I have to say I’ve been on a roll with bomb fantasy books. I don’t know if it’s because the young adult authors of the world have stepped up since I was a teenager or WHAT, but this book goes on my shelf of “YA Fantasy Heroines who can F*** It Up”
And I Mean that with the most supreme of compliments.
Let’s get to the reviewing:
Zahru, (bless her this girl has the WORST luck) is a teenager who attempts to sneak into her country’s version of the Hunger Games. Well not really, but it’s close. You see, as a new king passes on his throne, there is a cranked up version of Capture The Flag among the heirs culminating in the heirs competing to kidnap and sacrifice a predetermined citizen for the throne. Well things go to hell and Zahru gets selected for the dubious honor. And off we go on a treacherous race across the desert where Zahru has to use her wits, powers, and kindness in order to outlast her would-be murderers. And that’s simplifying it.
I think what fascinated me most about this book wasn’t the race to see who would become the King/Queen. It was how each of the three heirs were sympathetic in their own ways and represented three very different ways to run a kingdom. I understood their motivations, even if I didn’t agree with them. The morally grey Kasta is treated as a villain, but you do see what’s driven him in life and you root for him to change until the very end.
There were also three very different dynamics that Zahru had with each of them. Obviously there was that little bit of love triangle, but honestly watching Zahru banter with Jet delighted me the same way her patience and attempts to get through to Kasta did. Sakira was a bit of a wildcard, but her motivations were almost the most interesting to try and parse through.
Zahru is also straight up funny. Her humor is dry and sassy and her capacity for kindness is on par with her capacity for logic. She is, overall, a good person and that is both her biggest strength and greatest weakness. I absolutely adored her from start to finish and I can’t wait to see her grow even more in the next book.
This was very much a character driven novel as much as it was an adventure. The world is explained at a base level and you are expected to roll with it without much thought. Had this been a deeper, existential novel, I would have had a problem with it, but not this novel. This novel is over all such a blast to read and I think weighty descriptions and explanations of Gods and Goddesses would have dragged it down. I also very much appreciate that Zahru’s gifts were shown off in this. Animal whispering must be a new fantasy fad or something, but this novel has done it right.
I truly don’t have anything big to critique in this one. I am SO excited to see what happens in the conclusion (especially after that cliffhanger: I SEE YOU MAIA, GO OFF!!!)