This review is in exchange for a free ARE copy of the novel.
Zhara is the first in a series that combines the spunky rebellion of Cinder with the cool storytelling of older Wuxia novels. It centers a young woman named Jin Zhara, who lives in a world where she not only is beholden to her stepmother and lives as a servant, but in a world where she must hide who she is because her kind is hunted. What is her kind? Well, Zhara is a magician. And if she doesn't want to be murdered for her gift like her father was, she has to hide it. The only problem is that she can't really control it.
I love the characterization, and I will never not love getting multiple points of view if they are done well. The author manages to succeed in that and we go along for a ride that keeps us guessing, with big reveals and peril and danger and betrayal. Jae-Jones managed to fit so much into this YA novel that it was actually shocking to me. And the author also does a wonderful job in how diverse characters are presented. We see Zhara a young woman who loves books enough to borrow them from a bookseller, caught up in guilt over an accident and shame over who she is along with a secret that becomes big enough to shake an entire kingdom. Who wouldn't love a novel with those stakes?
I think one of the biggest issues that I had with this book is the constant and often random flirting that takes place. It seems kind of ridiculous, especially for a fantasy steeped in adventure. It felt like those unnecessary beach scenes that are common in certain anime where everyone is wearing modern swimwear even if the rest of the anime is set in like the 1500s. Does that make sense? I kept wishing that the author would get back to the action because I felt that it didn't add much of anything to the plot at all. And while some of it was used for characterization, a lot more of it was just there.
However, I was invested enough in the characters and in what was to come to keep reading. And yes, even if it is an ARE, I believe one should always be honest about books and whether one finished them or not. I finished this in a few days (and probably would have finished sooner if I had more free time!). I really look forward to what is next for this cast of characters although: SPOILER ALERT!!!
It appears that book two will focus on another set of characters set in the same world, which I am all for! That made me even more excited, as I am curious as to what happens when the characters we've come to know in book one meet up with the characters we journey with in the second narrative.
Does this sound like a book that would interest you? If so, let me know down below!