Books by Muslim Authors, Muslim Shelf Space, YA Books

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal – ARC Review

Thank you to Macmillan Childrens Books for sending me this arc in exchange for an honest review.

This is the sequel to We Hunt the Flame and has become one of my absolute favourite reads!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return.

As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.

This book and the zumra has been living in my head rent free since I read it. I really enjoyed We Hunt the Flame but this book was absolutely phenomenal. There is no way I can truly explain how much I loved this book and how incredible the characters arcs were. This is Zafira and Nasir’s story and I loved their arcs so much. Especially Nasir who had such incredible growth and development from the hashashin we meet in We Hunt the Flame. But I also adored Altair, he was my favourite in the first book and I loved him even more in this one. I will forever mourn Benyamin who made them the zumra but was not able to see all that they achieved.

Tears aren’t a measure of heart. We grieve in different ways.

The book starts right where we ended in WHTF and while the first book started a little slower to build the world and introduce the characters, this book takes us straight into the action and show us what the characters are doing and how they are dealing with the aftermath of the ending of WHTF. I loved that we see more of the world in this book as we travel to different places as each character continues their journeys. I loved the world building and the glimpses we get of an even wider world yet to be explored and I hope we get to see them one day too!

Zafira is dealing with having the jawarat speak to her and try to manipulate her and also trying to come to terms with the fact that her people no longer need a hunter so who is she if she isn’t the hunter. I loved seeing her battle with this, it felt so real and so relatable, trying to figure out who you are and who you want to be when you aren’t forced to be something for the sake of others. As the eldest daughter, it felt so real that internal struggle she has, can she truly live her life for herself without that guilt weighing her down. I really loved how her story ended and the choices she makes for herself. She also has to deal with the misogyny and sexism and fights against this and I just loved it so much.

One of the most difficult parts of her story was reading about the guilt and tension between her and Yassmine because of the death of Deen and that it was Altair that killed him, who is now Zafira’s friend. I loved their bond and relationship in the first book so it was heartbreaking to read the strain in their relationship in this book but it also felt real, and I loved how they started to work through it but it wasn’t magically fixed and we see that it will require work from both of them. But in this book we also see her build a wonderful friendship with Kifah and I just loved seeing them both work together and be able to turn to each other.

My blade is yours. Until every last star is freed, we are bound.

Nasir’s arc was so incredible to read in this book, I liked him in WHTF but in this book I completely loved him. No one is more surprised by this than I am especially as I am usually not a fan of the broody characters but his growth and development was just SO GOOD. I loved seeing him learn to accept himself and let other people in and that caring isn’t a bad thing. His and Zafira’s scenes were so delicious to read, truly, the sexual tension and the angst was done so perfectly and I just lived for their scenes. Nasir is completely smitten by Zafira and the way he describes her and treats her like the queen she is was just so wonderful to see. Him also learning to use his powers and realising that it isn’t something that is jut evil was also something that I really loved reading.

I loved seeing him and Altair also start to build a better relationship with each other, especially after we find out they are half brothers in WHFT and that Altair has been working to build a better world for them all. There is so much baggage between them and yet you can see how much they truly end up caring for each other.

Do you understand brother? You’ll have me. No matter how thick the night, I will always be there to light your way.

We learn a lot more about Altair in this book too and his past and all the mysterious things he did to get everyone to the Sharr in WHTF. I loved learning about his back story but it was also tragic and I just want all the happiness for him. I am so glad we see more of him especially as he is my favourite with his wit and sarcasm and yet he cares so deeply for everyone even as he feels discarded. Seeing his resentment of Nasir was so heartbreaking to read and I felt truly afraid for him at times.

We also see more of Lana in this book and I loved her so much, she is so young yet has had to grow up so quickly and an incredible healer and I loved seeing her interactions with Zafira and one particular memorable moment between her and Nasir. We are also introduced to a few new characters that I really enjoyed reading about too.

You have your duty as I have mine.

The zumra spend the book trying to save their people from the lion of the night who has made himself king and they go through a lot and have to come to terms with a lot about themselves too. But we also learn a lot about the lion too and how he became who he is now and his life is also so tragic. We see how cycles of abuse hurt everyone and that it has to end to be able to build a better world and heal rather than seeking revenge for the way they were wronged.

We will carve our names upon history, and we, too, shall live forever.

This book ties up Zafira and Nasir’s story really well and I loved both their endings so much, it felt so fitting for them. I would however love to see a spin off with Altair because I just want to see him get some happiness because he suffers so much in this book. Also there is more I want to say but I can’t because spoilers but truly I can see the spin off with him a certain character and I just need it!

This book is phenomenal and I need you all to go buy it and read it. The writing is so rich and vivid and the world is so intricate and the characters are amazing. I just loved this book so much.

Booksish Discussions, Muslim Shelf Space

Muslim Shelf Space Books Releasing in 2021 I’m Excited For

2020 has been one hell of a year but somehow we’re almost to the end of this year. While this year has sucked in many ways I have read some absolutely incredible books and there are some amazing books coming out next year that I am so excited for! So here is my list of books by Muslim authors that I am so excited for!

City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda January 12th

We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal January 19th

The Khan by Saima Mir March 4th

Theft of Sunlight by Intisar Khanani March 4th

The Muslim Problem: Why we’re wrong about Islam and why it matters by Tawseef Khan March 4th

Rumaysa by Radiya Hafiza April 1st

Amina’s Song by Hena Khan April 15th

Counting down with you by Tashie Bhuiyan May 4th

Misfit in Love by S.K. Ali May 25th

Diana and the Underworld Odyssey by Aisha Saeed May 25th

Hani and Ishu’s guide to fake dating by Adiba Jaigirdar May 27th

Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin June 3rd

Ace of Spades by Faridah Abike-Iyimide June 10th

The Wild Ones by Nafiza Azad August 3rd

Journey to the Heart of the Abyss by London Shah October

Daevabad Short Stories by S.A. Chakraborty fall

If you know of any others do let me know! I obviously need to add books to my tbr.

Favourite Book Quotes, Muslim Shelf Space

My Favourite Quotes from the Ember in the Ashes Quartet by Sabaa Tahir

A Sky Beyond the Storm is finally out in the UK! I am so excited to dive into this final book but also terrified because I know Sabaa will put us through pain and I am scared for Elias and Laia.

But until I can read the final book here are some of my favourite quotes from the first three books.

An Ember in the Ashes

Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be.

I’d rather die than live with no mercy, no honour, no soul.

Nan always said that as long as there is life, there is hope.

I do not doubt, I do not hesitate. I am the Lioness’s daughter, and I have the Lioness’s strength.

When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible, to fight it: your spirit. Your heart.

For tonight, maybe we can just be Laia and Elias.

Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after.

A Torch Against the Night

Failure doesn’t define you. It’s what you do after you fail that determines whether you are a leader or a waste of perfectly good air.

What point is there in being human if you don’t let yourself feel anything?

You are my temple. You are my priest. You are my prayer. You are my release.

The stars are so different when you’re free.

The problem with greedy people, Pop once said to me, is that they think everyone else is as greedy as they are

For you, I’m Ilyaas.

Don’t you see? So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.

Standing by someone during their darkest times creates a bond. A sense of obligation that is less a weight and more a gift.

There is hope in life.

This is what it means to have faith, to believe in something greater than yourself.

A Reaper at the Gates

Hope is stronger than fear. It is stronger than hate.

Skies save me from the men in my life and all the things they think they know

Curse this world for what it does to the mothers, for what it does to the daughters. Curse it for making us strong through loss and pain, our hearts torn from our chests again and again. Curse it for forcing us to endure.

This isn’t the end for us, Laia of Serra. I cannot give up what we could have. I don’t care what bleeding vow I made. Do you hear me? This is not our end.

Strange, how silence can speak as loudly as a scream.

The stories we tell have power, of course. But the stories that go untold have just as much power.

I will find you, Laia. I will find a way. This is not our end.

Everyone believes that nothing concerns them until the monsters are knocking on their doors.

Remember that fate is never what we think it will be.

The Tribespeople say that the heavens live under the feet of the mother. So great is their sacrifice. And indeed no one suffers in war more than the mother. This war will be no different.

So these are just some of my favourite quotes in this series! Share some of yours in the comments! But please no spoilers for Sky!

Book Recommendations, Booksish Discussions, Muslim Shelf Space

Why You Should Read An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

A Sky Beyond the Storm is finally out! We can finally find out how this incredible series will end and what will be the fate of Laia, Elias and Helene. But if you haven’t read these books yet and are unsure if you want to read them then here are some reasons as to why you should read them!

Incredible Storytelling Which Will Leave you an Emotional Mess

Sabaa’s writing is incredible and vivid and will leave you completely enthralled in the story. We initially see the world from Elias and Laia’s point of view and then Helene’s in the later books. Through them we see such a contrasting world view and we experience what they experience because her writing is so good that you will feel like you are right there with the characters. The fear that Laia feels is palpable, the anguish of Elias and the ruthless determination of Helene, we feel it alongside them. This does however mean that you will be left an emotional mess and fear for the lives of your favourite characters because Sabaa has created a brutal and ruthless world.

Incredible Immersive World Building

Not only is Sabaa’s storytelling incredible but so is her world building. You may think this is a world inspired by ancient Rome but then you hear about ghouls and jinns and it makes you think twice. As we read on we realise that there is also an Asian/Middle Eastern influence too. That the Empire might be inspired by ancient Rome but the Scholars and Tribes have an eastern influence and it creates a rich, diverse world. As the story in each book progresses we travel outside of Serra and see more of the world and we get an idea of just how vast the world is and that there is so much more we can explore. Sabaa’s writing is so immersive that we feel as though we are right there with the characters and experience what they experience. We see how they see the world and it’s as though we can almost touch, see and taste everything.

Complex Characters that Grow in Each Book

In Ember we get Elias and Laia’s point of view so we see the world from two vastly different perspectives. Elias is an elite warrior and assassin who wants to be free from all the killing whereas Laia is a slave and living in fear for her life after watching her grandparents get murdered and brother sent to prison. Yet they both grow so much throughout the book and Laia especially is my favourite character because she is so complex and her growth was incredible to read from the scared young woman to a resistance fighter and leader.

Important Discussions of Colonisation and Oppression

This book does not shy away from the way that people who are oppressed and enslaved and their land colonised are treated by the oppressors. We see the brutality with how they are treated, there are discussions of mutilation, rape and more and how these are justified because the Empire doesn’t even consider them to be human and are inferior in every way so it is fine. That the women are their property so they can do whatever they want to them. It is often horrifying and difficult to read but it is an important discussion to have. The Scholars way of life is completely eradicated and they aren’t even allowed to learn to read or write to keep them in a state of submission. Parallels with our history and even what is happening in the world right now and things that should be discussed.

A Story of Hope

Despite the brutal, ruthless world that Sabaa created there is hope. Hope that things will change, hope that this isn’t always going to be the reality for those oppressed. There will be justice and that these characters are going to bring about change. It’s something we can all relate to. It’s something we all need to believe in to get through difficult times and we can see the characters going through the same but holding on to hope to keep going. To keep fighting for a better world.

This is an incredible series and with the final book finally here it is the perfect time to pick these books up!

Here are my review for the first three books if you need further convincing:

An Ember in the Ashes

A Torch Against the Night

A Reaper at the Gates

Books by Muslim Authors, Diverse Books, Middle Grade Books, Muslim Shelf Space

Aladdin: Far From Agrabah by Aisha Saeed – Book Review

I loved this story so much and it gave so much more depth to Aladdin and Jasmine and their relationship.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

This stunning original novel will tell an all-new story set in the world of the new film, featuring Aladdin and Jasmine. A magic carpet ride full of adventure, suspense, and wonder written by New York Times best-selling author Aisha Saeed, this story will be a must-read for any Aladdin fans who find themselves drawn into and enchanted by the magical world of Agrabah and beyond. 

I listened to the audiobook and I really loved it. The narrator kept me hooked on the story and it was just a great story to listen to while I worked.

The story takes place while Aladdin takes Jasmine on the magic carpet ride and he takes her to his kingdom. Genie creates this kingdom for Aladdin to last as long as they are there with people created from Aladdin’s memories. I really loved getting this glimpse into Aladdin and Jasmine and their backstory.

During the time there Aladdin meets his people and hears their problems and Jasmine joins him. I really loved seeing that Aladdin treats her as an equal and listens to and takes her advice. They work together to help those in need and it was really great to see them in this position. To see what type of leader they would make and how capable Jasmine is despite the men in power keeping her from doing anything for her people. We see how much she cares for her people and how much she wants to do and just how smart and resourceful she is.

We also see how Aladdin is kind and generous and wants better for his people too. We also get to see them both build a stronger relationship with each other as they learn more about each other and see what type of people they really are. I really loved that we get to see them build an actual foundation for their relationship. This is where Aladdin realises he does love Jasmine and we see him battle his moral dilemma of lying to her about who he is. We also see Jasmine start to realise that maybe Ali and Aladdin are the same people and yet she still trusts him.

This was a wonderful story where we get to see more of Aladdin and Jasmine and I loved it. I especially recommend listening to the audiobook as it creates an even more magical experience.