I love a story set in an expansive world with complex characters and a plot that keeps me hooked from the very first page. Epic fantasy always fills this need.
We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal
Arawiya is a country where magic has disappeared and women are expected to be subservient. Defying the norms, Zafira disguises herself as a man known only as the Hunter. She hunts in a the cursed forest near her home to provide food to those who need it. When a mysterious stranger asks Zafira to locate a lost artifact that could bring back magic, failure is not an option. During this quest she encounters Nasir, the assassin prince who has been ordered to find and kill the Hunter and bring the artifact back to his father, the cruel sultan. Neither is what the other expected. They must overcome more than just each other to survive their journey.
We Hunt the Flame is the first of a duology that does a wonderful job of showing different perspectives on love and family. As Zafira’s story plays out, we see her love for her family as well as the people around her. You are able to feel the beauty and heartbreak of love right along with her as she walks through her journey. Nasir’s story shows the struggle of a son who wants nothing more than to receive love and approval from his father. He will do anything to earn it, even when it is to his own detriment.
If you like this duology, check out Dance of Thieves by Mary E. Pearson.
Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim
Imani lives in a world where spice provides access to magical abilities and monsters lurk around every corner. Thanks to spice, she is able to wield her dagger better than anyone. She knows the secret of spice cannot spread beyond her city or they risk the wrath of the Great Spirit. However, her accomplishments are overshadowed by her brother’s theft of spice, his disappearance and his assumed death.
Imani discovers her brother may be alive and spreading spice to other parts of the world. She must find him and bring him back before he places everything and everyone she cares about in danger.
The first book of a trilogy, Spice Road is a great read for anyone who likes books with unique views on magic. Magic is tied to the gift of the Great Spirit and Imani’s city of Qalia is home to the source. In Qalia, magic allows people to accomplish great things, but it also comes with great risk. Magical obsession can make people do dangerous things.
If you like this story, check out The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
As young witches, Safiya and Iseult have amazing abilities. However, those abilities cannot protect them from the trouble that always seems to find them. With a Bloodwitch on their tails, the danger is greater than they have ever experienced.
Merik is the prince of a country with a sick king. His sister is the heir who could bring the country to ruin. When a chance encounter brings Safiya, Iseult and Merik together, they discover they are unlikely allies. The fight for what each wants will bring them against foes of every class and everyone is fighting to win.
Truthwitch is the first in the Witchlands series. The friendship between Safiya and Iseult is so beautiful to follow. They care deeply for each other and will do anything to protect each other. Merik just wants to prove there are better ways to lead a country than what his sister wants. In so many ways these characters are completely different, but they are alike in the ways that matter. The banter between all the characters is one of my favorite aspects of this book. It enriches the story and gives their relationships a depth that brings the characters to life.
If you like this series, check out Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson.