Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim
Expected Publication: January 24, 2023
for an incredible setting, for a story rife with possibilities and big moments, but also there are characters I hate so much I really wanted to DNF this one
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 the 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?
My biggest issue with this book was Amira. I freaking hate Amira. From basically page two she’s being a massive immature pain in the ass while also being super preachy about it. She’s one of those people who condemns someone else for doing the exact thing they themself are doing, and she doesn’t even realize it. It’s awful and I couldn’t stand her. The only way I was able to finish this book was by skipping anything she said and any reference to her name for the last 50% of the book. There was nothing redeeming about her for me.
► View spoilers about how my hopes were dashed
And when she was like “I promise I won’t come.” I knew it was going to be a lie because that’s just how annoying younger siblings work in an adventure story, but god did I cling to that hope that she would in fact stay home. And of course she emerges by way of waking a legendary immortal giant full of rage. I hate her so much.
I persevered mainly because this was an ARC and I wanted to get more than twenty (incredibly annoying) pages in before quitting, and also because I had so much hope for seeing more of the world and the lore of it. I did indeed get more lore, and I was able to slowly fall in love with that aspect of the story. There’s so much history built into it, both in the small daily lives and the world-shaping historical beings and events that exist. Learning about each kept me entranced (until shattered by an annoying scream — if you read my spoiler or the book it’ll make sense).
As for the plot itself, the formula is also pretty common for what magic adventure stories are where a powerful (young) person discovers the people in power have lied to them about something important, and they question right and wrong and their very beliefs. It was fine, but nothing particularly new. I was impressed with the amount of punches to the main character. I mean, damn, this is not an easy ride where everything just somehow turns out fine. She actually has some pretty massive losses and setbacks and pain to overcome.
As for the romance aspect, there’s not a ton of on-page romance, though there’s a lot of her thinking about feelings and kisses and stuff. Given they’re on a potentially lethal mission, this makes sense. No time for snogging! What was included added to the story for the most part though, by building some uneasy tension between the MC and the others in her group. Motivation was kept very obscure for a large part of it, especially to the extent of dude’s goals for their mission.
To be honest, I probably won’t continue this series. There are some new characters introduced along the way (as well as the ones throughout) who I sense will hang around more in later books that I also just don’t care for. Some I’m neutral about, but that’s not enough to sell me on it.
Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for a free advanced copy. This is my honest review.
4 thoughts on “ARC Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim (1/24/23)”
This is Ibrahim’s debut book, right? I wonder how her writing style will grow as she continues writing…
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It is. It wasn’t exactly her writing style, just the characters. And I admit this could be personal issues too because I’m getting older and am the youngest child so I’ve never had younger siblings. Maybe they just really are that annoying xD
I dunno… my younger sister was only annoying in small doses, and usually because I was being annoying to her as well. 😉 I dislike a lot of sibling portrayals too, but I suppose that’s partly because I had (and still have) a really good relationship with my sister.