Today I am thrilled to be sharing a long overdue review for the amazing fantasy series starter Girl With Three Eyes by Priya Ardis. This fun YA romp had just about everything I could ask for when your looking for a literary pick-me-up: a strong protagonist with some serious emotional wounds, a sweet n’ awkward love interest, a house-based school system, high stakes intrigue, deep friendships, a thrilling new school sport that’s a delightful cross between between boardercross and jousting, and more than few characters that you’ll love to hate.
All together… Chef’s kiss.
Title: Girl with Three Eyes
Author: Priya Ardis
Publisher: Vulcan Ink
Publication Date: August 31, 2020
Genre: YA Fiction, YA Fantasy, Fantasy
Themes: Found Family, Espionage, Betrayal, Friendship, School Sports, Teen Romance
She would hate her third eye less if it actually gave her special powers.
Sixteen-year-old Kira puts on a show about having empathic abilities, but she miraculously wakes a highborn boy from a coma after a near-fatal accident on mountainous slopes. When his father threatens to expose her “magic” to the queen, she attends the kingdom’s most elite academy as a bodyguard.
Soon, she’s immersed in a strange new life—one of being a simple student trying out for the school’s skyboarding team. Her fake life becomes the life she’s always wanted, but Kira cannot escape who she truly is. Nothing in the court of the Raj is as it seems…
Will she risk her freedom to unmask a killer before the crown falls?
Girl with Three Eyes is a young adult fantasy series. If you like strong female protagonists, futuristic fairy tales, and epic tournaments, you’ll love this blend of Hindu lore and political intrigue in Priya Ardis’s academy fairy tale.
It’s pretty clear that Kira Shine is the chosen one from the opening pages – we know that she’s low-born, a talented athlete, in possession of magical abilities, and that she has to hide her physical differences from others in order to avoid censure. Then along comes an event that changes everything and BAM! It’s suddenly her job to Do The Thing™ and Save The People™ and this book if off the the races.
I fell in love with Kira’s voice in the first few pages as it is both young and believable. Her sayings and internalization are sheltered and more than a little naive – especially when it comes to romance – and this lead to a lot of laughs in those relatable ‘I’ve been there’ moments. She’s awkward, inexperienced in forming friendships and romantic relationships, but still wants to be part of that world. In short, Kira embodies your average young lady trying to fit into a new setting and navigating some darned confusing emotions for the very first time.
However, Kira’s inexperience in social settings is balanced out by a cast of characters who were raised in the high-class, high-stakes setting of the court and the Raj Royal School. You have Sarita, the loveable general’s daughters; Trace, the caustic but potentially loveable rich boy; and Ajay, the gorgeous love interest who just so happens to be a prince. They’re all bound together through their involvement with the school’s skyboarding team, and ultimately Kira’s investigation into a string of assassination attempts. Together they make a balanced and dynamic group of teens, and I can’t wait to see how they change and develop as the series progresses.
But, if the characters doesn’t draw you in, Ardis’s writing is sure to do the trick. Her style light, imaginative and incredibly fast paced. The world building is both unique and gradual, painting the picture of a fragile empire laced through futuristic technology and myth-like magic. There are unique geographical regions, a defined class society, and the seeds of social revolution shaking the foundations of life as the characters know it. And then there’s the matter of the investigative arc, with high stakes and dire consequences, carefully threaded throughout Kira’s personal journey. There’s an abundance of subtle clues and details that will allow for invested or seasoned readers to predict the ending, but no so many as to give all the twists away. I genuinely can’t wait for the next book to be released!
Finally, there’s a lot of YA Fantasy out there that should really be classed as NA or adult – and believe me, I devour it with my whole heart – but Girl With Three Eyes is well and truly a YA book and this fills my heart with joy. The characters in it are in the 13-16 range and the embody the maelstrom of contradictions that come with that age. They are awkward and emotional, keep secrets and make impulsive decisions, and regularly blow inconsequential events out of proportion. But then on the next page they make intelligent and rational decisions, experience deep emotions and empathy, and navigate some very adult problems with an enviable and single-minded focus. In short, they are teenagers. And I’ll be damned because they actually act like it.
The result is that this book is an inviting bridge between the world of MG and YA fantasy. It’s chalk full of the tropes that are beloved in the genre – it has a chosen one, an orphan falling in love with a prince, a house based school, complex and magical sports, an outsider protagonist with an impossible task, dramatically dysfunctional families, and more. Some might say that these tropes are over-used, but honestly, we keep reading them for a reason! They’re relatable, there’s an infinite number of ways in which an author can make them new and fresh (hence my love of this book!), and the fact that most readers enjoy a touch of the familiar when they delve into new and magical worlds. Having these tropes presented in a setting that is free from the adult responsibilities found in the later age ranges for YA helps to build knowledge without being overwhelming, and it’s exactly the kind of book I would recommend for Junior High and High School Libraries.
Many thanks to NetGalley and the Publisher for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review, and my deepest apologies for not reviewing the ARC prior to publication. 2020 has been a bitch.