Saara El-Arifi immediately place herself on my auto-buy list with her debut, and this new world she’s created just confirms why I love her storytelling.
The book starts with a myth telling of the three gods: Asase, the Wheat, god of the earth and creator of humans; Ewia, the two-headed Bat, god of the sun and creator of fae: and Bosome, the Water, god of the moon and creator of the elves. As far as anyone is aware, all that remains in the world are the elves, as the humans were killed off by the fae and the last human, Afa, cursed the fae to a life of isolation, leading them to be forgotten. Yeeran has just been promoted to colonel and wants to do what she can for the Waning tribe by defeating the Crescent elves, but when she goes east after a prophecy from her sister, Lettle, and with the encouragement of her general, Rayan, she sees the Crescent have some kind of magic that she’s never seen before and isn’t able to retreat quickly enough, leading to the slaughter of her contingent. Rather than execution, though, her chieftain (who is also her lover), sends Yeeran into exile. Lettle is determined to bring her home because that is her sister and even if they have a sometimes contentious bond, she won’t let her sister be lost. Rayan was asked by Yeeran to keep Lettle safe, but also he is grappling with guilt over encouraging Yeeran to try finding Crescent elves to battle. When Yeeran is exiled she comes across an obeah, a beast of magic, older than any she’s come across before and believes if she can kill the obeah and bring it back to Salawa, her exile will be reversed. Unfortunately, when she successfully hunts the obeah, she learns the fae are still around and by killing the obeah, she killed the prince of the fae, leading to her capture. At this point Rayan and Lettle have reunited with Yeeran, and all three are taken to Mosima, the prison-kingdom of the fae.
This book was intense from the beginning, and I absolutely could recognize El-Arifi’s storytelling from Ending Fire trilogy. There is so much fantastic world building, from the lore to the different dynamics between communities. One of the things that stood out was Yeeran curses and is informed the etymology of the phrase vilifies the fae and it makes her wonder how much language has lent itself to that vilification and the erasure of fae history.
I also really loved the divination that is so important to Lettle and the prophecies kept me on the edge of my seat, needing to know how things would play out. There are still so many questions and possibilities, but the way things played out was just, oof, so amazing and enthralling.
The last ~20% had me absolutely on the edge of my seat with reveal after reveal and so many emotional arcs playing out. I cannot wait to see what’s next for Yeeran, Lettle, Rayan, and Furi because there are so many politics at play and the war is only going to get more intense with the truths Yeeran and Lettle have learned.
I highly recommend picking this book up if you like fantasy with complicated family dynamics, messy romance, and fate playing out with these closely tied figures.