But winning is much harder than facing competitions at school, and soon Javan finds himself beset not just by the terrifying creatures in the arena but also by a band of prisoners allied against him, and even by the warden herself.
The only person who can help him is Sajda, who has been enslaved by Maqbara’s warden since she was a child, and whose guarded demeanor and powerful right hook keep the prisoners in check. Working with Sajda might be the only way Javan can escape alive—but she has dangerous secrets.
Together, Javan and Sajda have to outwit the vicious warden, outfight deadly creatures, and outlast the murderous prisoners intent on killing Javan. If they fail, they’ll be trapped in Maqbara for good—and the secret Sajda’s been hiding will bury them both.
This is the third book in Redwine's series of companion novels; the concept really intrigued me as she reimagines classic fairytales and creates a new world for them to belong too. This time we are introduced to a retelling of "The Prince and the Pauper", as Javan struggles to prove that he is the true prince and remove the imposter who has stolen his place.
Some of the things that stood out for me:
Character with a Strong Religious Belief:
I won't pretend that I'm a very religious person, but I appreciated that Redwine included a character that is a very big believer in his religion and draws strength from it. Religious diversity is important and I thought Redwine did a great job in creating a character that Javan that puts a lot of emphasis on prayer and acknowledging his higher power; although it's not something I can share in, I love seeing different characters and beliefs in the stories I'm reading. It was also well dome that characters have different opinions on these dieties; while Javan puts his trust in Yl' Haliq as having a plan for him, characters like Rahim don't believe gods have anything to do with his life. I liked this comparison and thought it was well done without being overbearing.
Storytelling Was a Bit Choppy:
I felt like I was forcing myself not to skip ahead at the beginning of this book; I was hoping for more momentum and it just wasn't there. I honestly feel like I've forgotten the beginning of the book already, although from about the halfway point onwards it does pick up. And while I thought that we got to Javan and Sajda pretty well, Rahim never really developed for me. Although we spend a decent amount of time with him, he felt very flat to me. His POV chapters always felt very forced, which led to some dragging out of moments that I just didn't care about.
I did end up loving Sajda and Javan and thought that they were brilliant as a couple. The second half of the book, specifically the moments with Javan is teaching Sajda about the world outside the prison, were so wonderful. I didn't care for the fighting scenes (they just didn't keep my attention) but I did love reading about how their relationships changes and grows.
Sajda is the Real Hero:
While the story seems like it would be about Javan as a hero -- and he definitely wins enough battles to be one -- it's Sajda who really ends up saving the kingdom. And I loved it!! Because of Sajda, Javan survives the prison, knows the secrets of the fights, and is able to claim his throne again. I definitely wasn't expecting the fight between Javan and Rahim to end the way it did, but I can't say I'm disappointed because I love Sajda and the role that she played throughout this book. I'm also incredibly happy that she doesn't simply stay with Javan in the palace; her entire life was wishing for freedom and she needed that chance to explore the world for herself. I was incredibly glad that she took it.
This was a quick and easy read, and if you just push yourself to get through the first few chapters, you'll find that the rest falls more comfortably into place. While I didn't care for the villain, I did love Sajda and Javan, which made everything worth it. Also, we get a brief conversation between Javan, Ari, and Sebastian -- so yay! Again, not my favourite book in the Ravenspire series, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
FINAL RATING: 3.5/5
Hi, I'm Alexandra! I love reading (largely YA fiction, but sometimes I'll read "adult" books), playing board games, Nutella, and binge-watching TV shows on Netflix with my husband.
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