Posted in Reviews

ARC Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim (1/24/23)

Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim
Expected Publication: January 24, 2023

Recommended: eh
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).

Continue reading “ARC Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim (1/24/23)”
Posted in Reviews

Review: The Dark Queens:The Bloody Rivalry that Forged the Medieval World by Shelley Puhak (nonfiction!)

The Dark Queens: The Bloody Rivalry that Forged the Medieval World by Shelley Puhak

Recommended: yup!
For a detailed narrative nonfiction about those crazy Merovingians, for insight into history not often taught that you have to intentionally seek out, for an impressively well-researched piece of writing


Brunhild was a Spanish princess, raised to be married off for the sake of alliance-building. Her sister-in-law Fredegund started out as a lowly palace slave. And yet—in the 6th-century Merovingian Empire, where women were excluded from noble succession and royal politics was a blood sport—these two iron-willed strategists reigned over vast realms for decades, changing the face of Europe.

The two queens commanded armies and negotiated with kings and popes. They formed coalitions and broke them, mothered children and lost them. They fought a years-long civil war—against each other. With ingenuity and skill, they battled to stay alive in the game of statecraft, and in the process laid the foundations of what would one day be Charlemagne’s empire. Yet after Brunhild and Fredegund’s deaths—one gentle, the other horrific—their stories were rewritten, their names consigned to slander and legend.

In The Dark Queens, award-winning writer Shelley Puhak sets the record straight. She resurrects two very real women in all their complexity, painting a richly detailed portrait of an unfamiliar time and striking at the roots of some of our culture’s stubbornest myths about female power. The Dark Queens offers proof that the relationships between women can transform the world.


Y’all this book is impressive as shit. It is so incredibly annotated and footnoted and it’s like every other sentence has a point of reference. That doesn’t distract or take away from the reading, and you can look at them after if you want and just sink into the narrative without pulling away to check out the notes, but boy was I impressed every time I saw the density of them on the page. The author and their cohort really did their work on this and it shows. Brunhild and Fredegund are absolutely incredible to read about and every new scene was compelling.

Continue reading “Review: The Dark Queens:The Bloody Rivalry that Forged the Medieval World by Shelley Puhak (nonfiction!)”