Welcome to all book bees, old and new! We at THP hope that 2023 has been kind to everyone thus far, especially since these new book releases are threatening our bank accounts. And today, we’re reviewing Maiya Ibrahim’s debut YA novel, Spice Road! (*cue the ooh’s and ahh’s*)
Spice Road draws from Arabian and Middle Eastern mythology, which is right up our YA fantasy alley. And what’s even better is knowing the end of this novel is the beginning of a promising trilogy! Here are three things we need to discuss about Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim.
Content Warnings: war, violence, death, murder, gore, and sexual assault (read at your discretion!).
Summary: In the hidden desert city of Qalia, there is secret spice magic that awakens the affinities of those who drink the misra tea. Sixteen-year-old Imani has an affinity for iron and is able to wield a dagger like no other warrior. She has garnered the reputation as being the next great Shield for battling djinn, ghouls, and other monsters spreading across the sands.
Her reputation has been overshadowed, however, by her brother, who tarnished the family name after it was revealed that he was stealing his nation’s coveted spice—a telltale sign of magical obsession. Soon after that, he disappeared, believed to have died beyond the Forbidden Wastes. Despite her brother’s betrayal, there isn’t a day that goes by when Imani doesn’t grieve him.
But when Imani discovers signs that her brother may be alive and spreading the nation’s magic to outsiders, she makes a deal with the Council that she will find him and bring him back to Qalia, where he will face punishment. Accompanied by other Shields, including Taha, a powerful beastseer who can control the minds of falcons, she sets out on her mission.
Imani will soon find that many secrets lie beyond the Forbidden Wastes—and in her own heart—but will she find her brother?
To start off, we think Maiya Ibrahim’s world-building in Spice Road deserves a round of applause. The weaving of Arabian and Middle Eastern culture into the magical land of Qalia and beyond is phenomenal. She gives us so many vivid details that contrast a form of heaven on earth to the disturbing, war-torn nation surrounding it. And we can’t get enough of the misra tea and how different users call on their powers.
Main Character Development
Having grown up in a prestigious family, the protagonist Imani comes from a place of privilege. And as you can guess, her worldview is limited to the bubble she’s lived in her whole life. So when Imani ventures past the Forbidden Wastes that keep her hometown hidden from the rest of the world, her perspective flips completely. Everything she thought she knew gets derailed, and she’s forced to face her prejudices and flaws. We’re here for her powers evolving, but we’re staying for her personal growth and coming of age.
Hints Of Romance
Now for the question on everyone’s mind: yes, there’s romance in Spice Road. The two love interests could not be more different from each other. But they’re similar in that they start as rivals and enemies to Imani. While their interactions can feel frustrating, we can always appreciate those fleeting, tender moments. We don’t want to give away too much information, so prepare for some push-pull situations.
Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim is out now, and you can grab your copy here!
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