At 512 pages this teen/YA fantasy book immerses you in the lives of two characters pitted against one another that are inevitably, drawn to each other. The world building is slow, as it seems to spend more time character building and shaping the magical Jinn filled world around the characters, through their eyes, and their interactions, than simply building a world, and then dropping characters in it. It never seems to drag, but the rising action is not concluded, it in fact ends on a cliff hanger raising the expectation for the next book in the series to take the story toward more action, emotion, and twists. I absolutely love and applaud the author’s note that articulates and clarifies that this book is not religious in nature and that threads of Islam and Persian culture are just reference points for this completely fictionalized tale. There is a passionate kiss, and violence, but this book is remarkably clean and an enjoyable read for ages 14 and up.
The story opens with Alizeh sitting by the fire sewing. She is freezing, she is always freezing, she is a Jinn, but her veins are ice. Completely alone, she is working as a maid, but as she is on probation, she lodges in a tiny closet away from the other service members, and is deathly afraid of the dark. Her loving parents raised her and nourished her, she is educated and strong, but since their deaths she has been on the run, trying simply to survive in a world where Clays forbid Jinn from using their magic. Alizeh is no ordinary Jinn though, the earth has chosen her to be the future Queen, her ever-changing eyes prove it, but for now, she has no kingdom, no family, no friends, no hope to lead. Only cryptic riddles given to her by Iblees that she dreads and fears, but warn her of impending dangers.
Kamran is the second storyline that builds the world of Ardunia. As the crown prince, and future king, he has returned from touring the country and has had his eyes opened to the forces threatening the empire, the inevitable war that is looming, and the shortage of resources that threaten them all. He is irritable and brooding and acting out of character when he intervenes in an altercation in the streets between a servant girl and a young boy. This sets off a series of events that will bring Alizeh and Kamran into direct conflict as their worlds intertwine and their passions build.
WHY I LIKE IT:
I love the clarification at the beginning, stating that this is not Islamic and that religious and cultural inspiration was just that, inspiration. It allowed me to get comfortable and enjoy the tale for what it is. I wasn’t worried about checking things, or worrying about religious impressions and accuracy, it was so freeing, thank you. I really hope that there is a map in the final physical copy, because I just really like maps. I liked the Persian numbers and script on the chapters and the references make the book that much richer and fleshed out.
I am admittedly fairly new to fantasy, so I enjoyed the slower pace and character building. I found it enveloping and smooth, there were small conflicts, but the subtle world building through understanding the characters, and their perspectives, was a nice framing for a story that very easily could have dragged, but in reality flew by. The only point that I found unrefined, was how much Alizeh knew of her past and the impact it had on her current situation. There seemed to be a bit of a disconnect in teasing that thread. The reader knows who she is, so I’m not sure why she seems to not know, and then proves that she does, there is no subtlety in that regard. And the only character, that seemed underdeveloped was that of Hazan, his banter with the Kamran grated on my nerves, and I didn’t understand the abruptness of his and Alizeh’s relationship, it seemed forced. Nearly everything else in the book was very organic and gently referenced and established very deliberately, but it almost seemed like I missed a chapter or two, when all of a sudden Hazan emerges as being such a main character in Alizeh’s life. Undoubtedly it was a surprise for the reader, but some nuance in the revelation through Alizeh’s eyes, would have assisted in the continuity of the character and tone of the book.
A kiss, and attraction, talk of illegitimate children. There is killing and violence, attempted assault: physical and sexual, not detailed, but referenced as a fear as she walks alone at night. There is darkness and talk of the devil, deceit, lying, plotting. Nothing an early teen could not handle.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I would have to delay deciding if I could do this as a book club selection until I read the next book. There is so much potential, that I truly hope that I can introduce the series to young readers to enjoy, get lost in, and discuss.