Taghri’s Prize, by Peter Grant
Taghri has left the Sultan’s army to seek his fortune – and he seizes the opportunity when it knocks. In the confusion of a pirate raid on a trading caravan, he kills their leader and captures their ship. The vessel is now his prize of war… but some prizes may be more trouble than they’re worth!
Nestled among the gold coins in the captain’s cabin is a stolen Temple sacrificial knife, whose Goddess is now paying close attention – too close! – to its new owner. Among the slaves he’s freed is a princess, formerly being held for ransom, who comes with political and personal intrigues all her own. Even if he survives the attention of both, there’s also a pirate lord out there, hell-bent on avenging the death of his son.
It’s going to take all of Taghri’s skill, experience and cunning to survive winning this prize!
Overall Impression: Positive
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Taghri’s Prize is an enjoyable adventure in a past pseudo-historical time following an ex-military type as he finds his way through his next endeavors to establish himself as a person of importance in a new city. The story is fictional, but much of the culture and settings are based on real historical occurrences. It was interesting to learn about some of the more basic things about a different culture, like the names for different types of Arabic clothing and ships from the time, and Taghri himself was a unique character to see the world through.
While I found the characters interesting and fun to read about, the development and rational for their motives behind some of their actions were not very strongly established. I would have greatly enjoyed seeing more of Taghri from before he left the Sultan’s army, to give me a better understanding of how the man had changed from the time he was a soldier, and the events, dilemmas and challenges that led to him having such a drastically different view of the world than other people in his culture, especially when it came to how he views the treatment of women. In some ways, it almost felt like the author was hesitant to delve into tackling the sensitive subject of the way women were treated as property in the historical culture in which this story was set, so instead, they simply wrote Taghri as someone who treated women with a more modern level of equality and respect instead, without convincingly explaining how he came to view them that way. I feel the story would have been better served either by having Taghri’s persona adhere more normally to the culture expectation, perhaps with his respect for the princess being a source of confusion and conflict for him as to why he felt the need to treat her differently, or the author needed to commit to the challenge of discussing and dealing with the ways women were treated in older times, and what would have led Taghri to treat them differently.
Similarly, I would have like to see a slower and more detailed accounting of the development of the relationship between Taghri and the princess throughout the book, as this seemed to be what the author wanted to be the driving factor for many of Taghri’s differences in behavior from other men around him. The lack of time spent inside either Taghri or the princess’s thoughts as their relationship developed was noticeable, with so much of Taghri’s behavior supposedly driven by his interactions with the princess.
The plot itself was very cohesive, well-explained and was full of fun action scenes and descriptive details about the military strategies and tactics. My only complaint was that sometimes I felt like I was being told the exact same thing (sometimes almost word for word) two or three times as Taghri relayed plans to multiple members of his crew. In the absence of similarly detailed handling of the characters interpersonal interactions and general events in more casual, non-military situations (such as some of the political dinners and meetings), the hyper-detailed military descriptions felt a little out of place.
The plot also seemed somewhat predictable, with a bit of deus ex machina at work, but since there was a goddess (and maybe some gods?) sticking their fingers into mortal things, I can forgive quite a bit of that. Taghri as a character seemed to be the type to have a plan for everything, which sometimes made the story feel a bit unbelievable, as Taghri never seemed phased or taken off guard by anything. Some of this might have been corrected if Taghri’s backstory in the military was more established and more thoroughly explained why he was like this, and what had led to him being such a critical and tactical thinker.
I definitely liked the writing style of the book. It used a nice variety of descriptive language and didn’t feel repetitive or overly simplistic, aside from the previously noted repetitiveness of some of the military strategies. The writing was clear and easy to understand what was going on and I always knew which characters were speaking. As a side note, a glossary of some of the Arabic specific words, such as the names of clothing pieces or boats that were used might have been nice, since I had to look all of these up online.
Overall, I enjoyed reading Taghri’s Prize and would recommend the book to anyone looking to take an adventure with a deviously-minded, well-intentioned man looking to earn his fortune and win the heart of a princess.
– written by Whim Shifter (Book reviewer @TheNovelMarket)
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