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?
Spice Road was on my most anticipated list for 2023 so of course when I saw it was available on NetGalley I had to grab myself a copy. I am a sucker for Middle Eastern inspired fantasy and I had great hopes for this one. I loved the sound of the magic system which is somewhat based on tea, combined with djinn and ghouls and all the usual creatures.
The main character, Imani, is super loyal to her family and also quite powerful. She showed a little of the “not like other girls” trope but I overlooked it to be honest because I was enjoying reading about her relationship with her sister so much and I was willing to forgive.
Her relationship with the two guys in this book is going to be very hit or miss for readers. I think a lot of people will like Taha, the broody soldier, even if he is a bit much. Qayn was intriguing, but I’m not sure I really bought into him being an actual potential love interest considering he’s thousands of years old.
Anyway, the romance wasn’t the main draw at all and I pretended none of it happened.
I found the beginning of the story to be incredibly info-dumpy. The reader is given Imani’s entire backstory, the history of the world, and Imani didn’t actually uncover anything like the synopsis suggests. However! Past the 20% mark things really got going and the whole thing was a lot more interesting. I thought the world building was very intriguing and contained themes of colonisation, secrets, and betrayal.
Overall, this was an intriguing debut and I’m glad I had the chance to read it.
I received this book from NetGalley as part of the TBR and Beyond blog tour! Check out the rest of the bloggers and Instagrammers on the schedule to read their thoughts.
About Maiya Ibrahim
Maiya Ibrahim is the debut author of SPICE ROAD, publishing January 24, 2023 from Delacorte Press and Hodder & Stoughton. She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney. When she isn’t writing, reading, or spending time with her family, she enjoys video games, gardening, and expanding her collection of rare trading cards. She lives in Sydney, Australia.
She is represented by Peter Knapp of Park & Fine Literary and Media, Claire Wilson of RCW Literary, and Mary Pender-Coplan of United Talent Agency.