“Good leaders are not just those who make good decisions but also those that know how to take good advice.”
This is my first eARC from Edelweiss and it could not have been a better, more amazing start. I always loved Nafiza’s snippets of this book on Twitter and it always left me wanting for more. A fantasy based on a fictional city by the ancient Silk Road? A city where people from all faiths and cultures seek refuge and live in harmony?
A dream come true!! Silk road has always fascinated me so much!
Anyway, the story is about the City of Noor, where humans and the Djinn (mainly the Ifrits) live side by side, protecting one another. The book is from five points of view, and all of them are equally important, even though not all of them are the protagonists.
The story begins when The Name Giver of the Djinn is killed and it changes Fatima, the protagonist’s life completely. From Fatima she becomes Fatima Ghazala, and with Zulfikar, the Emir of the City of Noor, she tries to protect her city and its people from the chaotic clan of Djinn called The Shayateens.
The book has got so much potentials! The setting in itself is lush and vivid and magnificent. It feels like a secondary yet important character, always there to help the plot proceed and the characters develop. Nafiza Azad, with her deft hands, weaves a setting that comes alive through every words, in every pages. Using mouthwatering food descriptions and overwhelming aromas of flowers, the entire setting is really another dimension in championing the story.
And the characters! Oh gosh, they’re all so so well done! Fatima, later Fatima Ghazala, is the main protagonist who is a both street smart messenger, and yet a naïve teen about the world around her. Her utter devotion to her foster sister, her best friends, and her adopted family is really endearing. She is the kind of girl who will wake up at dawn and walk miles to fetch flowers for her adopted grandmother. She is also the kind of girl who burns/twists the groping hands of leering perverts. Here is a fanart of Fatima Ghazala for you, drawn by @alexisc_art
@alexisc_art also drew an amazing portrait for Zulfikar, the Emir of The City and Noor and the other protagonist (also Fatima Ghazala’s love interest). This shy-in-love yet ferocious-in-combat emir is so adorable, you want to skip ahead and read his POV chapters more lol *guilty*
The other POV characters are excellently sketched. We find calm and collected Maharajah Aarush to his sister, Rajkumari Bhavya, and also some chapters from Fatima Ghazala’s adopted sister, Sunaina. Each of them are individuals with distinct voices and perspectives. I especially loved Bhavya and how amazingly unique she is. From a lovesick, insecure, and cosseted princess, she grows to become a capable, responsible, and steelminded ruler in her indisposed brother’s stead.
But again I’ll come back to the setting cause not only the author succeeds in making it come alive with delicious food descriptions and sensory details, she also shows us a perfect balance of cultural harmony and cacophony. We find a perfect blend of human cultures and religions (Sunaina is Hindu but she grew up in her faith with her adopted sister of different faith) as well as clashing discord between the Djinn clans among themselves and with the humans of Qirat. Honestly, for me, the highlight of the book was the setting and its worldbuilding. I can go on and on forever gushing about the setting!
Here is a snippet:
The pihu of the koyal bird in the tree; the sound of the River Rahat when its water meets the quay. The red dupatta fluttering in the wind; the small mirrors on it making stars out of sunlight. The sizzle of the meat at the kebab wallahs. Someone flying an orange kite from a rooftop. The azaan five times a day; the hymns on Sunday. The peal of bells at the mandir; the smiling faces at the synagogue. The khejri trees strive on while the date palms are full of grace. Red, pink, and purple bougainvillea leading riots on whitewashed walls.
Also, another plus point goes to the author giving us ample healthy portrayals of female friendships and sisterhood. Fatima Ghazala’s sisterly relationship with Sunaina is endearing. In fiction, we find either enemy sisters or cloyingly sweet sisters, which is not the realistic portrayal. The author gives us perfect blend of sisterly love and sisterly clashes, none over a man’s attention though. I also adored the Alif sisters (Adila, Amirah, Azizah) and how much they remind me of comical twins of fiction (Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Thomson and Thompson). And let’s not forget the building friendship between Bhavya and Sunaina.
Overall, I’ll 100% recommend you this book. It doesn’t have epic battles or vendetta clashes, but a setting you’ll never forget and lots of characters you’ll earnestly want to hang out with.
Thank you, Edelweiss and the publishers for providing me with an eARC for my honest review.