Thank you to My Kinda Book for sending me a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I have been following Hafsah for a while now and when she announced her book was being published I squealed with joy! I was actually seeing a visibly Muslim woman, who wears a niqab, being published and she was getting so much support from the book community! I knew without even knowing anything about this book that I would buy it as I so needed to support my sister and I really hope we get more diverse authors being published and really supported in the book community.
And then the rave reviews started coming in and my excitement level for this book went through the roof! And it’s safe to say that it did not disappoint! I loved this book and the zumra are my new faves and I could just read pages and pages of their banter alone!
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the king. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways.
Both are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.
War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the king on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.
Hafsah’s writing is so beautiful that I did not want to stop reading. Her descriptions and wonderfully intricate world building allowed her world to come to life. It’s as if you are right there with the characters. I loved learning about the history of the world and the magic system.
This book is full of diverse characters and a culture and traditions and language that isn’t normally seen in books. I had a huge grin on my face reading Arabic words and terminology that is the norm in Arabia in this book! It enriched the story even more and honestly I just wish we get more stories like this where diversity is the norm.
The story is told from two points of view, Zafira and Nasir, and I fell in love with them right from the first chapter. I was tabbing away because I just wanted to remember every sentence. They are both such distinct characters that they were easy to switch between points of view without getting confused.
“‘If I told you my name, would you bow?’ His voice was soft. A melancholy caress. ‘Or would you flee?'”
Nasir is our emotionally distant, seriously deadly assassin who I immediately decided was in fact a cinnamon roll and just needed a hug. He has had a pretty tragic life and I just felt for him so much. I loved his character growth as the story progresses and how he has to come to terms with a lot of things he discovers along the way. I cannot wait to see more of him in the next book!
“I’ll show him what a woman can do. She startled herself with that thought, rough and angry. Because conquering the Arz wasn’t enough. Now she was going to conquer the Sharr.”
Zafira is a badass and I really loved how Hafsah showed her turmoil between wanting to be herself and hiding who she is, when she disguises herself as a boy, because people will not see past her being a woman, even though she has done so much to help her community. I really related to her because there are people who don’t see past the scarf on my head and I am so much more than that. I also loved how sassy and sarcastic she is and her friendship with Yasmine and Deen is so beautiful and I am really looking forward to seeing more of her and Yasmine together. I think one of my favourite things about Zafira was how naïve and oblivious she is to people flirting with her. It was so funny to read!
And then we have the rest of the zumra! Who are actually squad goals and I just want to hang out with them. Altair is just the most sassy, sarcastic, self-confident person ever and will flirt with a tree and I absolutely loved him! I could just read a book about him! Kifah is a badass and Benyamin is a sweet heart. The whole gang is full of sarcastic characters and honestly these are my favourite type of characters so I cannot possibly choose a favourite. Each of them are interesting and complex and fully fleshed out. It’s easy to distinguish between them because they each have distinct voices.
The story itself is so rich and the world building is phenomenal and although it is a little slow at the beginning, it’s because the world and backstory is so wonderfully woven into the story so you don’t mind reading it all. Then as the story begins and we meet all the characters it becomes even more intricate. The second half of the story is a lot more fast paced and filled with plot twists that will leave you reeling. Hafsah is so great at the foreshadowing and including plot twists that I didn’t see coming! I thought I knew what was happening but she still managed to surprise me.
This book is for anyone who loves a group of sassy, sarcastic characters. Beautifully rich world building and writing that is almost lyrical. And I highly recommend reading it!