I think the first thing that appealed was the setting. The Indian influence that saturated Marhavad was delightful and with most of what I've read in fantasy set in more European influenced worlds, an enjoyable change. I cannot express how nice it is to read about somewhere a little different and loose some of the Anglo-European centric feel that many fantasy novels have. I liked the character of Keshan Adaru, who is a man with change at the forefront of everything he does. If I have any whinges it's that I did find Jandu's curse a little odd in the scheme of things. I don't think I've really read anything quite like it before and this was probably its most appealing quality.
I loved the unusual fantasy setting which mirrored that of an Indian caste society and the growth of the main character, Jandu, from a spoiled princeling to man of honour and integrity, through a series of experiences which change him dramatically.
If you love reading Fantasy don't miss out on this book. The story and world, I found just amazing. I loved this story and I will think about all of its nuances for a long time and I will very likely re-read.
Take it from me, who's read a ridiculous amount of m/m novels - it's super hard to find a good quality fantasy m/m book. Jandu Paran, Yudar's brother, is a brilliant archer but is shallow and arrogant, yet he cannot ignore the powerful attraction between he and Keshan. After finishing this, it is absolutely mind-blowing to go back and think about how all the main characters started out, especially Jandu (particularly since I started out not really liking any of them!). I can't think of another fantasy novel that I've read which borrows from India, rather than that dreaded Middle Ages cliche, or even from the Middle East. This book is divided into three novels, and I am writing this review after re-reading the first one.
Jandu is an exceptional archer who cares little for the outside world until his way of life is challenged by his friendship with the descendent of the Yashva, Keshan Adaru.
Strange that none of the reviews (well, those I've read anyway) seem to mention that this book contains lots of infidelity and Polyandry, amongst other things, and all of that directly involves the main two characters. I would've liked it more if the introduction of the characters had been more gradual, not all at once. The jumping POV was a bit irritating, it felt like there was finally something interesting happening and then bam! The worst however, by the end of the book, reading the last sentence felt absolutely anti-climatic. It seemed like not much happened and there wasn't much of an actual story, or romance for that matter. Basically, it seemed like a draft, an introduction prequel sort of thing, to the actual story. Keshan married some woman just because she wrote some letter to him, and though he doesn't like her at all, he keeps her at his side (for what?) while cheating on her left and right. Tarek spineless fool who lucked out to move up to another caste, but acts like a slave to his friend Darvad, who also happens to be his love interest. I would say I liked Iyestar, but the way he acted in the end therenope. Basically, all these characters are very selfish despite what most of them say and claim to strive for, they only care for their own agendas and that sort of dissonance between their actions and words was a bit irritating.
I cried in several passages - especially the bit where Keshan realises that his mission to change the world could be redefined to the influencing of one man whom he loved - Jandu. And despite the many many (but no!-type) deaths leading towards the ending - some of which I could not predict - I was so relieved that the lovers were left some family and friends to start their brave new world in - these ranking amongst my favourite of the characters e.g. Iyestar, Suraya and her brother, Anant (love this fellow) and the 17 year-old mentoree of Jandu's. Strange though that it was only Jandu out of the 4 who seemed to develop a greater compassion and understanding of the outcast untouchables through all the suffering they went through - might that be cause he had a mentor like Keshan? And likewise for Keshan - to find that ideals and dreams can only become real through the physical manifestation of love towards a tangible human being - moves his experience and understanding of social justice and equality beyond the abstract nature of law and legislation into the personal and experiential - he would be willing himself to become one of those who he was championing for the sake / love of another.
First things first When The Archer's Heart arrived with a thunk on my doorstep I admit to being daunted about the task of reviewing such a large book that was sure to be filled with the rich prose I've come to expect from this author. Once I'd started reading I quickly forgot my earlier intimidation and over the next four to five hours completely lost myself in the world the author had created. The story focuses on Keshan and Jandu and their relationship and on the story of Tarek. Tarek and the unrequited feelings he has for his Lord (Darvad) provides the contrast to the openness, love and commitment between Keshan and Jandu. Keshan is politically savvy with a radical vision (literally) for the future which he works to see implemented and Jandu is a spoilt young man who has never questioned his position as Prince. For all his apparent shallowness at the beginning of the book, Jandu was by far my favourite character. Although I understand Tarek's relationship with Darvad provided juxtaposition to that of Keshan's and Jandu's, I found myself becoming increasingly frustrated with his inability to see the truth about Darvad.
For the life of me I coudn't figure out why I wasn't enjoying The Archer's Heart as much as I should, why it didn't seem captivating, fascinating, lovable, why I didn't want to reread it immediately after finishing like I'd often have done with my favorite one. Somewhere at 2/3 I recognized the plot from the Mahabharata (at first I thought there are only some minor details borrowed, like several husbands, and that's all), which is a plus, meaning there is no shameless stealing, nothing too obvious. I can't in good conscience rate it five stars - not only because of my personal opinion, but also because of some minor plot details that I didn't like, some stylistic discrepancies... I mean Keshan XD During the first few pages I was even thrilled thinking, "OMG, at last free unrestrained sex, at last the characters are attracted to each other instantly, at last a world without homophobia and prosecution of gays." No such luck, sadly. I always wonder why authors who are painstakingly creating their own worlds, almost never fail to introduce homophobia and, sometimes, a brutal punishment for being gay - like burning at the stake (!) in the Rifter series (The Shattered Gates and other 9 books). I remember myself thinking, "A book with such a cover just can't be bad, and if it is it will break my heart." Although, *pedantic mode on* it's not consistent with the supposed racial features and battle gear XD