This book has been on my radar for a long, long time. It’s also been on my kindle for a long, long time… I’d just never gotten a chance to get to it. Then, one day while I was browsing my whispersync upgrades (which is a dangerous, dangerous thing that amazon has in their kindle app), I found out that this had a cheap audio upgrade.
‘Well, I have all the time in the world for audiobooks!’ said I.
So, yeah. That happened. 😛
Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.
The best stories thrived when they contained a kernel of truth. One just needed to know how to prune the falsities and deceits to find the truth lying at their shared center.
Having listened to the audiobook put me at an instant advantage, because I never needed to find out how to pronounce Çeda. I would have stumbled over the name like an idiot every time I saw it in print. (It’s pronounced Chay-da, for those interested.)
Çeda is an awesome character and I really liked hearing her story. She is a woman living in the slums of Sharakhai, the great desert city, making her way day to day by fighting anonymously in the fighting pits, and running errands (of the sensitive and probably not legal kind) and delivering packages (of the almost definitely not legal kind) for the pit master. One night, a holy night, she is running one such errand and sees the Kings of Sharakhai. The very kings she’s sworn vengeance against since they executed her mother when she was young. This leads her on a journey of self-discovery, full of riddles about her past, her parentage, and the Kings themselves.
The book starts out with a scene in the pits with Çeda just laying the smackdown on her opponent, a man probably twice her size, which then segues nicely into a love scene that was unexpected but well written and not out of place at all. This scene was a really fantastic attention grabber for me, because not only do I enjoy the occasional well written sex scene, but I really enjoy a female lead who is believable in her actions and motivations, and I thought that this was a good example of that. Çeda is the type that (usually) does what she wants and apologizes for it later. I can relate to her in this way, and so it was very easy for me to root for her and hope she succeeded in her endeavors.
The world of this book, the desert, the slums, and the overall city of Sharakhai was so rich and well built that I could imagine it really well, and that is always awesome. There’s so much intrigue in this world. The story is full of mysteries to be solved and that is entirely well executed, between flashbacks and present day, Çeda uses a book that her mother left her and some help from her friends to unravel the truth of her past and the truth about the Kings. Her journey takes her right into the heart of her worst enemies, and Çeda, being the resourceful gutter wren that she is, thwarts their efforts to ruin her day (also, kill her).
Parts of the book made me legitimately emotional, as I wondered what would happen to Çeda or to Emre, or to both of them. I really, really liked Emre as a character as well, and I wanted the whole world for him. The relationship between them felt like best friends at times and so much more at other times, and the way it was written really had me hoping for the happiest of endings for both of them, whether together or not, best friends or more. It’s things like these that keep me reading books into the wee hours. Listening to, in this case, but it was still one of *those* books. The ones that make dust just get in my eyes because it can’t possibly be emotions because I don’t get misty about books (except that I do. Christ, I totally do).
The narrator, Sarah Coomes, did a fantastic job, and 25 hours felt like it just flew right by. I’m really, really picky about female narrators, as I’ve found out more recently with some experimentation, but this one really nailed this presentation. There are some accents here that I would think are legitimately difficult to pull off, but she managed, at least she totally managed in my eyes (or ears? lolololokay okay, I’ll stop 😁) I will definitely listen to more of this series narrated by her!
Well, it looks like I have my next audible credit all planned out! Too bad they’re so friggin few and far between, lol. This was a fantastic book, and I can’t wait to listen to some more of this trilogy. Easy 5/5 stars!