This dark fantasy inspired by pre-Islamic Arabian mythology is a whirlwind of colorful characters thrown into a struggle for their identities and their very lives. It is billed as YA but I would hesitate recommending this to anyone on the younger end of that demographic. The characters in this tale suffer greatly from just about every crime against humanity – rape, beatings, torture, sexual slavery, suicide, beheading, massacre and public stoning. These are cruelties we know exist but shudder to think about. The author’s goal, stated on her website, is to create awareness of the plight of refugees like the Rohingya people, and to make readers feel what these humans are going through.
The world built by this author is an extremely detailed and colorful one. Characters wear elaborate costumes and jewelry and travel crowded streets and alleys filled with firebreathers, dancers and people of every caste, including the casteless. The sand of the desert tells story by forming magical shapes.
Here we find Roma, the main character, a sex slave who longs for freedom and knows in her heart the system is unjust. She is scornful of those who put their faith in the gods.
Leviathan, a hired killer, the lowest of the low, lives to avenge his mother’s death, but deep within him grows a desire to be a good and honorable man despite his crimes against humanity.
The author has set herself an ambitious goal by bringing so many injustices to this story and provides a glossary of terms to help readers understand the complexities of which she writes. From the beginning, the reader wants Roma and Leviathan to survive, even to succeed in reaching a better life. For them, and for the reader, it’s a very rough and exciting ride.