Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.
Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.
Clear is the blood of the slaves, of the crushed, of the invisible.
Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.
Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment, by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the empire. But when Sylah and Anoor meet, a fire burns between them that could consume the kingdom—and their hearts.
Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution. And when she joins forces with Sylah and Anoor, together these grains of sand will become a storm.
As the empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.
There’s a reason this novel was named One of the Most Anticipated Books of 2022 by Book Riot. What an incredible debut!
Such exceptional, detailed world-building. This world is a caste system based on the color of your blood. At the top of the food chain are Embers with their red blood, Dusters are blue-blooded, and Ghostings (whose hands and tongue are removed due to centuries old transgressions by their ancestors) translucent blood. The empire is govered by four wardens of strength, truth, knowledge, and duty. The Aktibar (a several months long competition) is held every ten years to choose a disciple who will become the next warden in these categories. Only Embers may be wardens, of course, and everyone must bow to them.
The three main characters are vastly different from each other. After watching her family be murdered, Sylah is now a drug addict (joba seeds) and a thief who fights in the ring for money. She’s abrasive, selfish, and difficult to like. Anoor is the daughter of a warden who deserves an award for the worst mother of the century. She belittles Anoor at every turn, which has left her with little self-esteem. Hassa may be my favorite character. As a Ghosting, she’s unseen by upper classes – but the girl is full of surprises. Don’t underestimate her.
As much as I didn’t initially care for Sylah, she and Anoor have magnificent character arcs (especially Anoor), and they grew on me by the end of the book. It’s pretty clear from the description this story includes an enemies to lovers trope, and it’s a humorous one at times that gave me some laughs. There’s a lot going on – rebellion, political intrigue, betrayal, loads of secrets, discrimination, and brutality. Then there’s the Aktibar competition with some deadly, harrowing trials included. At over 600 pages, this isn’t a light read. Maybe some content could have been cut, but honestly, not much.
The Final Strife is categorized as YA, but is easily a crossover. It’s one of my favorite reads this year, and I’ll absolutely continue with this series. A must read for fantasy fans.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.