THE FINAL STRIFE by Saara El Arafi

Hello everyone!

Whilst the main focus this month is on spooky season, there is still some fantasy reads to talk about, and here is one. I read this one a while ago and quite enjoyed it. 


In the first book of a visionary fantasy trilogy with its roots in the mythology of Africa and Arabia, three women band together against a cruel empire that divides people by blood.

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.

Book One of The Ending Fire Trilogy
AUTHOR:  Saara El Arafi
TITLE: The Final Strife
PUBLISHER: Harper Voyager (UK) Del Rey (US)
PUB DATE: 23rd June 2022 

Saara el Arifi explodes into her publishing debut with The Final Strife, which begins her new fantasy trilogy The Ending Fire. The Ghanian and Arabian inspired fantasy centres on the main characters of Sylah, Anoor and Hassa.

The Final Strife is set in The Warden’s Empire, an island nation that is brutally split into different classes that are typified by their blood colour. Dusters have blue blood and are mainly the repressed labourers of the Empire. The Ghostings are clear blooded and are stripped of communication by having their tongues cut out and their hands removed as a punishment for an uprising against the dominant Embers (those with red blood!) in the far reaches of time.

Sylah is an ember, and is also one of a number of babies and that were stolen from prominent figures in the Ember society by a terrorist organisation known as the Sandstorm, whose intentions were to destabilise society from the inside by replacing ember children with Dusters, and also being able to smuggle in sleeper agents who could take part in the competition to become a disciple of the hierarchy, The Wardens, called The Aktibar which is held every ten years.
However, Sylah is aimless, addled by drug use and has lost all purpose following the massacre of the Sandstorm members several years ago. She wanders around living from the next fix to the next fix, eking out a living in the ring.
Anoor is the ‘daughter’ of one of the wardens and has been living in relative luxury throughout her developments. And Hassa is a Ghosting who lives and works in the palace, but also sells Joba seeds, the drug Sylah is addicted to.

We are initially introduced to The Wardens Empire through the eyes of Sylah. However, this expands to include both Anoor’s and Hassa’s perspectives as the book moves on.

The book is a fast paced, plot driven novel that is full of exuberance and stylised world building. El Arafi builds the plot using some recognisable tropes such as training montages, brutal competitions,  friends to lovers and chosen ones, yet manages to make them feel fresh and enjoyable without falling into overlong descriptions of each of these tropes.

Her characters are full of energy and likeable, even though Sylah is quite consumed by anger, and Anoor has the temperament of an over excited puppy dog at times. But for me, it was Hassa that was the most interesting.

The writing itself just bangs along and it is not a hard read, and Saara El Arafi’s writing seems to flow very naturally throughout the plot.
The plot itself is engaging, with twists and turns and as it unfolds you learn more and more about the world that the story is set in.

As I said earlier, this is the first book in the series, and it will be interesting to see how the story unfurls over the three books.


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