I received this for the publisher in exchange for a review. This does not affect my review which is unbiased and honest.
I was really excited to read this book because I’ve always loved the short story that this is inspired by (The Lady or the Tiger) and also being Pakistani-America, I love that the setting was inspired by Pakistan!
While the beginning took a while to get into, I do think this was a really intriguing and rich story. I really enjoyed reading about Durkhanai’s court life as she tried to uncover the secrets of the court and navigate court politics to prove that she can be the ruler of the people that she thinks that she is. Of course, Durkhanai is way over her head as she realizes how much she’s been sheltered… and cue the charming Asfyandar who she really shouldn’t be associating with but secretly forms an alliance with.
Let’s make it clear here that if you’re looking for a plot heavy book, you will not find that here. However, if you’re looking for a beautiful setting and political intrigue and heavy character based stories, then this is definitely for you. I’m definitely a character based person so I did enjoy this tale (though the beginning took me a while to get into and that might be partly because I’m a mood reader!).
I think the author did a good job of shedding the light on anti blackness in the desi community. Unfortunately that is definitely a problem but the author did a good job of highlighting it in this world in my opinion. Asfyandar is black and because of that, the elder leaders of the community ostracize him. However, Durkhanai makes it clear that that’s wrong.
The political intrigue and the background stories were especially interesting. I loved seeing an innocent girl try to push her way through her “perfect princess” portrait and actually stand up for her people and try to make change.
I think the chemistry and attraction between Durkhanai and Asfyandar was really well done! I could definitely feel the tension in a lot of scenes, and oh my gosh there was one specific line that actually had me swooning!
One thing I do want to point out is that though there are some instances of Islam in the book (with the adhaan playing in the back, and just normal greetings and such), I wouldn’t say that this was a halal romance. If you’re going into this thinking that you’re going to get a cute halal romance, just keep that in mind because this was not halal. It definitely threw me off but it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book!
The ending is what really solidified my enjoyment of the book! I didn’t realize this wasn’t a standalone so be warned! I really didn’t see it coming and was definitely intrigued!
If you want to read a Pakistani inspired story with political intrigue this is definitely for you! If you love forced proximity, unlikely allies to lovers, sneaking around and spying, delicious food and betrayals, I would definitely recommend this! If you want a character based almost historical fantasy vibes kind of book I would definitely recommend this. The ending especially gave somewhat wrath and the dawn vibes!