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The first book in an epic fantasy series for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal and Elizabeth Lim, set in an Arabian-inspired land. Raised to protect her nation from the monsters lurking in the sands, seventeen-year-old Imani must fight to find her brother whose betrayal is now their greatest threat.

In the hidden desert city of Qalia, secret spice magic awakens affinities in those who drink the misra tea. With an affinity for iron, seventeen-year-old Imani wields a dagger like no other warrior, garnering her the reputation as the next greatest Shield for battling the dangerous djinn, ghouls, and other monsters that lurk in the sands beyond city limits.

Her reputation has been overshadowed, however, by her brother who tarnished the family name after he was discovered stealing their nation's coveted spice - a tell-tale sign of magical obsession. He disappeared soon after, believed to have died beyond the Forbidden Wastes, and leaving Imani reeling with both betrayal and grief.

But when Imani uncovers evidence her brother may be alive and spreading their nation's magic beyond the desert, she strikes a deal with the Council to find him and bring him back to Qalia before he can reveal the city's location. Accompanied by Qayn, a roguish but handsome djinni, and Taha, a powerful beastseer whose magical talents are matched only by his arrogance, they set out on their mission.

Imani will soon discover there are many secrets that lie beyond the Forbidden Wastes - and in her own heart - but will she find her brother before his betrayals endanger the fate of all of Qalia?

In this epic and action-packed fantasy, one young heroine navigates the treacherous road between protecting the ones you love and staying loyal to the place you call home.

411 pages, ebook

First published January 24, 2023

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About the author

Maiya Ibrahim

3 books273 followers
Maiya Ibrahim is the Sunday Times bestselling author of SPICE ROAD. She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney. When she isn’t writing, reading, or spending time with her family, she enjoys video games, gardening, and expanding her collection of rare trading cards. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

She is represented by Peter Knapp of Park & Fine Literary and Media, Claire Wilson of RCW Literary, and Mary Pender-Coplan of United Talent Agency.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,047 reviews
Profile Image for jessica.
2,555 reviews35.6k followers
December 23, 2022
the plot is the strength of this novel. the way the story itself progresses is ideal. its the right amount of adventure, travel, family matters, enemies, magic, and rebellion.

and while i definitely am more of a plot-driven reader, im surprisingly let down by the lack of everything else. i was desperate for more world-building. i was craving more lush middle eastern mythology. i was dying for the characters to have more depth and development. i wish the writing also flowed better. so its unfortunate that the creative plot couldnt make up for these shortcomings.

overall, i think for a debut, this is fine and, as a first book in a series, this sets up for the sequel rather well. so heres me hoping all of the weaknesses of this installment are worked on for the next one.

thank you, random house/delecorte press, for the ARC!

3.5 stars
Profile Image for Kat.
239 reviews305 followers
April 12, 2023
2023 shouldn’t be the year in which I’m still forcing myself to finish a book that is so bad, it nearly reduced me to tears but here we are. Unfortunately, Spice Road or, as I started referring to it, Spice Toad, was exactly that kind of book.

I don’t want to bore you or myself with recapping the story’s set-up so let’s dive straight into whatever this hot mess of a book is:

There is Imani, our lead character, who is said to be extremely good with a blade, she is the BEST djinni slayer of all the Shields, she “wields a dagger like no other warrior” blah blah, she’s not like other girls, we get it. I looooaaaaathe when characters are said to be THE BEST or GREATEST soldier/fighter/spy/whatever and then we are never shown how or why. Imani swaggers around with her little dagger and all readers get is ONE fight against some monsters, just ONE, while being constantly reminded just how capable a Shield she is.
Listen to me, no one in their right mind would deem that girl in the least bit capable judging by her actions throughout the book. She says one thing and does the other, can’t lie to save her life, constantly endangers the mission she wanted to go on, and overall does not present herself as “the next greatest Shield.”

Now, whom of the TWO as-interesting-and-unique-as-a-sack-of-rice love interests should I describe next? And yes, two love interests, as in LOVE TRIANGLE which expired in August… OF 2012. The way I’m getting green around the gills just thinking about the love triangle trope, someone hand me a bucket. 🤡

Let’s start with Taha, who is your regular YA male love interest cardboard cut-out. By now I’m simply out of energy when it comes to complaining about tall, green-eyed, “six-foot-two and built like a stallion” (direct quote from the book, I’m not kidding) boylies with sharp cheekbones and dark hair. I feel like I’m screaming into nothingness when I say that diverse (YA) books aren’t truly diverse until male love interests can be any size and shape imaginable and that there is nothing inherently feminist about making your heroine fall in love with the same chiselled, six-pack hunk of a man (*cough* boylie) in every second book published today but okay, screaming into the abyss it is.

“Maybe he just looks like every other male love interest but has a unique personality?”

No. He is literally Draco Malfoy. He bullies, belittles, or ignores Imani every chance he gets and what does Imani do? Fall for him anyway because she begins to see the bully as “the tortured, lonely boy who just wants to please his abusive father”. Girl, you are being PLAYED.
He is elated, and something about that thrills me deeply. My stomach drops.
Oh no, I think. No, no, it can’t be. It isn’t. We’ve been spending too much time together, that’s all, especially after he ignored me for so long, and he is so imposing with his swagger.

Stop your pining, girl, it’s not like you can’t turn a corner to find twenty more of his sort waiting around to be nice to you when the two of you are alone but bully you when surrounded by their friends. Husband material right here and there! 😍😍

But you what screams even more of husband material to Imani than his bullying? The fact that while they’re running from a group of soldiers and trying to blend in, they see a woman about to get r*ped by one of the soldiers to which Taha’s only reaction is: oh, that’s a shame but we can’t stop and help because we would be found out! 🤢🫥 Imani should consider a career as a garbage woman because she has impeccable taste in trash.

But of course, he is special 💅🏼, too, in that he is a beast seer who can control the mind of his pet falcon and who is also an incredible archer, fighter, whatever job title you can think of. Yet when Imani, who CAN’T LIE for her own good, tries to lie to his face, he doesn’t even notice.

His head turns and he looks across the plain.
Heat rises in me. “Something the matter?”
“Missing some things,” he murmurs.
“Ah. Hmm.” I fold my arms over my chest where the letter is hidden.
He sighs. “Anyway, what about you?” he asks, looking up at me.
I start on the spot. “Me? What do you mean?”

Bro, something is not clicking and it’s not just the #wattpad-like writing. This is how I wrote a scene in which a character was very obviously lying when I was 12.

But let’s not forget about, ✨Qayn✨, love interest no. 2. Again, I don’t know what to say about the fact that ofc he, too, has a six-pack, is alluringly beautiful, has dark hair, and *checks smudged writing on hand* oh yeah, he is another one of those boys who is also a 1000+-year-old djinni with immense power (which was taken away from him, so sad 😔). Anyway, it’s giving Shadow & Bone meets City of Bones, it’s giving cringe, it’s giving 2012, it’s giving take me the hell away from here.

The thing is, even when I didn’t have to deal with those two boys or Imani, there still was Amira, whose personality traits are 1) being annoying and 2) being the MC’s sister. She spends the first half of the book being an annoying brat and the second half crying on Imani’s shoulder. There was nothing else for her to do and it felt like the author didn’t really know what to do with this character once she became part of the group.

“You’ve covered all the characters, surely you have at least something nice to say about the writing?”

Yeah no, put that in your pan and lick it.

I was once told not to throw around accusations of plagiarism too lightly and I’m not doing it here, but I do want to say that there is a very fine line between paying homage to other works of fiction in your own books by basically quoting them, and using other people’s work for the sole purpose of bolstering your own.

Take this quote, for example:
“Grief is a puzzling thing, the most; it is mangled love persisting in spite of the world’s best efforts to hinder it.”

I didn’t suffer through the trauma that is WandaVision not to know a Marvel quote when I see one, please don’t think me stupid.
Hell, if you copy the quote from the novel and paste it into Google, your first two results are LITERALLY the WandaVision quote.

Now, I could have let this stand if it hadn’t been for the following:

“I am but a simple djinni trying to make his way in the world” from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones


“If you’ve only distressing things to say, pack your forked tongue back into your mouth, snake” from LOTR: The Two Towers


“You will die before your arrow flees the bow” which, oh hey, is also from LOTR!!

as well as

“‘I do not know what awaits you on this journey, but a lamppost in the dark is often all one needs to find one’s way.' The crystal vial” with the whole concept of the crystal vial containing blueish-white light to show you the way when you are lost taken straight from—ah, you’ve already guessed it...

I hope the author didn’t think readers are stupid enough to notice, because trust me, I have noticed and I bet there are even more in there that I didn’t notice. If the writing had been a lot better, I don’t think I would have minded as much. But with writing as shoddy as this I very much did mind.

UPDATE: Lmaoooo, I just noticed the use of the word "spice" in connection with giving things power, someone here watched Dune.

No novel since “´The Song of Achilles” has been able to make first-person narrative sound good and Spice Toad fails gloriously. The problem with 1st person POV is always how to supply readers with the necessary information they need to understand the world the characters inhabit without making it sound stupid. This often results in characters saying the most obvious things out loud (or thinking them) with the sole purpose of telling the reader what xy is.

I draw the dagger strapped to my thigh, through which I am able to channel my magical affinity.

The resulting dialogues were incredibly stilted:

“What do you want?” Taha asks when he notices my arrival.
“To help,” I say, looking between them. “What can I do?” “How about go away?” Reza suggests brightly.
I purse my lips. Pleasant thoughts, Imani. When you see Atheer again, this will all be worth it.
“My food was lost too. I’d like to contribute.”

Furthermore, there was an absolute overabundance of metaphors, metonymies, and similies that often enough were little more than hot air.

”Time stretches. Waits, almost, with bated breath in the lengthening shadow of suspense. Then it exhales.”

“I swipe my tongue along my lips. They are parched, as rough as the surface of sandstone [...] The statement soars back at me like a spear and hits me square in the chest. I hunch forward, pressing a hand over my pounding heart [...] An angry vise pinches my temples, interrupting the thought.”

And the characters endure all this trauma only for Imani’s takeaway to be the same as the most-said word in the Fast and the Furious franchise: FAMILY (in Vin Diesel’s voice).

Tired doesn’t even begin to describe the state I was in when I finally finished this. I’m just glad I didn’t spend any money on it as this was a NetGalley ARC. Bro, the things I do to keep my feedback ratio up.

As always, thanks to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for granting me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sarah  Grace .
298 reviews56 followers
January 31, 2023
Summary of review: Save yourself. I lost four precious hours of sleep for this book. I will never get those hours back.

I'm going to start a petition to leave bully love interests, "not like other girls" female MCs, and plot holes more prominent than the freaking Grand Canyon in 2012.

What even was this book? I was promised a lush middle eastern inspired fantasy, a badass female main character out to save her brother, and a journey that was supposed to be filled with adventures. I was promised magic TEA. Instead, I got a headache and an intense urge to bang my head against the wall to dislodge the memory of reading this disaster of a novel. My therapist will be hearing about this.

The plot. I ask you, what plot? Imani's brother has been missing for a year. Instead of processing her trauma, she throws herself into her work as a Shield, a band of sorcerers. When Imani finds out that her brother might be alive, she is sent on a mission to retrieve him from the outside world, and in the process makes friends and they betray each other and yada yada.

Imani left a very bitter taste in my mouth. Right off the bat, we are told she is known as the Djiin slayer. She is supposed to be one of the best in her ranks. Yet, we only see her fight once. We do not see her training or any support for her claim of being "the best." She blindly believed everything that she was told. That was fine at the beginning because she did not have a reason to question anything her authorities said. But as the book went on, she kept going “but that can’t be true! Why would the authorities lie to us??” It has been so long since I have read such an incompetent female.

Our two love interests. I have absolutely nothing nice to say about either, but one was clearly more horrible. Taha was absolutely horrendous. My enemies have treated me with more kindness than that boy seems to possess. He is quiet, moody, and a bully, but since he has trauma it’s okay! Imani, against all the odds, develops feelings for him (cue fake shock.) He literally does nothing but belittles her, and when he does show kindness, it is when no one else is around. The moment someone else is around he goes back to being as an asshole. He treats her like she is gum on his shoe, and she still gets a crush? Make it make sense. (Slight spoiler, but also TW for SA.) There is one part where Imani sees a man trying to sexually assault a woman, who is powerless to stop it. Lovely Taha decides it would be “too risky” to try to help her. Thankfully, Imani has a centimeter of a spine and helped her. I feel like that said a lot more about Taha’s character than anything else. If he is not willing to give a woman basic respect when it is hard or inconvenient, I do not want to know how he would treat someone he is actually dating.

Qayn was fine. He was barely in there, so I do not really have an opinion of him. He pops ups every once in a while, to deliver a “hilarious” one-liner (spoiler: he was not funny) and make Imani blush. Whenever Taha messed up, he would make an entrance too, to be tantalizing or something. At the very least, he seems to have some respect, so he is slightly better than Taha for now. He also has a trauma filled past to make him more appealing. I would still rather eat a whole lemon than ever read a word about him again, but I digress.

Every other character was annoying. They were there for one personality trait and then faded back into the distance. My favorite characters in the whole story were the freaking horses. I do not even LIKE horses very much. What has this world come to?

I am out of steam. If I spend one more second thinking about this book, I will lose my last shred of sanity. Save yourself, and don’t read it. Unless 2010 books are your favorite. You might love this one then. (Not a diss at people who like those novels. I am being genuine. Just not my cup of tea.)

i have eaten charred and bitter toast that left a better aftertaste in my mouth than those characters.

a not so nice rtc
Profile Image for Elle.
587 reviews1,401 followers
June 29, 2022
I KNOW, I KNOW. Yet another book I’m being like ‘xoxo no review yet 💙’, but it’s just too early!! I do have it written though. I had the highest expectations going into Spice Road, and yet I’m still beside myself with how good it was. Holy shit, y’all. Add to your TBRs immediately!!!! It’s totally, completely, absolutely worth the wait.

Profile Image for Brenda.
4,229 reviews2,731 followers
February 26, 2023
For the past twelve months, Imani, seventeen years old with an affinity to iron and named as one of the greatest Shields of all time, had been mourning her brother, lost to the Forbidden Wastes. She, her younger sister Amani and their parents all missed Atheer greatly, so when Imani received word that her brother may not be dead after all, she approached the Qalia Council for permission to head into the sands to find, and hopefully rescue Atheer. With a team led by Taha, an arrogant beastseer whose falcon, Sinan circled the skies above them, their pace was fast. But Imani knew she wasn't welcome in the group. Her magic was fierce, and what they didn't know was that Qayn, a djinni, was bonded to her dagger, and it was his knowledge of where Atheer was that made Imani feel safe.

Drinking the misra tea before each daily mission meant their magic was heightened for the day - but their fear of the monsters that were ahead of them kept them cautious. Once they reached the Spice Road, Imani could feel they were getting close. But they had many battles to fight before they reached their destination. Would Imani and Qayn find Atheer or had he already perished?

Spice Road is the debut fantasy novel by Aussie author Maiya Ibrahim and the first in The Spice Road trilogy, and I loved it! It was epic, with betrayal and treachery high on the agenda, as Imani had to find her way through the secrets, deception and many setbacks to reach her goal. At almost 500 pages, this action packed novel's pages flew by. I'm very much looking forward to #2! Highly recommended.

With thanks to Hachette AU for my ARC to read in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Lexi.
513 reviews230 followers
February 15, 2023

😍 Rivals to lovers
😍 Enemies to lovers
💋 Lil bit of (hot) monster romance
💋 Love triangle
💋 Betrayal & trust
♥️ Epic adventure
♥️ Family bonds
♥️ Myths and legends
♥️ Anti-colonial themes

Oh okay OKAY why aren't y'all reading this? Spice Road is THE YA book you've been waiting for..probably. If you like Young adult tropes and want to see them applied with integrity, Spice Road is IT. Every fanfic trope you love, but crafted into a fantastic epic. Readers know: Spice Road isn't your typical 'tropes in a trenchcoat' story. It is, at it's core, a magical old-school adventure story.

Imani is a sheltered warrior living in an isolated city tasked with guarding her community's magic. One day, her brother is accused of stealing that magic and escaping into the abyss of the outside world. Imani, her sister, a hunter with a chip on his shoulder, and a mysterious Djinni must travel to these forbidden lands to find her brother and bring her home. The more Imani experiences the world outside, the more she begins questioning this task.

This is a nearly 500-page book that very much earns that length, with Imani and her party experiencing numerous trials outside their city. Battles with ancient monsters, mind games, prison breaks and betrayals- it's all here in Spice Road. Maiya Ibrahim very intelligently lays out this plot in a way that never feels stale and boring, and you watch the characters grow and change as they fight for their lives in each new escapade.

The characters are a mixed bag. Some characters feel very much like supporting roles- it's hard to invest in them individually. I think the story could have benefitted from a multi-pov. Other characters like Imani's two love interests, are vibrant and interesting individuals. They are more than just "book boyfriend A and B", but have fascinating sub plots and backstories that are carried far beyond their relationship with her. Imani is a great main character- privileged and ignorant, yet educated and diligent in her selfless quest to save her brother. She's an imperfect person who has a personality outside of being a self insert YA protagonist.

The romance is very well done. There is a love triangle, but it's a slow burn on both ends and both potential suitors are attractive enough as people not to feel too nauseating. Spice Road is NOT about what guy Imani will choose. It is plot-focused first, with some romance peppered in. Fans of more exciting romance tropes will be happy to know that the love triangle is between a rival and an enemy.

Taha is a hunter from a 'rival' clan that has clawed its way up from nothing. He's very much a Draco Malfoy type: snarky and convinced that his way is right.

Qayn is a Djinni that Imani has captured to lead her to her brother. She sees him as a monster to be disposed of, and the road to understanding for them is long.

I ended up enjoying both potential matches.

Spice Road is a great series that takes the best of YA tropes and themes and wraps them up into an addictive all-ages story. I am REALLY excited to see what is next for Imani and her friends. And enemies. My only hope is that in book 2 we get a little more insight into the side characters.
Profile Image for Aimal .
514 reviews462 followers
Want to read
August 15, 2019
Profile Image for Brenda Waworga.
606 reviews679 followers
March 22, 2023
Absolutely delightful, fun and adventurous with very realistic characters!! i must said this book surprised me in a good way 😁😍 love the Arabian setting and magic system and sibling relationship in this book

What a wonderful Debut from Maiya Ibrahim

i cannot wait for book two!
Profile Image for Aleksandra (drawingandreading).
247 reviews339 followers
February 23, 2023
Spice Road is the one YA fantasy debut that you don‘t want to miss out on. It‘s got everything one is looking for: epic worldbuilding, great magic system, realistic and complex characters, amazing chemistry and dynamic between, fantastic history, adventurous plot, high stakes, friendship, family, romance. And the best part of it? All these aspects are balanced so well throughout the novel. There‘s not one thing that feels less developed or neglected. This whole story works so well, and is a very promising start to what could turn out to be a new favorite trilogy of mine!

Since it‘s impossible to narrow it down to just a few aspects that I loved about this book, I will try to compile a list on why I loved everything about it.

Starting off with the worldbuilding which is Arabic inspired, and immediately has you enthralled. The more you read about this world, the more you want to know. Each little revelation keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the world keeps expanding and expanding. I absolutely loved how Maiya Ibrahim created this world, including the political, historical, and magical elements to it.
Which brings me to my second aspect, the magic system. Not only did I love how the magic works within this world - how each character has a different affinity, and how the tea ceremony plays into it - but also how it‘s evident that there‘s so much more to it. The best magic systems (for me) are the ones that feel like they could actually be real. And there was not a single moment that I wasn‘t believing it. But I also loved how the characters didn‘t always rely on their magic, but how their training as Shields (and Scouts) go so much more beyond that.
This brings us a bit back to the worldbuilding, but specifically, the society and politics of this world. While Spice Road only gives us some basic knowledge and a few glimpses beyond that, I love how the rules and hierarchy is structured. How the problematic sides are shown without making it too obvious. As the story progresses, we find ourselves - alongside Imani - questioning everything she had known of her own world. And that just concerns one part of the world. There’s so much more going on, and I‘m honestly so hyped up to see how many more secrets are going to be revelead in the upcoming sequels, and what role the characters will play in either fighting to keep them hidden or to be releaved.

Speaking of the characters, they are an absolute delight. Every single one of them, no matter how small or big of a role they play, are so realistic, so complex, and well-developed. Even the ones that don‘t have a dominant role offer so much potential for growth and don‘t feel like just exisiting to fill up a needed role for the plot. I love how we see their positions, beliefs, motivation, and struggles. Each one of them battles their own fights while moving forward on the mission. We get to see their bonds with their families, whether they‘re positive or negative; we see them forming or maintaining bonds and friendship; we see their growth and development. No matter what your first impression of a character may be, you will find yourself liking at least one aspect of them or being intrigued by their personality or actions. And the dynamic between them works so well. I loved seeing Imani struggle to find her place among the scouting group, to mend her relationship with her sister, to let go of her own prejudice or beliefs that she learned growing up to see the bigger picture.

Leaving me to only two more aspects now, I want to focus first on the plot itself which was filled with adventure, high stakes, action packed scenes, and enough room for emotions - be them sad, happy, fun or angry. The fact that the plot left enough room for everything, and moved forward in just the right pacing, didn‘t leave me to miss on anything.
Not even the romance which is the one thing I also really need to talk about. The romance is definitely not a major plot point throughout the story; in fact, it‘s rather a small and subtle part of it. But to be honest, with a plot like that, there‘s is neither time nor space for it. And yet, those little glimpses we get were crumbs I devoured. Not only did Maiya Ibrahim managed to make me root for one, but two potential love interest with just a few scenes. This book has one of the most intriguing set-ups for a love triangle that I have read in a very, very long time. We‘ve got the potential for rivals-to-lovers, for enemies-to-lovers but not in the classic way. In fact, the relationships are so delicately developed that they offer so much more complexity than a trope could name. I was all here for the drama, and I‘m even more here for the drama the sequels might offer.

As this review already has gotten way to long for my liking (though I know I tend to write them long), I want to put it here to an end. All I can say is that reading Spice Road was a delight. It‘s got a perfect balance of all the elements I love in fantasy. It has characters that are so well-written, a great plot with just the right pacing, and it has become a highlight of this year for me. I definitely can‘t wait to see where Imani‘s journey will take her next in the sequel which has become a new anticipated release for me.

Everyone, go read Spice Road!!
Profile Image for Christina Pilkington.
1,536 reviews163 followers
December 28, 2022
Imani excels at swordsmanship. Really she excels at wielding any iron blade thanks to drinking misra tea, a tea with magical properties which awakens affinities in those who drink it. In the country of Quali, Imani is known as the greatest fighter of monsters and djinni, dark creatures who surround the sands on the outskirts of the city.

Atheer, Imani's brother, has been accused of stealing the scared misra and is believed to have perished in the Forbidden Wastes. But one day Imani discovers that her brother might still be alive and has spread their country's magic to those beyond the Forbidden Wastes. She goes on a quest with Qayn, a mysterious djinni, and Taha, a powerful beastseer, and discovers secrets that run so deep it could change her entire way of life forever.

Imani is a reckless girl who makes assumptions, doesn't think critically and is overall annoying at the start of the novel. It was hard to connect to her character at first because of the first person POV. I was often irritated by Imani's decisions. Even her sister Amani who is supposed to be more impulsive and head-strung seemed more mature. There's also a developing romance which kept me rolling my eyes and sighing because it was a lot of the same misunderstanding over and over again which unfortunately is prevalent in YA novels.

But there was some character growth throughout the novel, and Imani gradually became less annoying. She questions her previous way of viewing the world and her quick judgements and begins to become a stronger character. I liked Imani's relationship with her brother and sister and with Qayn.

My favorite parts of this story was the setting and the plot. Ibrahim did a great job of always keeping me interested in what would happen next. I never felt like the story dragged, and there was just enough new intrigue that kept me excited to read another chapter.

I wish the world-building would have been developed even more, but what we did get was great! I loved the quest chapters the most! Lots of fun adventure scenes and some touching moments.

I'm very excited to continue on in this trilogy. I have a feeling I will like the sequel even more!

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Random House Children's/Delacorte Press for the digital arc. All opinions are my own.
Profile Image for acupofteaandabookplease.
91 reviews20 followers
June 3, 2023
I loved this story... full of magic, love and a real journey to tolerance. The characters are evolving at their own pace... some understanding at the beginning what is the most important... and some still have some things to understand! The writing is quite easy to read and the universe of the story smells like a spice market! It was a really great discovery!
Profile Image for faanielibri.
517 reviews29 followers
March 19, 2023
Es war so gut wie erwartet und erhofft. Ich liebe alles an der Geschichte. Das arabisch inspirierte Setting, die Figuren, die Mythologie, den Plot, die Magie. Den Stellenwert der Familie, die Fragen darüber, was richtig oder falsch ist. Die Ausgewogenheit von ruhigen Passagen, actionreichen Szenen, emotionalen und berührenden. Empfehlenswert für alle Leser*innen, die arabische Mythologie mögen und auch gut ohne Liebesgeschichte auskommen. Dafür bekommen sie aber starke Familienbande, vielschichtige Charaktere und Djinns. 5 Sterne.
Profile Image for Lauren (thebookscript).
745 reviews343 followers
April 5, 2023
Spice Road had me at...

-for fans of Sabaa Tahir
-Arabian inspired world building
- & Spice magic

I had seem some average reviews for Spice Road but i'm here to tell you that this book WORKED for me. I was immediately drawn to the characters despite some of them being unlikeable.

The main character Imani has a metal affinity which makes her powerful with the blade and gives her the potential to be a powerful warrior. She has lived a life of ignorance and privilege so the way that she behaves totally makes sense. Her character arc was slow but realistic. I liked how she doesn't change overnight. This is the first book in a series so I can't wait to see how she grows because she clearly still needs it.

This is a book that takes place on a journey in search for Imani's brother who was previously thought dead. I liked the small revelations that lead to some bigger eye opening moments. Imani builds relationships between 2 men...one a Djinn and the other an arrogant but powerful beastseer.

The men and her relationships with them are one of the more interesting aspects of the book. Is it a love triangle? I don't know but i'm curious to see where it leads...I felt like Qayn and Taha have complex personalities and back stories that we've only scratched the surface on.

I don't know...there's been some pretty vicious reviews of this so take my review for a grain of salt but this is a debut novel and I always go in with a glass half full mentality and knowing it can only go up from here. The audio was great....if enjoying this books makes me simpleton...then I don't prefer to be complex. Is it perfect, no...but I still appreciated it.

To each their own. I will go on to read book 2!
Profile Image for Claire.
360 reviews1 follower
March 2, 2023
Quick heads-up: this review contains lots of run-on sentences because I wrote it in a rush while I was very pissed off. Onto the review:

This is the prettiest book I own (thank you, Fairyloot) and I’m thinking it might also be the worst book I own. Wow. I hated almost every second of this. I feel bad leaving a super negative review since I don’t do that much— I haven’t rated a book less than 2 stars since **2020** but this book killed my soul and took away my happiness. (Okay, that may be a little dramatic.) The only reason I finished it is because it was my first ever book from a book box and I wanted to read the whole thing. Surely the team at Fairyloot wouldn’t choose complete trash for their January box, right? Wrong.

First off, I’ll say the few things I liked:
-The concept: I think if this was written with different characters and much stronger writing and overall just executed better, it could have been good. I love Middle Eastern-inspired fantasies, books with extensive journeys, the enemies-to-lovers trope, and the idea of tea giving a person magic is a cool idea. Okay, so Magic Steeped In Poison did it first, but it was a different sort of magic. Anyways, none of that matters because the execution was so terrible. I’m just saying the overall concept wasn’t awful.
-Atheer: Atheer was the only character I really liked. He had strong beliefs, he was smart and talented and wanted to help the fight against the colonizers. He wasn’t satisfied living a lush, privileged life knowing there were people suffering who he could help. I really liked his character and I wish we got to see more of him.

What I Didn’t Like:
-The writing: The writing was god-awful. I read better writing when I went through my Wattpad phase in sixth grade. Our main character tells us every. single. thing. she does or thinks. My creative writing teacher would be incredibly disappointed with how this book has completely disregarded the “show, not tell” notion. The narration was painful. I felt like I wasn’t supposed to even think, Imani was going to tell me exactly what to think. Then we have all the bizarre similies and metaphors that made no sense??? The writing was just bad in general but the constant telling-not-showing (or showing and then telling too) was the absolute worst:
For once, I don’t resent his unkindness. Reza is hurting deeply and raising defensive walls to stop anyone from touching that open wound. He wants to focus on our work, not on his loss, not on the person he loves whom he may never see again. It is a pain I understand too well, so I silently let him leave. yes, i can SEE THAT, you don’t need to TELL ME!!

I am certain that if they ever discovered I’ve bound a djinni to my dagger, they would show me no mercy. This necessarily evil is a secret I must guard jealousy, or else I will be ruined. yeah probably. i KNOW THAT.

Until now, I spared no thought to the terrible experiences Farida endured, like witnessing the death of her father and being helpless to stop it. I paid no mind to how desperate for aid she would have been, nor the mettle it takes to foment a rebellion in a kingdom where a mere curse can see you hanged. To stand tall in the face of violence worse than that of the Death Pits would take the kind of courage I don’t think I possess. I can’t yet trust her, nor forgive her for dragging Atheer into such a mess, but I am beginning to feel a small respect for her—perhaps even seeing in her what Atheer did. yes, i can see you’re having some character development and starting to sort of care about other people, but it doesn’t need to be spoon fed to me. And the entire book is written like that.

-Predictability: The plot was predictable. The characters’ actions were predictable. The person who turns out to be the bad guy—predictable. Everything was so painfully predictable.
-The romance: I don’t think I’ve ever shipped two characters LESS than I shipped Imani and Taha. First, I can’t understand how anyone could possibly like Imani aside from the fact that she’s pretty. That’s just about all she has going for her. Second, Taha is that special kind of asshole who is nice and sweet to a girl in private and then bullies her in front of his friends. He does that multiple times and never apologizes for it and Imani is just like ~oh well, that’s just how Taha is!!~ Also, they made absolutely zero sense together. I get Ms. Ibraham was trying to do an enemies-to-lovers thing, but they made no sense as lovers at all and should have remained enemies. I also think Qayn is going to become a romantic prospect in the sequel (not that I’ll be reading it) and I despise *most* love triangles. I believe love triangles can be good if they’re written well (like Daughter of the Moon Goddess or The Hunger Games) but given Ms. Ibraham’s writing in this book, I have no confidence she would write a love triangle I could get behind.
-The characters: The writing, plot, and romance were all bad, but the characters were what truly ruined the book for me. In fact, “the characters” needs to be its own section:

The Characters:
-Imani: I think Imani is the worst main character I have *ever* read. And it’s not one of those cases where I’m supposed to despise and be consistently disgusted by the main character’s actions (like in You with Joe Goldberg— obviously we’re not supposed to like him), she made mistakes but I was supposed to identify with and root for Imani. And she was just TERRIBLE. She’s so unbelievably privileged and disrespectful and blind to anything bad going on around her. At first, I tried to excuse it, thinking that she was just raised that way. Except both her older brother and younger sister were empathetic and decent human beings and they were all raised together so… I think it’s just an Imani problem. She’s from a well-known and respected clan whereas the people traveling with her (Fey, Taha, and Reza) are from poorer, less-respected clans. She doesn’t seem to understand this at all and ignorantly acts like that they all were raised equally even though she was allowed to break laws because of her status (ex: drinking the misra tea earlier than allowed because her aunt was on the council and was the Master of Magic). It seems she is unable to understand that not everyone is as fortunate as her and makes numerous dumbass statements like protesting “but everyone is cared for here!” when Amira says she steals for her friends who don’t have food because they would get in trouble for stealing, unlike Amira because of her status as part of the Beya clan. But then Imani demonstrates in the worst way possible that she actually does understand her privilege and believes she’s better than everyone else (all because Taha said “I didn’t mean to do that…let’s just focus on the mission” after kissing her):
He should be grateful to even be in my company. He should be desperate for my approval. He is the nobody from a petty clan with the disgraceful bully of a father, and I am Imani of the Beya clan, descended from an illustrious lineage that shall endure for another thousand glorious years while his falls into disrepute and dust.
Yikes. So I guess she does know she’s more privileged after all, she’s just content ignoring that fact. She also just has absolutely no respect for anyone’s privacy, but she can keep as many secrets as she likes. She relentlessly questions Qayn about a traumatic memory and *he repeatedly says he doesn’t want to talk about it* so later on when they briefly share souls, she VIOLATES HIS MIND AND LOOKS FOR THAT MEMORY SO SHE CAN SEE WHAT HAPPENED. Even though he specifically promised he would never do that to her if they shared souls/minds. He’s so hurt and confused afterwards, I felt so bad for him. She admits that it was wrong but then blames it on her curiosity since he wouldn’t tell her. Of course, he should have just told her the most painful memory he has! Why wouldn’t he want to confide in this stranger who threatens to kill him if he doesn’t cooperate every other sentence she speaks? Yeah, she does that too. He’s literally sworn to help her and she still threatens him every five seconds because she’s an ~asshole~ and she’s supposed to be intimidating. The Djinni Slayer, and all that.
“That is a memory I do not wish to explore.” (Qayn)
“I command you—“ I start, pulling my dagger on him.
ah yes, just threaten him with violence so he divulges his most private and painful memory

She’s also just… not so bright. She jeopardizes the mission and the team’s safety on multiple occasions by being stubborn and stupid and making irrational, impulsive decisions. She’s also intentionally ignorant, there are multiple times where she could learn something and she refuses to because she doesn’t want anything to change the way she thinks. She actually says things like: ”I never asked him what it was, that truth. I didn’t want to know.” and I am feverish with fury, and sick with something else, something I cannot and do not want to understand about who I have been raised to be. Like she can TELL— she can sense in her little brain SOMEHOW that something about her beliefs is not right so she decides the best plan is to ~ignore it~ and intentionally stay in the dark. She also immediately gives up anytime something goes slightly askew and has to be convinced by Amira (her younger sister) to keep going. They get lost in the Swallowing Sands and Amira is like “hey can you get off your ass and help me try and find a way out” (but more respectfully) and our girl Imani explains that she doesn’t want to die wandering around in circles (so she’s just gonna give up instead). This is also an example of how Amira’s entire purpose in this book was to motivate and help her sister. Honestly I don’t remember the last time I disliked a main character *this much*. Here is another example of Imani being so intolerable I just wanted to throw my book across the room:
**this conversation is between Taha and Imani after they find out that Atheer stole misra for at least several months (we find out later he actually stole misra for close to two years) and gave it to outsiders but will be let off with a slap on the wrist**
“Did you know a hunter once stole a single pouch of misra from a Shield camp and was imprisoned for two years for the crime?” (Taha)
“I did not know that, but if the hunter knowingly deprived Shields of vital misra, he deserved his punishment.” (Imani the HYPOCRITE)
“The hunter was a poor man prone to spells of madness.” (Taha)
“One of yours, then.” (Imani)
damn she is a BITCH, and I do NOT just throw that word around lightly

-Taha: Onto our second worst character! Taha was also a piece of work, but not quite as bad as Imani because at least some of his actions can be explained by having an abusive, authoritarian father. Imani grew up pampered and adored and still turned out to be a complete asshole with no regard for other people’s feelings. Taha—also an asshole—at least had an explanation, though not an excuse, for why he didn’t care about other people’s feelings since he had essentially had his emotions beaten out of him throughout his childhood. Side note: it’s so clear he was physically abused from the things he says in passing (not to mention the fact that he’s covered in scars, scars Imani SEES when she shamelessly spies on him undressing, like a total creep). And yet our dumbass self-centered heroine has no idea what he could possibly mean when he says things like “I’ve endured much worse beatings than that” after she tries to save him from a guard who hit him and ends up screwing them all over and revealing her magic, or when he talks about how he had to learn certain things “to survive.” What did he have to survive, Imani? You already know his dad is a cruel person, come on, let’s put two and two together. I don’t excuse Taha’s actions but I understand why he is the way he is and why he’s so focused on following rules and pleasing his father at any cost. He’s still complete shit though, for example, he’s perfectly willing to allow a woman to get raped because he doesn’t want to make their presence known by intervening. The fuck????
-Amira: I don’t have any strong feelings towards Amira one way or the other, I found her to be whiny and a little bratty at times but she’s fairly young I think (maybe 13? I don’t remember) so it makes sense with her age. But she doesn’t seem to really add much to the plot, she’s kind of just there to remind her sister that family is important!! and never give up!! That’s her main purpose.
-Fey and Reza: These characters are interchangeable. They’re both really rude to Imani and seem to worship the ground Taha walks on, so obviously we’re supposed to hate them. (Even though they have valid reasons to dislike her.)
-Qayn: The djinni who bound himself to Imani in order to help Atheer. I didn’t hate him but I didn’t love him either. For a while I thought I liked him (he definitely wasn’t as idiotic as Imani or bloodthirsty as Taha or one dimensional as Amira/Fey/Reza), but then it seemed like he was starting to fall in love with our main character and THAT is unforgivable. Because how are you going to live for OVER A THOUSAND YEARS and let yourself fall for a spoiled child? Like I mentioned above, I have a feeling there’s going to be a romance between Qayn and Imani now that she hates Taha (even though I doubt that’ll last because even though moving on from him would be the smart move, it’s not like she has a history of making smart decisions). But back to Qayn and Imani— a 17-year-old with someone who’s 1000+ years old is icky. Beyond icky. The age gap is already uncomfy enough in new adult fantasy and those protagonists are 18/19/20ish, our girl Imani is a literal MINOR.

This book was absolute garbage and it’s such a shame because the book itself is so pretty and I do feel like it had POTENTIAL. But the characters and the writing just ruined it.
Profile Image for Nainika Gupta.
Author 1 book72 followers
April 10, 2023
I read the blurb, saw 'daggers', and 'magic', and that was it. I was hooked. From the beginning, we were pulled into a fantastic world of mystery and intrigue, and I loved how fast-paced this was! It did drag a little in the beginning, but once the action started, it didn't stop. These characters were adorable and I was in love with the plot!
Profile Image for Alessa.
223 reviews40 followers
December 27, 2022
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC of this book.

Spice Road is a decent YA fantasy debut, but I think there is room for improvements.

First of all, I loved the setting and worldbuilding. I’m a big fan of Middle Eastern-inspired fantasy so it wasn’t hard to win me over. I loved the descriptions, the hidden world of Sahir and the shock when they traveled to what lay outside. I also appreciated that colonization was brought into the story, and the depictions of the reality and horrors of it were done so well and I think it’s great to have this in a YA novel.

The plot is decent, nothing we haven’t seen before, but it was done well and I think it does a great job at setting up the trilogy. I do wish the marketing surrounding the book was a bit different, there’s a big emphasis on the tea magic and I felt like we didn’t really see much of it.

My main issue were the characters.
It’s YA, they’re teenagers/young adults, and while they certainly acted their age, I also just really struggled with them. I didn’t like any of the main cast characters, least of all the FMC.
She was so stubborn and selfish, and imo didn’t really have any redeeming qualities.

The other three characters of the original traveling party all felt very similar to one another. I didn’t like that all three of them disliked the FMC (not that I blame them lol), but for a good 10-20%, the plot was carried by this conflict and it didn’t do much for the tension. I can see this becoming a nice found family over the course of the books, but I wish we would have gotten a bit in this one.

The love interest, Taha, had his good moments but after some of his actions, I don’t see myself liking him in the sequels.

The most disappointing character to me however was Qayn. He had so much potential and I always enjoy djinn characters, but for a centuries-old being, he acted a lot like the teenage characters of the novel.

There were also moments here and there were I found the characters’ reactions to be unrealistic and some of the conversations felt a bit forced.

The book and author certainly have potential and I will be reading the sequel because it is a promising story, I just really hope for a good character arc.

I recommend giving this book a try, it’s a great concept and story and I’m excited to see the author grow as a writer.
Profile Image for booknuts_.
760 reviews1,194 followers
May 8, 2023
I FREAKING LOVED THIS BOOK! I couldn't put it down so I was listening to it (the audiobook is fantastic!) and I was reading it and it was just that good!

The author is a master of storytelling, and creating a magical world that was vivid in my imagination, the characters were so deep and I could see the struggle that they were going through and choices that make or break them.

The one character that annoyed me? the little sister but I see that she was important to get the ball rolling but oh my word I couldn't stand her, she annoyed me so bad!

Taha! oh Taha... I hope you are redeemed! And Qayn? I look forward to more scenes with you next time! I DO NOT LIKE LOVE TRIANGLES but I loved this!!! I'm team TAHA because I have my suspicions about him... I feel like he has ulterior motives still.

Overall I loved this book and I can't wait for book 2!!!! I highly recommend it.

Sexual Content: mild/moderate
Language: mild/none
Drugs/alcohol: mild/none
Violence: moderate
Profile Image for Jess (oracle_of_madness).
783 reviews59 followers
December 18, 2022
Thank you, Netgalley and Publisher, for this Arc!!

Magic tea, a magic city and a book written so beautifully, it's, guess what? MAGIC!!¡!

Imira is a soldier, a Shield, in her kingdom of Sahir. Her brother has been presumed dead after having gone missing for a year. However, when Imira and her little sister chase their brothers' horse to a cave one day, they find information and a Djinni that can lead them to their brother across the sands. This would be perfect, but when Imani brings this news and information to the council, she is paired with her arch-rival Taha and his fellow scouts.

I loved the author's writing style, completely drawing me in and holding my interest from beginning to end. The magic system complimented the story and characters perfectly and seemed flawless. I am so excited that there will be a sequel!

Out January 24, 2023!
Profile Image for gabrielle.
167 reviews98 followers
June 15, 2023
Hidden deep within the desert is the city of Qalia, where the people use a secret spice that can awaken special affinities in those who drink the misra tea. Imani has an affinity for iron, garnering her the reputation as the city’s greatest weapon for battling the monsters that lurk out in the sands. But her name has been overshadowed by her brother who tarnished the family’s reputation by stealing the nation’s coveted spice before disappearing into the Forbidden Wastes where he perished.

When new evidence reveals that Imani’s brother may still be alive, she strikes a deal with the council to find him and bring him back before he can reveal the location of their hidden, protected city. Accompanied by a handsome djinni and a powerful beastseer, Imani will soon discover there are a lot of secrets to uncover beyond the sandy wastelands.

Spice Road follows the standard mold of a YA novel, but with certain pros and cons to highlight. There’s a good balance of political machinations, action scenes, character development, and angsty romance so even though there’s nothing new here, the story kept my interest. The world building is well done, and the magical system is interesting; neither of them are overcomplicated and the author avoids dumping a ton of information at once.

While there’s decent character development, only one of the three main characters was compelling for me.
Imani was your typical “not like other girls” female lead, designated to be the BEST at something yet there’s only one real fight scene. Overall, I didn’t dislike her character but despite the emotion the author tried to drum up, I felt very little for her.
Taha was your typical as interesting as a sack of rice, cardboard cutout, male love interest. And frankly, he was straight-up an asshole the majority of the time. He’d treat Imani nicely when they were alone but belittle and degrade her in front of his friends – talk about that emotional manipulation. Despite the good romantic angst, I did not understand Imani’s attraction to him.
Qayn isn’t developed as much as the other two but he’s supportive of Imani and has a distinctly interesting background that I’m curious to learn about in the books to follow.

My biggest qualm with Spice Road is the grandiose nature of everything. Every small plot point is drummed up to be a much bigger deal than strictly necessary. Everything felt overly dramatic, and it really rubbed me the wrong way at times. That being said, this was a solid debut and I’ll most likely be picking up the sequel.
Profile Image for Andi.
1,235 reviews
December 13, 2022
This book was rough. I made it 61% through when I said 'no more' and closed it,

There are issues with this book - the pacing, for example. Nothing happens at all in the 61% that I read. Just them traveling across the desert.

The main character is talked about being a djinn killer but you never see any examples of her being this fearsome warrior that they all discuss or say she is.

There is a strange love triangle going on between Taha, the djinn and her. I don't like it and I find it messy. Even worse, Taha is written in such a way that he goes back and forth, back and forth between treating her poorly and flirting with her. It's written badly and it is painful to watch because the switch isn't well written.

The world building is poor. I have no idea why they're traveling across the sands besides to get her brother back, and the tea aspect of how they get their magic doesn't make much sense and if you would take it away it would not change the story here or there.

I was really excited to read this book and it's a shame it was a difficult read for me.
Profile Image for Katie Hanna.
Author 8 books127 followers
June 30, 2023
DNF about halfway through.

Spice Road is a YA fantasy adventure with a Middle Eastern setting. The heroine, Imani, goes on a quest to a distant kingdom along the "Spice Road" rescue her missing brother. I liked Imani's loyalty to her brother, I liked the Middle Eastern mythology, and I especially liked the sassy good-lookin' djinn who makes a ~illicit bargain~ with Imani which, while cliched, was probably the most interesting part of the book.

The reason this book bored me and ended up being a DNF... it gets bogged down in drama between Imani and her squadmates, Taha, Fey, and Reza. Taha is your typical surly teenage boy with evil-daddy-issues, while Fey and Reza are supposedly twenty-somethings but very much act like teens, and their petty fights are eerily reminiscent of the squabbles of rival students at any standard YA Magical School. Like, these are supposed to be this society's most elite warriors, the hardened veterans of all kinds of horrible battles, but they're absorbed in silly popularity contests and desperate for parental approval. I couldn't take the story seriously as long as they were around.

I think the book would have been drastically improved if we cut out Taha and his cohort entirely and had Imani go on her own quest to rescue her brother--possibly with her younger sister, definitely with her djinn ally. This would have been a far more interesting character trio, since the sister and the djinn are both, y'know, actually likeable.
Profile Image for Andye.Reads.
857 reviews450 followers
March 14, 2023
4.25 stars

I knew from the first page that I was going to love this book. I immediately connected with the writing and I absolutely love this world. I had huge moments of frustration, and I even thought at one point that I might be too angry to give this a really positive review, however I did come around, but just so you know, I HOLD GRUDGES.
Profile Image for Zaynab.
567 reviews19 followers
June 24, 2023
The truth is the thorn, not the rose.

Exotic Arab inspired epic fantasy debut abuzz with mesmeric world building, adrenalin-packed adventure, menacing monsters, political strife, wounding betrayals and coveted magic.
Profile Image for Margherita.
152 reviews57 followers
Shelved as 'dnf'
February 26, 2023
I received an ARC and I’m leaving an honest review.

I started it a few days before release day because I hoped I'd be able to read it before it came out, but back then I wasn't in the mood for a long fantasy book, so I ended up leaving it for a bit. I came back to it a couple days ago because I was finally in the mood, but I still ended up DNFing it at 54%.

It’s ya and it’s a trilogy… did the book really have to be almost 500 pages long?

The premise of a Middle Eastern fantasy with magic fueled by tea sounded amazing, but the way it’s executed made it feel like nothing interesting was actually happening. At the point where I stopped reading the plot was starting to become a little more interesting, but I stopped anyway because of the characters (they seriously made the reading experience painful).

The characters in general were annoying and flat, but the main character was the worst of all. I tried, I really did, but Imani is so entitled, insufferable and naive, I can’t fucking stand her. She literally acts like an arrogant child all the time. The part where Qayn snapped at her and told her "You will know the truth when you deserve it, but the ignorant deserve nothing" was totally deserved.

Taha’s an asshole to Imani for years and they’re “rivals”, then they actually talk to each other ONCE and she already goes all “oh no I’m falling for him”. Excuse me??
At some point Taha starts acting somewhat nicely a few times to her in private just to be a douche again to her in front of the others and I’m just like “are you 12? What is your problem".

Also, that scene where everyone meets Qayn, and Taha has that weird jealous moment when he asks if Imani is in love with Qayn was just random and weird. Qayn has been bound to Imani for like four days, and Taha has had two decent conversations with Imani in all the years they had known each other. How is anyone supposed to be in love with anyone here?

I found out this story has a love triangle after I had already started reading it, but I don't see how any kind of romance can fit in here, or how am I supposed to even root for anyone. Taha is the typical ya book asshole/bully, so no thank you. Qayn is actually the only interesting character in this story, but I'm still not rooting for him because he deserves way better than Imani.

I might come back to this book some day in the future, but for now it's a no from me.
Profile Image for Claire.
Author 3 books528 followers
February 8, 2023
A rich, fresh-voiced fantasy, Ibrahim weaves a masterful tale of family and adventure. Readers will devour the pages like a perfectly spiced tea and be left burning for more.
Profile Image for On the Same Page.
498 reviews87 followers
January 21, 2023
ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


I pushed myself to finish this book last night, because I just didn't want to wake up in the morning and know that it was still waiting for me. I kept hoping it would get better. And sometimes, it did, but only briefly. All in all, it just wasn't enough.

I'll start with the positive, which is the Middle Eastern-inspired setting and the magic system. The world itself is interesting—Qalia is a city hidden by magic that the rest of the world has forgotten. The source of it is a spice called misra, from which they brew a tea. Once they drink it, they can use magic for a limited amount of time. Each sorcerer has a specific affinity as well—our main character, Imani, can manipulate the iron in her dagger. I liked the idea of tea fueling the magic. They take it very seriously, and have brewing ceremonies with which they start their day.

The plot itself is fairly straightforward, and consists of a lot of traveling. Imani's brother disappeared after stealing a large amount of misra, and Imani finally has a lead on where he is and is determined to bring him home. They encounter some precarious situations along the way, but none of what happens is very surprising what with all the foreshadowing. Except if your name is Imani, then everything is a shock to the system.

I don't mind reading about unlikeable characters, although I will say that I usually prefer not to read them in first person POV. But Imani was completely insufferable. For someone who is supposedly a great warrior, the Djinni Slayer, you'd think she would be much less naïve. Instead, she spends nearly half the book insisting that her brother would never do something like this and must've been brainwashed, despite all evidence to the contrary, including discussions she had with him that she reflects on. She's also extremely privileged but completely unaware of it, as if it is the most normal thing in the world that everything will be forgiven once she returns with her brother, including her blackmailing Qalia's leaders. She does get called out on this by Taha, but it still takes her an embarrassingly long time to figure out that she is the asshole to all the people in her life.

And even after she has this realization, she really doesn't do anything with it. The biggest example of this is her relationship/romance with Taha. Every interaction between them would start with Taha treating her almost kindly, and then suddenly doing a complete 180 and reverting back to his usual cold aloofness. And I can understand Imani being first confused by this, and then giving him the cold shoulder right back. Instead, she keeps joining him in this ridiculous cycle so that we can get constant internal monologues of, "wow he's so different when we're alone, maybe I like him, why did he just say that to me, he is the WORST I will never trust him again".

This book is also an excellent example of why I don't like first person POV, and actually think that a lot of authors don't write it well. This is a snippet from one of their countless confrontations:
"We have nothing," he says finally, his words palpably laced with despair.
I revealed my weakness for him yet again in some naïve hope that my feelings would be reciprocated, but all he gave in return was that impenetrable defensive wall.
So which is it? Was he palpably despairing or was it an impenetrable defensive wall?

I wish I could say that the rest of the characters make up for it, but they really don't. I was mildly interested in Qayn, but the author teases a love triangle between Taha, Qayn, and Imani, and I have no interest in going down that road. I'm really sad that this didn't work for me.

If you want a taste of the drama, there's a final quote from the end of the book behind the spoiler tag.
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