- Author: Hafsah Faizal
- Series: Sands of Arawiya #1
- Genre: Fantasy
- No. of pages: 496
- Dates read: 08.06.2021 – 14.06.2021
- Star Rating: 5 stars
- Challenge: Physical TBR
Plot: 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 sultan. 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 Zafira and Nasir 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 sultan 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.
So, I had seen so much hype surrounding this book on book twitter. I had read a couple of books this year that were also super hyped and while I enjoyed them, I did feel like I set my expectations to an unobtainable level that the books just were unable to read. I was nervous that I would feel for this book the way I did for the others which was loving it but not being blown away by it or feeling super connected to it. Well, this book exceeded my expectations completely.
The premise itself was not something inherently new to the YA scene, I had seen this done a couple of times but each time it was set in the same European inspired world which I had gotten quite bored of. I was really interested in this Ancient Arabia inspired world which was something that I hadn’t read enough of and I really wanted to give it a go.
The writing itself was really beautiful. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the settings, the fight scenes were written really well and I felt that points of tension were done super well as well. I really liked the lengths of the chapters, they weren’t too long and were a good mix of medium to short which was one of the main reasons of why I couldn’t put the book down. Every time I felt like pausing I would check how long it was until the next chapter, realising it wasn’t that many pages, I would read more and next minute I know I’d read another 5 chapters. What I think Faizal did the best was portraying the complex emotions both the protagonists were feeling. I felt like you really got to understand and connect with both Zafira and Nasir in different ways because of how open and vulnerable her writing is. You learn so much about them not just through the events of the novel but through their internal monologues, they are such layered and intricate characters. I tend always be a side character fan but I was super invested in these two main characters.
The plot itself was so much fun! I loved the focus of the plot being the quest itself, I love those kinds of plots, so I had such a fun time reading the book. There was a good balance of action, to moments of vulnerability to the standard exposition where we get some backstory and further world-building and I felt that it was structured across the novel really well. I thought the pacing was super quick with the constant switching between Zafira and Nasir’s POV which was another reason I kept reading so much. It was always someone or something new with each chapter. Each chapter ended with a teeny cliffhanger or moment that had to make you keep reading.
As I have mentioned already I really connected with Zafira and Nasir in very different ways. I really enjoyed reading their scenes but specifically Zafira’s, I connected with her story about have to hide her identity and the worry of her being revealed as a girl and what that would mean for her life and her family. I really enjoyed the side characters as well from Altair to Benjamin. All the characters were varied and the character dynamics in this novel were super fun. I loved watching some of the characters interact with each other, especially our two protagonists.
The world building itself was really imaginative and had me hooked from the beginning. While I wouldn’t say it’s the best world building I have ever read I still really enjoyed it and loved learning all about it. It did take me some time to figure out what was going on in the first 50-100 pages but once I figured it out it was super cool. I loved the setting so much and the imagery Faizal’s words create were just amazing!
Overall, this was such a great book. It exceeded my expectations and I personally find YA novels to be hit or miss. I read a very popular YA novel earlier this year which was disappointing so I was super happy to find another YA novel that I love.
The next book I will be reading is The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan. It’s 1007 pages so I have some comics up my sleeve for the coming weeks so please await those reviews for the next month or so as I trek through this tome of a novel!