3.5 stars. This book was emotionally exhausting. First of all- A big thank you to Bloomsbury for providing me with a physical copy!
Despite what the cover implies, this book is not a light-hearted fantasy in the least. Prepare yourself for extremely heavy topics such as physical and emotional abuse, including unconsented physical relations in an arranged marriage and pregnancy with the threat of a miscarriage. Now, I’m not saying the author didn’t handle them well, but they are definitely a prominent part of the book as a whole. It isn’t a scene you can skip, it buries itself deep into the theme.
Because of this, it was a VERY difficult book for me to finish, let alone review.
Shalia is a strong heroine who agrees to an arranged marriage to bring about peace. However, her husband is extremely cruel and itches for war. Shalia tries to change his heart and weave peace into his rule, but almost everything backfires. It doesn’t help that Shalia’s brothers are involved in the resistance, and if her husband finds out, she will pay the price (and oh, she does.)
The writing was lovely and there were some truly outstanding characters including Shalia’s brother Kairos. In fact, I really admire her whole family though they were quite sparse.
I really can’t say it enough though – this is not a happy book. I had to walk away from reading it a few times just for a breath of fresh air. Just be prepared if you decide to read it. The author does NOT glorify any of the abuse, but it is still difficult to read. Also, I want to note that the romance does not involve the abuser.
This is different than your average fantasy for sure and involves lots of political strategizing/etc. The plotline is unique. I can’t speak to the representation but I liked the richness of the tribes, though most of the book isn’t actually spent amongst Shalia’s family in the desert, despite what the cover suggests.
However, if you feel prepared to brave these topics, the book truly is well written!
Lastly, I would like to point out that I read the authors note and I recommend everyone else do the same. I relate so much – the author has been fighting a very rough battle, one that I completely relate to. I have a different illness, but props to her for writing a book of this caliber while dealing with all that. I’m in the same boat, I’m writing a book despite there being days I can’t even hash out a sentence, let alone look at a screen. I have a ton of respect for her and I’m so glad she shared her story in the back.