This incendiary YA fantasy debut follows a girl who will stop at nothing to save her village after it’s discovered by a dangerous warlord and his army of undead monsters.
Naira Khoum has only known life in Lagusa, a quiet village at the desert’s end. But to the rest of the world, Lagusa is a myth, its location shrouded in secrecy. While war rages to the north led by power-hungry Sothpike and his army of undead monsters called Dambi, Naira’s people live in peace.
Until the impossible happens—Lagusa is attacked by a Mistress sent to do Sothpike’s bidding with a hoard of Dambi under her control. The Mistress is looking for something, and she’s willing to let her Dambi destroy Lagusa to get it.
Desperate to protect her home, Naira convinces her twin brother Nez and handsome refugee Kal to join the newly formed resistance with her. Together, they’ll have to figure out what the Mistress wants—before there’s nothing left of Lagusa to save.
Undead monsters and a desert setting? Like music to this fantasy fan’s ears.
The cover immediately catches the eye and depicts Naira’s arid world. It’s clear the author put a lot of time and effort into the world-building, and it’s easy to visualize the settings and terrifying Dambi. The sibling relationship between twins Naira and Nez is a strong point, and he steals the show more than once. He’s also more logical, mature, and realistic than Naira, whose actions gave me the impression she was a much younger character. With the situations they’re thrust into and losses they’re dealt, at least they had each other to rely on.
The way Naira and her family welcome Kal after the loss of his father is admirable and heartwarming. He hasn’t had an easy life. I liked him as a character, but there’s a case of serious insta-love between him and Naira that happens over a couple pages. It’s not my favorite trope, but I know plenty of readers are fans of it.
If not for some language and graphic violence and deaths, I could easily see this being an upper MG book because the characters read more like lower YA. If you’re a fantasy fan seeking remarkable world-building, Waking Fire certainly provides it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
On Sale Date: January 10, 2023
Ages 13 And Up
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Jean Louise currently lives in Queens, New York, with her cat Martha. When she’s not writing, she can be found with her nose buried in a graphic novel or taking down bad guys in her favorite video games. She received an MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. This is her debut novel.
Author Website: https://jeanlouisewrites.com/