Book Review (#97): Amok by Anna Tan

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Title: Amok

Author: Anna Tan

Publisher: Teaspoon Publisher

Published: June 2021

Rating: 3/5

All Putera Mikal wants is to gain the Amok Strength, the supernatural power granted by Kudus to the Mahan royal family. No matter how religiously Mikal keeps his vows, Kudus still denies him the Strength—whilst his father, Sultan Simson, flaunts the Strength despite his blatant defiance of the Temple and the priests’ visions of coming doom.

Then the prophecies come true.

Taken captive, Mikal must find a way to liberate his people and restore his throne in Maha—and the key to this is the Amok Strength. But what does it take to gain Kudus’ favour?

I finally finished reading the book Amok by Anna Tan and I am ready to provide ya’ll with an in-depth and HOPEFULLY SPOILER FREE REVIEW.

Before we start, I would like to thank Anna Tan and Teaspoon Publishing for providing me with this ARC in return for an honest review. Let’s get started ladies and gents!

Amok tells the story of Prince Mikal, Prince of Maha, first city-state of Terang and his struggles in faith to their God Kudus due to the fact that he has yet to come into his Amok strength powers. The Amok strength is a legendary power that all royals can gain access to once they come of age (mind you Mikal is 15 at the start of the book). But no matter how much he keeps his vows and does what he is supposed to do nothing has changed and he still has yet to gain any Amok strength. 

Then some BAMBOOZLEMENT happens! Where Maha is invaded and destroyed by their enemies and the people of Maha, royalty included is thrown into a life rife with suffering and humiliation where one does not know who is friend nor foe. How will Mikal overcome this obstacle and gain back his honour, his pride and his rightful place in Maha as Maha’s royal Prince.

DUN DUN DUNNNNNN

If you follow me on my bookstagram (do follow me guys if you haven’t, links down in the description) you would kind of realize I took issue with one and ONLY ONE aspect of this book and that aspect was my utter disdain and annoyance with the main character Prince Mikal.

OMG I DONT EVEN KNOW WHEREEEE TO BEGIN WITH ANNOYANCE WITH HIM.

Ok ok I will chill and talk about other aspects of the book first.

Push my disdain for the main character aside, I actually really enjoyed this book. The writing is great and reeled me in like I was a fish on a hook, floundering around trying to understand my own roller-coaster of emotions as I was reading this book.

I liked the Malay phrases as well as the Malay elements used in the books makes me feel included you know, because duh I’m Malay (Sarawakian Malay but whatever still Malay). It was so much fun reading how the men practiced silat, they used keris and parang to fight, seeing how they used baju kebaya and samping along with calling people according to their titles such as Baginda Paduka, Laksamana etc because let’s be totally honest who uses those terms now in their daily life? (unless you work with the sultan I guess but for everyday people you dont really call people Laksamana do you?)

The plot was awesome… really kept you at the edge of your seat and when some characters that I liked died I did feel the pain of loss because you want them to survive. You want them to be able to overcome this enormous adversity and go home and be happy.

But alas, like I said previously, the enjoyment of this book I could not fully savour due to my problems with the main character. 

The main issue I have with Prince Mikal is the fact that he is mostly self-centered, entitled, privileged and the most whiny character I have ever read. Yes, you can make a defense saying that he is a child and whilst I agree 15 in our modern standards is still a baby but back then 15 you are already considered a man and mature plus he is a Prince. Mikal isn’t an ordinary boy, he is a Prince with responsibilities attached to that royal bloodline of his and yet because we read this book from his perspective all I saw was an entitled and spoiled Prince who needs to have everything given and delivered to him on a silver platter.

Not only that, my god, is he stupid. He is so absolutely idiotic. 

I say this because Prince Mikal has become a prisoner of war and is now a slave for his former servant Yosua. Not once did he ever think to pretend to be a slave/pretend to be broken and humble himself so he could learn the enemy’s routines and memorise the relative map of the enemy’s land which in turn could help him devise a way to escape. Something ya know, anything, but no all we read for pages on end is just Prince Mikal constantly… CONSTANTLY… complaining why me, why didn’t I get my Amok strength, why is this happening to me, this is not fair, always about him and his predicament.

First few weeks I get it man you’re in shock and you dont know whats going on what’s going to happen but as a Prince that must have had some sort of training like get your shit together man. Devise a plan. Like okay, right now you’re in this predicament how will you get yourself outside of said predicament which reminds me that Prince Mikal is a reactive character.

Things happen to him, the plot moves him along instead of him making decisions that affect the plot. This happens for most of the book where shit just happens to Mikal and he would complain about it to no end. It is towards the end of the book, I would say the last 100-200 pages he changes into a more proactive character but by then it was too late for me. 

Also, kan, he keeps complaining Kudus left him la, doesn’t love him la, this and that… sikit-sikit lost faith… ITS SO FUCKING ANNOYING… I GET IT LIFE IS HARD BUT THIS IS A FUCKING TEST FROM GOD… You think God when he tests you he just gives something that you can easily overcome especially for a person like Mikal who follows everything by the book but doesn’t truly have faith. He says he does and he says he has an epiphany and he will change and have more faith and truly follow Kudus (which to be honest with you gave me hope for him I wanted to like him damn it!) but then some small shit happens and Mikal is back to being that whiny punk that doesn’t have two brain cells to rub together and is all like omg Kudus why you left me, how could you Kudus, are you even real? MALAS AKU EH ORG KDAK TOK… PADAH TEK CAYAK AN KUDUS TAPI IDUP SUSAH SIKIT ALU LOST FAITH BAGUS SIK PAYAH EH… BAGUS SIK PAYAHHHHHH… AISH SETAN BENA

I gotta calm down… I gotta chill.. This wasn’t supposed to be a rant review…I cannot delve further into this without going into spoilers so I will just continue to my next issue.

This issue isn’t so much a deal breaker, it’s just confusing and that is the loyalty that Yosua has for Mikal. I dont get it… sometimes its borderline romantic so I am not sure if the author is queer-baiting or I am just not used to this type of unexplainable loyalty. 

This is because you don’t get to see the why of the loyalty, Mikal says that they grew up together and are best friends but that’s the thing, you have to wholeheartedly believe what Mikal says. You don’t get to see it unfold. You don’t see other characters talk upon how close they are and the background for it. There is no concrete foundation that you as a reader can see and understand the why. 

I had a microscopic problem with the magic system of the book. It’s not bad, I just wanted more explanation on how it worked, who gets what etc because it was pretty loose so you have to use a lot of your imagination to fill in the blanks. 

Again, I have to reiterate, everything else in this book chefs kiss… the writing SUPERB! IF EVEN THE WRITING PUN I DON’T LIKE TRUST ME FAM I WOULD’VE DNF’ED THAT SHIT but I didn’t because the writing is genuinely good. Plot also BOMBASTIC! It’s just the main character that was meh for me, maybe it’s because I am 28 and had to be the breadwinner of my family for the longest time and had to hold that amount of responsibility that when I see a whiny character that doesn’t even try to improve their own situation by any means necessary I truly cannot empathise. 

Thus, concludes my review for the ARC Amok by Anna Tan and again my review is my own and is only focused on the book and NOT the author.