This Woven Kingdom

Harper. Feb. 2022. 512p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062972446.
Gr 9 Up–Mafi’s new high fantasy series has roots in Islamic tradition and the Persian epic Shahnameh, giving fairy-tale vibes to a star-crossed romance. A treaty has ended the brutal wars between Jinn and humankind, but it leaves the Jinn persecuted and oppressed. Any use of a Jinn’s innate magic earns them a death sentence, but Alizeh’s magic is especially treacherous: in her veins runs the ice of the royal line, marking her the queen of their lost kingdom. Kamran, the crown prince, has dedicated his life to the empire and becoming a just ruler, trying to parse the prophecies about the death of the king. When Kamran and Alizeh run into each other, they’re immediately captivated. Even knowing the dangers they face can’t make them ignore the pull of their hearts, setting the stage for a violent upheaval not just of their lives, but of the world. Mafi’s intricate worldbuilding sets high stakes for the trilogy. The setting grapples with themes of discrimination and equity versus equality as the Jinn are forced to make themselves less in order to keep from outshining their human neighbors. Mafi’s exposition-heavy style won’t appeal to all readers; while her writing is beautiful, it does weigh down the pacing as much as it amplifies the angst-filled romance. The majority of the cast is olive-skinned.
VERDICT Hand this one to fans of Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. Mafi’s slow-build story is braiding a complex plot that promises a payoff in the sequels.

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