I seriously loved this book. This was a character driven story and I absolutely loved them all. Well, for the most part. I initially rrated this 5 stars, but after letting things settle this is more of a 4.5 stars. It was definitely one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. It is one of those books that is actually surprisingly difficult for me to pinpoint why I ended up loving it so much. I was never over the top in love with the story, but it also had very few things that irritated me. Thus the experience was enjoyable.
Let’s start with Sharzad our main character. She is one hell of a person. She’s a force to be reckoned with and is dangerous in her own right. You have to give it to her for her bravery. She walked into the Caliph’s life knowing she’d die the next day, but she did it to avenge her best friend. Sure, things didn’t turn out how she intended, but that step she took is more than most can say. Then her sheer tenacity to continue to scheme and undermine and demand respect was something enjoyable to watch. That said, it was a bit upsetting that she so easily bent on her will once she got to know Khalid better.
While that was frustrating, it was understanding as we learned about Khalid like Sharzad did. Khalid was not an evil king like he was painted to be. In fact, he is a fierce warrior who feels strongly. He’s a good guy, that has made some not so great choices that have cost both him and his kingdom. He does what he can for the greater good. Which it was why it was so interesting to see Khalid buckle to his emotions as he got to know Sharzad better. Any time I got to spend with Khalid ended up being truly enjoyable as there always seemed to be something new and interesting to be learned about him. He’s a trove of secrets and I can’t wait to delve more into them.
Then there were the other characters who were well fleshed out. Some obviously had more time and were better developed, but none of the side characters felt like throwaways. They were fleshed people with motivations and traits that differentiated them. There were no mindless drones. In fact, the least fleshed out character was Sharzad’s father who just felt blank. I believe this is mostly because he his heavily tied with the magical element in this story, which was only mentioned and not delved into.
Speaking of, the magic was so briefly touched upon it felt unnecessary and unimportant. My guess is that it will play a bigger role in the future and only needed to be seeded now. However, those elements almost felt out of place in the world as we’ve seen it so far.
The biggest aspect of this book is the romance. At the end of the day this is another world and there’s magic, but it’s all about the relationship between Sharzad and Khalid. It worked for me. I felt that connection and the willingness of each other to fight for one another felt genuine even if it didn’t feel entirely earned. This was by no means insta-love. Not how I define it. However, the romance did feel rushed. For Khalid it worked. He was resigned and found himself drawn in, uncertain, but curious. It felt natural and not forced. Sharzad on the other hand didn’t feel natural. If she had entered into this situation without an agenda, I would likely buy it. However, she did have a plan. She had hatred toward Khalid. Thus it just felt a little bit too fast that she went from hating him to not hating him to loving him. I could understand one step, but not her reaching the two step process so quickly. Especially when she had been previously in love with someone else. So her element did not work for me.
The ending was rather interesting as it felt conclusive, but also somewhat open. I’m intrigued by where we will go next. The ending didn’t really have much set up as to where that will be so I’m intrigued.