Spice Road

Delacorte. (Spice Road: Bk. 1). Jan. 2023. 464p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593126967.
Gr 7 Up–It has been a year since Imani’s brother disappeared. Since then, she has become a legendary Shield, a magical warrior that protects Qalia from the monsters that lurk in the Forbidden Wastes and beyond. When one such monster, a handsome Djinni named Qayn, says her brother is alive and that he knows where to find him, she illegally binds Qayn to herself and asks the Council for permission to venture beyond the Wastes to bring him back. However, her brother may have shared the key to their magic, exposing and endangering Qalia to the outsiders. To rescue him, the Council makes her go with three others, including Taha, her pompous Shield mate and possible love interest. Magic, monsters, and betrayals are at every turn in this Arabian-inspired fantasy. Middle Eastern culture is beautifully infused into the world, with vivid descriptions and ceremonies. However, character emotions and reputations are not described in such detail, instead being stated directly, with little expression or action to show for it. Both love interests have complexity and depth. While there is plenty of action and twists to keep the story moving, it is largely laying foundation for future installments.
VERDICT This is perfect for fans of Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes and angsty, enemies-to-lovers romance, and a good series opener with plenty of twists and betrayals sure to come.

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