When Fate offers seven heroes a chance to bring peace to the peninsula, she finds out none of them are interested.
Sold for the price of a pig, trained into the most expensive male escort in the peninsula, Hasheem, the Silver Sparrow of Azalea, finds himself running from his hard-earned life of privilege when a woman decides to die in his room. Forced to flee into the most hostile territory belonging to desert warriors who will kill him on sight, Hasheem is captured by Djari, the dutiful daughter of a tribe leader who offers him a choice between death and a lifetime of servitude. Raised from birth as the chosen one to end the centuries-long war between her people and an empire, Djari drags him screaming into the blood sport of war and politics, guided by the schemes of her oracle brother who continues to withhold the most important part of his vision.
On the other side of the desert, Zahara, captured bride of Salar Muradi, Djari’s enemy and the empire’s undefeated ruler, discovers her husband’s only weakness in the form of his conflicting feelings for her. Having lived solely to see him die, Zahara must decide if she can lay down her hatred in exchange for the power to move the most powerful man in the peninsula. Meanwhile, their wayward son’s indecision on which land to fight for throws everything into chaos, and a mysterious mastermind lurks behind them all to make sure everyone dances to his tune.
A tale of humanity that unflinchingly explores the darker aspects of human nature, the complexity of interpersonal relationships, and the brutal, agonizing choices they are forced to make for love, honor, and loyalty.
There is so much involved in this book that I’m not sure my review can really do it justice. But I’ll try.
The writing is beautiful. It was one of those rare books where I could really sink into the writing itself and let it carry me along, no matter how the story unfolded. That doesn’t happen often for me when I read, and for that reason alone, I loved this book.
Obsidian: Awakening is a story filled with politics, with each character trying to outplay the others in some way. It’s complex, unpredictable, and sometimes painful. Beyond the power struggles are age-old traditions and rules, which if not followed, have harsh and often deadly consequences. Life in the peninsula is harsh and brutal—for everyone, no matter which side of the conflict they fall on.
There are a few fantasy elements to the story, but they’re not the usual variety. For most characters, they’re subtle, like signs interpreted as divine intervention by the gods. But for Nazir, who is an oracle, he’s gifted (or cursed, depending on perspective) with visions of the future. Oracles are coveted by the people of the White Desert, as are the Bharavis who produce them.
Side note: I loved that the oracles in this book were men. It’s not something seen often in fantasy, and I enjoy when authors deviate from the usual/predictable path.
I want to mention that this book will not appeal to everyone. There are some dark and brutal elements to every character arc presented, and this is not a story with a happily ever after. None of the characters are strictly good or evil; there is a lot of gray presented.
Which brings me to a final point: The book was written in such a way that there was a distance between the reader and the characters involved. I was never emotionally invested in any of them, but I don’t feel it detracted from the story. (In fact, it might have been a little better for it, given certain events that occurred.)
Overall, a great read. I’m looking forward to book two.