Book Review

The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai | Book Review

The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai
Release Date: 12th January 2023
Genre: Adult, Fantasy
Source: Publisher, NetGalley
Rating: ★★★.5

As a waterweaver, Nehal can move and shape any water to her will, but she’s limited by her lack of formal education. She desires nothing more than to attend the newly opened Weaving Academy, take complete control of her powers, and pursue a glorious future on the battlefield with the first all-female military regiment. But her family cannot afford to let her go–crushed under her father’s gambling debt, Nehal is forcibly married into a wealthy merchant family. Her new spouse, Nico, is indifferent and distant and in love with another woman, a bookseller named Giorgina.

Giorgina has her own secret, however: she is an earthweaver with dangerously uncontrollable powers. She has no money and no prospects. Her only solace comes from her activities with the Daughters of Izdihar, a radical women’s rights group at the forefront of a movement with a simple goal: to attain recognition for women to have a say in their own lives. They live very different lives and come from very different means, yet Nehal and Giorgina have more in common than they think. The cause–and Nico–brings them into each other’s orbit, drawn in by the group’s enigmatic leader, Malak Mamdouh, and the urge to do what is right.

But their problems may seem small in the broader context of their world, as tensions are rising with a neighboring nation that desires an end to weaving and weavers. As Nehal and Giorgina fight for their rights, the threat of war looms in the background, and the two women find themselves struggling to earn–and keep–a lasting freedom.

The Daughters of Izdihar is a solid debut full of surprises. I really enjoyed my time with it, although I did have a few grievances to air later on in the review.

Starting with the positives, I really enjoyed the elemental magic. True, it’s mostly ATLA magic, even down to the more niche weaving powers. I think it could have been more present in this book, as the politics were more up front and centre than the magic itself. I think this will change in the sequel due to the themes that the author was clearly working towards. I love elemental powers though, and I do try not to compare everything to ATLA but it really set the standard for me.

I also really liked Giorgina’s storyline, starting off with her being in love with a rich man but coming from a poor family. I look forward to seeing more of Giorgina in the second book as she comes to terms with her powers and learns to weave them properly.

I liked the focus on women’s suffrage as well, and I wasn’t expecting it to be such a huge part of the book. It overwhelmed the fantasy side of things a little, and I think it affecting the pacing a lot, but that wasn’t necessarily bad. It just wasn’t what I was expecting.

Now, for the negatives. Nehal, the second main character, got on my nerves more and more as the book went on. Nehal grew up very rich and was thrown into a bad situation, and she acted like a complete brat the entire time. She had no subtlty, and I’m sure some readers will love that, but after the tenth time of her barging in and shouting at another character and demanding she got her own way, without thinking of the consequences of her actions on the other women involved, I had honestly had enough.

I hope to see a lot of character growth for Nehal in the future. I’m sure the author was going for a “badass, take no shit” kind of character but due to her background Nehal moreso came off as a snobby brat who didn’t understand anything that was going on.

I’m really looking forward to the sequel because I think a lot of the elements (ha) that I thought were missing from this one will have to surface. I can’t wait to see what happens to all the characters next!

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