Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim #bookreview #YA #fantasy #magic

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.

I’m a fan of Arabian-inspired stories (I’m usually drooling over the food descriptions), and the beautiful cover and secret spice magic sealed the deal when requesting this novel from NetGalley.

Imani’s brother was presumed dead a year ago, and she and her family are still grieving the loss. When she and her sister uncover evidence he may still be alive, she’s sent by the Council to find him and bring him home. Their city’s location and magical spice are meant to be kept secret, and if he’s revealed that information, the consequences could be dire. Assigned to accompany her on this quest is the arrogant Taha and a couple of his friends, all of who really don’t care for Imani. Qayn, a djinni bound to Imani, is also along for the ride.

I wasn’t a fan of Imani. She’s selfish, privileged, and oblivious to things outside her bubble of perfection. During her journey revelations come to light, and she begins to question everything she’s been taught about Qalia, her home. Soon her perfect bubble bursts, and she undergoes some admirable character growth. Shoutout to Imani’s stubborn younger sister Amira. Don’t underestimate her – the girl’s got some tricks up her sleeve. I also snickered several times over Qayn’s humorous comments about Taha.

The world-building grew even more interesting for me as the story progressed, and I liked that there are limits on magic and consequences of using too much spice. The presence of a love triangle didn’t surprise me, but it’s definitely not my favorite trope. Action sequences are well-written, exciting, and pretty stressful at times. I was afraid not everyone would survive – but no spoilers here.

If you’re a fan of magic-inspired fantasies, shocking betrayals, occasional snark, and political maneuvering, this novel is for you. With two more books to come, this is a series I’ll continue.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.  Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

19 thoughts on “Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim #bookreview #YA #fantasy #magic

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