasy series. I came close to DNF'ing a number of times. Personally, it was the perspective from which the story was told. Relating a story in which one character is reviewing for another, all that has happened when the latter was actually there for those events, was a bit strange. It felt very similar to reading a prequel which fills in all the little hints that were given in the series. On the other hand, I will give the author acknowledgement for steeping the series in the traditions of Japanese and Mongolian culture. Also I liked that two strong young women framed the basis of the love story. As a teacher, I think it is important that students have examples of different relationships not just the tried and true- one girl, two guys, who will she choose?

I will settle on a 3 star because I neither hated nor loved the story.

Profile Image for Sana.
1,076 reviews959 followers
Currently reading
June 11, 2017
Since people keep liking this occasionally, I want to confirm that this book does indeed have 'queer protagonists who are unashamed to love in the spotlight.'


Really hope that 'two women whose love for each other is big enough to slay demons' is a mild way of putting 'a lesbian couple pairing up to slay all the demons in periodic fits of glorious rage' because Y E S.

P.S. Kind of done with titles containing '[Random word]'s Daughter' in them, though.
Profile Image for Mpauli.
157 reviews458 followers
January 20, 2019
In The Tiger's Daughter we're following the love story of Shizuka, a Hokkaran princess and Shefali, A Quorin chieftain's daughter.

The story is divided into two narrative time lines. Shizuka is empress in the present timeline. She receives a very long letter from Shefali, in which shefali details the story of them from meeting as children, going on adventures together and falling in love.
The present timeline only takes up about 5% of the book and gives us short breaks from Shefali's letter. The letter itself is told from the 2nd perspective, which is an unusual stylistic choice.

As the book centers on the relationship between the two main protagonists, the story is very character driven.
If that is what you're looking for, you can easily add a star to my rating and I encourage you to read this lgtb+ romance set in an eastern inspired fantasy world.

The book takes its time to establish the characters and has a very flowery prose. For me personally, it was a bit too slow in some parts and the pacing was a little off. For the time it took to tell the first 80% of the book, the ending felt rather rushed and abrupt.

If you know me a little, you know I'm a sucker for plot and world-building. In both regards the book sticks to the bare minimum. I would have loved to immerse myself more into the world, get to know interesting side-characters and have a complex political plot.
If you're looking for those things as well, The Tiger's Daughter passes up a lot of good opportunities.

All in all, this was an enjoyable love story with some very rare larger-than-life scenes.
Profile Image for Helen.
159 reviews68 followers
November 19, 2017
Let’s start at the beginning shall we? The disappointment started on the first page when I realised I would have to suffer through a present tense narrative. Present tense just seems so wrong in a novel and I never got used to its use here. The narrative is split between the perspective of Shizuka, using the present-tense, and Shefali, whose narration comes via a letter she wrote to Shizuka which recounts their childhood together. The latter is by far the biggest section and provided for some very ham-fisted exposition early on. While it had its interesting parts, throughout the letter I couldn’t help thinking: why the hell would you write out an entire conversation or mundane details, like preparations for a journey, in a letter sent to a person who was with you the entire time? Why would you comment on aspects of the culture and belief system of a world the letter's recipient was also raised in? This ‘letter’ came across as a contrived and clunky plot device, in a way that was not dissimilar to the how all the characters felt contrived and clunky.

This book is all about girl power and feminism, which is awesome, but it came to define the plot in a way that, well, left the story with no plot. It was slow-paced and didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and it felt as if the sole purpose of this book was to promote the author’s feminist agenda. The female characters are all presented as bad-ass warriors, but there’s a difference between being a bad-ass warrior and being a dick. Shefali’s mother, a legendary warrior, overhears a man make a disrespectful comment about women in power… so she immediately cuts his tongue out. Wait, what? You can’t do that! Shizuka also mutilates a man’s face in a duel after he looks at her like a lump of meat. Okay, so the guy is a douche, but did you really have to disfigure him for life? He was only about 14! I’m a feminist, as everyone with half a brain should be, and I love reading about strong female characters who can take care of themselves but this was just too much. It felt as if the author was forcing this message about her messed up version of ‘girl-power’ down the reader’s throat. All it did was make all the main characters unlikeable when we’re supposed to be rooting for these people to take the throne off of the corrupt emperor. Who is, of course, like all people not made from fairy dust and rainbows in this story, male. Shefali and Shizuka, and their mothers, were unrelatable and never seemed like real people. I never imagined I would write these words, but Rivera’s female characters are too strong, too fearless and too gifted. Both Shizuka and Shefali came complete with their own unique magical powers to complement their fighting ability, just reinforcing their resemblance to plastic action figures in my mind. Shefali’s only weakness seems to be that she thought she was ugly. The other one didn’t have any, unless you count her inability to play the zither.

And don’t even get me started on all the male characters. There weren’t many but the ones we did get were either arrogant and pompous arseholes or pathetic idiots who unwittingly betrayed their own family members. I wouldn’t be surprised if the series ended with all the male characters ‘getting what they deserve’ on a burning funeral pyre, while all the female characters danced around naked declaring that they could do a much better job without the blight of the male species and announcing a new ‘feminist’ utopia. This isn’t feminism, it’s just idiotism. And lazy writing, which is worse.

Finally, the plot borrowed heavily from South-East Asian culture and whilst this initially attracted me to the novel, it did start to feel too derivative. The plot deviated very little from real world historical traditions and therefore lacked the originality or enchanting atmosphere that most fantasy worlds, with their strikingly different cultures and belief systems, can naturally create. Also, the characters’ names kept changing and for the first quarter at least I had no idea what was going on.

To summarise. Too much reliance on Asian culture. Too much romance. Too much girl power. Ever heard of too much of a good thing? That phrase takes on a whole other level of meaning after reading this book.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for sending me an advanced copy to review .
Profile Image for Alice.
298 reviews113 followers
September 2, 2018
Now that I’ve actually read some of it I can DNF this thing in peace.

The worldbuilding doesn’t make sense the only thing I can say is 100% true is that 8 times 4 is 32 (an actual statement in this book). I want to go in depth about this but I don’t want to look back at this book.

Tbh this is just boring and the letter format doesn’t work in this books favor because Shefali puts her girl on such a pedestal it got annoying and Shizuka ain’t shit. Not to mention Shefali is half Hokkaran (flaxen haired and green eyed, unlikely but not impossible as a side note) and is self racist??? Her brother Kenshiro speaks hokkaran to their mom when they both can speak Qorin anyway? Are they code switching? I don’t think there was an explanation besides he’s proud of being hokkaran.

Regardless of the cultural fuck ups (rice tongue and ink drinker??? Really? Who okay’d this?) this book just isn’t interesting they don’t even introduce demons until 60 pages in and that was too much bullshit to read through for me.

Every time I see this book I get the vibes “look at this culture you don’t know lemme tell you stuff that may or may not be true about it even tho it has no bearing on the plot”. I had my suspicions even before the book came out and my fears were confirmed by Laurenlinvanyars review.

My response: (not this shitto agen gif)

The cultural details are offputting and told in a voyeuristic way that makes me uncomfortable. Like i don’t know if there’s any relevance to shefali telling Shizuka that the qorin cover their babies in urine to keep warm besides KA Rivera telling us “this is Asian I know things about Asia”. Regardless of whether it’s an actual real life practice, many instances where we are told these details are just fluff. You could cut it out and we’d still be waiting for these ladies to go slay demons until who knows when.
Also we get some gratuitous description of Shefalis Mongolian blue spot because you know... she’s Mongolian. (Whispers people of other ethnicities can have this too).

I think KAR was trying to depict inter Asian racism but that sure as hell does not excuse using rice tongue, rice eater, ink drinker and the like to do that. Rice is a staple crop and since there are traders between countries anyway I doubt that the Qorin dont consume at least some rice. Leave exploring of inter Asian racism to people who know what they’re doing.

Also lol those honorifics you can’t just have a characrer named keiko and then add “lao” just like that. Lao what? Lao shi? Is she a teacher? Is she Laotian? You mean to tell me that in a landlocked version of Asia, the Japanese language evolved as it did and has more or less the same type of names you see irl but has an honorific that just means old in Chinese? There’s no glossary in the back. Does it even get explained later on? I don’t care enough to keep reading.

Also the only Asian name in the acknowledgements is Utena. Let that sink in. Ofc there may be Asian people who are named in it that don’t have Asian surnames, it’s impossible for me to tell. But the most Asian sounding name is from an anime character. Wow. The word noodle isn’t even used once, I’m even more disappointed.

If you wanna write a wlw romance just do it, but don’t use people’s cultures as a playground if it’s not at all relevant and you’re gonna pull shit like “ink drinker”
Profile Image for Ellie.
575 reviews2,122 followers
May 3, 2020
"Do you remember the first time we met, Shizuka, or has that long faded from your memory? It is my favourite story in all the world to tell.”

This is: a) strongly romantic and b) the most beautiful cover I’ve ever seen

Edit: The cover artist is Jaime Jones and their work is so freaking i n c r e d i b l e. Would so recommend taking a look at their website link: here

Now, there are many people who would love this story. There are also many people who would not. The Tiger’s Daughter is very, very slowly plotted and romance-centred, and this is certainly not for everyone. Also, a large portion is epistolary and is communicated through letters which means its largely in second person - and I confess, that was a first for me. It is far more literary than commercial.

However, because I did finish all of it, I have to say this: The Tiger’s Daughter is an exquisitely written and emotionally intricate novel with some quite . . . interesting worldbuilding. It’s a Bildungsroman, which is one of the reasons it’s so long (as it follows these girls from their childhood to adulthood), and as a result I found it similar to The Song of Achilles as it followed these two incredibly close friends through life and love.

Shizuka and Shefali were wonderful characters, and the romance between them is just so beautifully constructed. They just loved each other so much, and so fiercely; the romance was probably the strongest aspect of the novel. Also shout out to the amazing female secondary characters Baozhai and Aberash (and Ren though something seems fishy about her).

The reason I’ve knocked a star is due to length and worldbuilding. You could say this novel is intricate, but it’s also confusing. Everyone has multiple names (i.e. clan names and Hokkaran names) and I'm used to courtesy names in Asian-inspired worldbuilding, but this book makes it remarkably difficult for readers to keep characters straight. There's no guide and there's no clear establishment early on to display to readers whose name is what, and what their alternate names are too. A character could be called in this book and I'd have no clue whether a new character was being called, or a previous one by a new title.

Also the honourifics were interesting because there were multiple but I wasn’t always sure what they denoted in terms of rank? (Again, a glossary please?) The central Hokkaran society was very much Japanese-based, down to names being lifted from Japanese culture, so i think it would’ve been possible to keep honourifics the same (especially as the author used the “O” honoured/revered honorific from real-life for the royalty in the book) instead of making them up like she does with some of the other worldbuilding aspects. That strange mix and match of authentic names with made-up ones made things a little odd.

The worldbuilding in this is a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Mongolian. And because it’s inspired by real life, a lot of ideas and cultural values are carried across from real life - making the worldbuilding intricately done, but also meaning some things are really questionable. Like the naginata was called a “coward’s weapon” in the book, but in real life, that’s far from true. You could read a little more about this kind of cultural mishandling (here) in this insightful review.

I bought book two before I even read book one (I’m telling you, these covers had me hook, line and sinker) so I will read it . . eventually, probably. I can see some people don’t like it as much as book one though, so that’s going to be an experience.

(What I will say though is that if you are looking for a Asian-inspired queer fantasy, I'd direct you to Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan, which is #ownvoices by an Asian and queer author.)

> 3.8 stars

read for #fffebruaryreads 2019
Profile Image for Miranda.
738 reviews111 followers
October 2, 2017
I went into The Tiger's Daughter with extremely high expectations and I am so happy that I was not let down at all! This book was enchanting and utterly mesmerizing. The combination of the rich fantasy, alluring romance, and heart-stopping action made for one addicting novel.

The fantasy world the author created in this book was so lush and well developed. I loved how many unique elements were present in this fantasy world. There was magic, healers, monster, and so much more. This book slowly introduced the fantasy world, which made me crave MORE! I am excited to see the world develop throughout the series so I can learn even more about it.

There were some influences from Japenese and Mongolian culture weaved throughout this book, which I thought added an interesting element to the story. I will admit, I do not know much about East Asian cultures, so I cannot speak on the cultural representation in the book. I will have to see what other reviews say on that element.

There were times when this book was a little confusing to read. A large chunk of this book was told in the perspective of a letter that Shefali wrote to Shizuka. The book would then also jump to Shizuka in the present, which sometimes would lead to some confusing jumping back and forth for me. However, I LOVED the letter and I think it created such a strong connection between Shefali and Shizuka. I was also glad to have parts of the book in the present because I NEEDED to know how the relationship was developing in the present.

This book was focused heavily on characters and the relationships between the characters. Sometimes this can lead to slower books, but I found this book addicting the entire time. There were plenty of heart-warming moments as well as moments that broke my heart. I became so invested in the characters in this book and their fate. I loved learning about the relationship between Shizuka and Shefali and their mothers. They were all confident and powerful women that I BECAME SO PROUD OF. THEY ARE SUCH BADASS WOMEN AND I ADORE THEM ALL SO MUCH.

The romance in this book was a large element of this book, AND I LOVED IT. Even though the romance was extremely prominent, I never thought it felt forced or cheesy. The romance developed naturally throughout the story. I could really feel the connection and passion between Shizuka and Shefali. Their relationship was so intimate and powerful. I SHIPPED THEM SO HARD. THEY ARE SO CUTE TOGETHER AND I NEED MORE OF THEIR RELATIONSHIP. ALSO, THEIR HEIGHT DIFFERENCE IS SO PRECIOUS?!?!? GIVE ME MORE OF THEIR F+F ROMANCE PLEASE!!!!??? I NEEEEEED IT.

The Tiger's Daughter is just the beginning of what I can tell will be one incredible journey for these characters. I cannot wait to see what is in store for us in the next book!

4 / 5 Fangs

*This ebook was given to me in exchange for an honest review. *

MrsLeif's Two Fangs About It
Profile Image for Gergana.
227 reviews391 followers
Shelved as 'zzz-books-not-for-me'
October 28, 2018
So....borrrrrrred...zzzzzzzz. Gave up after 1.5 chapters. And I spent money on it!! Not even that made me persevere.

-Cool cover!
-.... Cover is super pretty?

-Writing style - in the form of a letter, a very loooooooong letter where the two heroines recall their "adventures". Spoilers - they both survive and win, so nothing to excite me or make me cheer for them. Why would you write such a long letter describing events to a person who was already part of these events to begin with? Why?
- Can't say more since I didn't give this book much of a chance, but I was feeling really annoyed by the pacing in chapter 1 and 2 (almost 2 hours of the audiobook). Spoilers: NOTHING HAPPENS!!
-Audiobook narration was rather bad. It's like the narrator had air for maximum 5 words. The result was very emotionless and choppy and annoyed the crap out of me.

Not my cup of tea, but could be yours. Gorgeous cover though!
Profile Image for Rachel (TheShadesofOrange).
2,093 reviews2,957 followers
September 28, 2022
3.0 stars
I usually love Asian inspired fantasy so I hoped this one would be a new favourite, but unfortunately that was not the case. This was a slow burning story that was too heavy on the romance for my tastes. I usually enjoy a sapphic romance but I simply did not care about either of these women. Simply, this book lacked plot and I found it awfully dry. Apparently this book also has representation problems. I appreciated some elements of this story, but those were not enough to increase my overall enjoyment of the book.
Profile Image for Rina.
125 reviews2 followers
August 20, 2017
As a history teacher, I totally dig the Mongolian Empire. So I was beyond geeked when I received an ARC of The Tiger's Daughter from Netgalley. The description of the book gave me the impression that the plot was about Mongolian Warrior princesses fighting demons along the border of the Great Wall of China. Unfortunately, the book focused on a very slow developing forbidden lesbian relationship between two young girls near the steppes of somewhere that sounds Asian. Seventy five percent of this book is about these two girls realizing they have romantic feelings for each other and twenty five percent of the book is demon fighting. I think this book needs to be categorized differently. I did not sign up for some never ending description of two girls crushing on one another, and frankly it was too drawn out.
Profile Image for Lindsay.
1,264 reviews222 followers
June 26, 2018
Interesting book from several angles. Firstly, nearly the whole thing is written in the second person, as a book-length letter from one main character to the other relating their shared history from one of the character's perspective. (More on that below). Secondly, because the book has issues with cultural appropriation. It's an Asian-inspired setting with a romance between two women. The author is a lesbian, but clearly not Asian, and has inspired criticism from reviewers more familiar with the cultures she's "borrowing" from. I'm far from qualified to discuss the appropriation issues, so I won't do so here, but I do encourage people to read the reviews where this is discussed as there are some interesting perspectives there. It's also far from black and white, because purely from a representational point-of-view, a lesbian relationship in a not specifically romance book that doesn't fall into the Bury Your Gays trope is still a significant enough thing as to be notable. Particularly so when it's a really good book in a genre that doesn't tend to do well by gay characters. (Hello The Traitor Baru Cormorant!)

Our main characters are Shizuka, the niece of the Emperor of Hokkara (a country that reads like a combination of China and Japan) and Shefali, the daughter of a warlord of the Qorin people from the Steppes (pretty much Mongolia). Both are at least partly divine and from a very early age, adoring friends. But hard times have come to Hokkara, with crops failing and demons running rampant in the countryside. The Qorin too have issues, mainly due to losses from a war a generation ago. There are forces that constantly try to tear Shefali and Shizuka apart, along with their homelands.

I really enjoyed this. The relationship between the two characters is wonderful from when they're very young. Shefali ends up paying the costs for some of Shizuka's actions, but at no point does she indicate an unwillingness to do so with her devotion to Shizuka never in question. What we get are these two larger than life semi-divine characters blossoming into powerful young women with a deep relationship. It's kind of wonderful for that at least.

The framing conceit is a bit much though. This has to be the longest letter in history; longer than is believable. While there's a lot of Shefali's internal narration, personal secrets and opinions revealed to Shizuka, most of the story Shizuka should be intimately familiar with rendering the detail in the letter unnecessary. There's also an issue with the level of recollection that Shefali is displaying here for the events of literally years ago. (I don't recall even yesterday's events with this level of detail, let alone what happened when I was 8 years old).

Finally, I will comment a little on the mashing up of real world cultures here. China and Japan have very different cultures: mixing them is a bit on the nose, even to a person not directly familiar with either of the sources.
Profile Image for Kate.
1,233 reviews2,206 followers
July 29, 2018

I'm ngl, I'm a little disappointed, only because I really thought this was going to be a 5 star read for the first like, 250 pages.

This is a beautiful fantasy story told mostly in letters from one woman to another, and includes an asian inspired world and asian ladies in love. Though, let me warn you, it is NOT the epic, high-action fantasy novel you might be expecting. In this first novel, Shefali is recounting her and Shizuka's life together (half way through I began wondering WHY since she's writing TO Shizuka... who was obviously THERE for 90% of the story but thats fine) and begins when the two of them are born and are linked forever up until present day. It's a beautiful story of love and learning who you are with beautiful prose that could honestly be ready like poetry.

I REALLY enjoyed this story. It was like no fantasy novel I've ever read, and, luckily, I went in knowing it was much more character based than plot/action based. But, I must say, it got to be... a bit much.

I would say my BIGGEST complaint with this book was its length. It was simply way too long for how little actually happened, like yes, we went through their lives together and got lots of stories about these two girls growing up, but I still barely know where this world is going to go in the upcoming books. I enjoyed the character study, but 500+ pages was a bit much.

I would also say that I'm a bit torn on it being written in letters. On one hand, it was wonderful getting to really see inside Shefali's mind and her emotions and her feelings toward Shizuka - but on the other hand, the narrator is obviously INCREDIBLY biased. I felt like there were so many times that things should have been explained more or should have gone on for longer but Shefali brushed it off and didnt talk about it as much as her undying love for Shizuka. Which, thats fine, but there were so many things I wish we got more info on.

BUT other than those two things everything else was amazing
- the writing is BEAUTIFUL. I would not have thought i would see this type of writing in a fantasy novel
- the characters are all AMAZING. Not even just Shefali and Shizuka, but their loved ones are all just so fleshed out and REAL.
- the romance was beautiful. Never before have I cared SO MUCH about a romance in a book
- we have a character who is choice mute and uses sign language
- we have multiple fleshed out cultures and languages
- we have the very real struggles of a girl trying to figure out who she is and if its okay to love the person she loves and other things like that that many readers will very much connect to
- I'm very interested as to where this is going to go, it definitely has me hooked

Overall, I don't recommend this to people who want WAR, BATTLE, MURDER high fantasy. But if you're like me and enjoy a slower paced, more character driven fantasy then this is 100% for you!
Profile Image for wishforagiraffe.
212 reviews49 followers
December 6, 2017
I enjoyed this book. I loved parts of it (that ending is magnificent!) and parts of it dragged on for me. It took me almost 2 months to read, partially because of the slow parts, partially because other things kept distracting me, partially because I slipped up and read other reviews on Goodreads before starting and so they were always niggling in the back of my mind.

The two protagonists are both very well characterized, and it's easy to empathize with both of them. Their motivations largely make sense, and I didn't have any believability issues with them.

I liked the narrative style, with most of the book written as a letter and only little bits taking place in the present. It does take a little bit to get used to in the beginning, but it's not horribly jarring.

I can see where the rather notorious Goodreads review is coming from with some of the cultural sensitivity issues. I don't know enough about any of the cultures that are so obviously borrowed from to say whether they're accurate critiques, but I will say that it would have made just as much sense to borrow less and make up more, and made people far less unhappy.

I liked the plot, both all the action and developing romance, as well as the focus on family relationships.

There's a lot to enjoy about this book, and I'd recommend it for folks who are looking for Asian-inspired fantasy, epic fantasy, LQBTQ fantasy, women-centered narratives, and people looking for non-linear narration styles.

I was provided a review copy of this book courtesy of Net Galley.
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