Bart's Reviews > The Tiger's Daughter

The Tiger's Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
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it was amazing
bookshelves: to-read

This is such a beautiful book, and I loved reading every word of it. It's a character-driven story, told (mostly) in the form of letters from one character to another, from one woman to her lover. Yes, the idea that Barsalyya would recount her love affair with O-Shizuka is a little strange -- after all, O-Shizuka was there, and surely would remember all these moments, no? And the cover tagline does the book a slight disservice ("Even gods can be slain") because it implies that this will basically be about a pair of ass-kicking lesbian lovers in an action-packed romp, cutting down gods left and right.

No, this is a slow-paced book. This book doesn't want you to gallop across the steppes. It wants you to wander slowly, softly through a garden. It wants you to contemplate and meander, to luxuriate in the small moments, to savor the slow blossoming of the romance. And wow, is it beautifully written, with feelings deeply developed over its pages.

The other big question about this book concerns appreciation vs. appropriation. I know some are concerned that the author appropriates Japanese, Chinese, and Mongolian cultures; I leave it up to you to decide that for yourself, but I will say this: I see Rivera's book very much in the same style as Guy Gavriel Kay, who writes Earth-adjacent books. But I don't see many critiques of appropriation for Kay's work -- and Kay has also written alternate histories of China (see River of Stars/Under Heaven), despite the fact that Kay is a white Canadian dude.

These Earth-adjacent books are a form of shorthand -- change a few letters, rearrange the geography a bit, and you have something that sort of resembles Earth but isn't (some examples from Kay include Jad for God in Lions of al-Rassan, or Quileia instead of Aquileia in Tigana). It keeps the author from having to essentially say, "Picture ancient China but not quite!" or "Think Medieval Spain but with Kindath and Asharites instead of Jews and Muslims!"

Rivera uses this trick to construct her world in The Tiger's Daughter; she is deliberately not using China/Japan/Mongolia, but a rough re-imagining of these countries and then taking them in a completely different direction. It is still fantasy, after all, and there are gods and demons. And aside from the gorgeous writing, it's clear to me that Rivera loves this world and the characters who live in it. And that love shone through every word in this book. That, to me, makes it appreciation.
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Reading Progress

November 24, 2017 – Shelved
November 24, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read

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