Genre: YA Fantasy
Stars: 4 out of 5
Synopsis from Goodreads: Clashing empires, forbidden romance, and a long-forgotten queen destined to save her people—bestselling author Tahereh Mafi’s first in an epic, romantic trilogy inspired by Persian mythology. To all the world, Alizeh is a disposable servant, not the long-lost heir to an ancient Jinn kingdom forced to hide in plain sight. The crown prince, Kamran, has heard the prophecies foretelling the death of his king. But he could never have imagined that the servant girl with the strange eyes, the girl he can’t put out of his mind, would one day soon uproot his kingdom—and the world.
After a couple of intense reads, I really needed a palate cleanser, and this YA fantasy was just the ticket. Based on several Persian myths with a distinct Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet vibe, the story is set in a mythical kingdom where a young girl works as a house servant of the lowest class. Alizeh is a beautiful and mysterious young woman, who spends her days shrouded in a face covering so no one will notice her striking, changeable eyes. She also happens to be a Jinn, with inhuman strength and capabilities, trying to pass as a “Clay”, or normal mortal. After a chance encounter with a street urchin, she comes under suspicion as a spy by the crown prince, Kamran, who is heir to a throne he never really wanted and attempting to shoulder all of his duties to run the country, marry and produce an heir, and navigate tricky diplomatic matters with an air of resignation.
The story feels so bright and fresh, but is also filled with the comforting vibe of an old friend you’ve come back to. Alizeh is a completely sympathetic heroine. She’s a great mix of brave and strong, fragile and uncertain of herself. I loved all the details about dressmaking and cloth that the author included; it’s obvious she is a crafty person herself. Kamran is the perfect blend of brooding and caring hero that you want to make your own book boyfriend. The addition of the character of Cyrus is an intriguing one and I felt like he needed more screen time, although I assume that his character and back story will be better developed in book 2 of this trilogy. The world-building is descriptive and detailed, from the packet city streets and the bazaar to the opulent marble of the palace. The action and pace are spun out perfectly, and I cruised through this one, despite its length.
My only complaint is that this felt like it started as a complete/standalone book and then about 75% of the way into it, the author/editor decided it should be a series. The final 25% introduces us to some new characters and new plot lines that felt a bit abrupt to me. (If you’ve read others of my book reviews, you know I have issues with cliff-hangers with very little resolved in books in a series.) I enjoyed this one so much, however, that I will likely ignore that and pick up book 2 as I want to find out more about Alizeh and her adventures.
A solid, enjoyable fantasy read: 4 out of 5 stars.