Published by HarperCollins on November 4th 2014
Genres: Romance, Young Adult, Historical
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In the unforgiving Mesopotamian desert where Jayden’s tribe lives, betrothal celebrations abound, and tonight it is Jayden’s turn to be honored. But while this union with Horeb, the son of her tribe’s leader, will bring a life of riches and restore her family’s position within the tribe, it will come at the price of Jayden’s heart.
Then a shadowy boy from the Southern Lands appears. Handsome and mysterious, Kadesh fills Jayden’s heart with a passion she never knew possible. But with Horeb’s increasingly violent threats haunting Jayden’s every move, she knows she must find a way to escape—or die trying.
With a forbidden romance blossoming in her heart and her family’s survival on the line, Jayden must embark on a deadly journey to save the ones she loves—and find a true love for herself.
Set against the brilliant backdrop of the sprawling desert, the story of Jayden and Kadesh will leave readers absolutely breathless as they defy the odds and risk it all to be together.
I remember when this book first came out, I was all “ewww it sounds like there’s a love triangle” and read reviews that lamented about the romance. And from that, I endeavored to stay away from it. However, I kept on seeing it lately (especially with the sequel releasing recently), and when I remembered that this takes place in Mesopotamia, I was ready to give it a try! I’m really glad I did, because I ended up liking it a lot! I can still see why people may not have enjoyed the romance (I for one did), but there wasn’t a love triangle (phew!) and the story was so interesting I couldn’t stop reading.
I’m beginning to think that I love desert settings. Honestly, I can’t get enough of them. Although I don’t know much of Babylonian culture, I was immersed in the world that Little writes. Her descriptions of the desert-people customs and the contrast between them and the city-people really bring to life the setting. There is a marked focus on dancing, which provides a sort of catharsis (emotional and spiritual release) for the main character Jayden. I really liked Jayden’s character too! She was dependable, trustworthy, and responsible. When tragedy strikes, she’s the one that stands tall and keeps on going despite it all. Instead of a complainer, we see a doer. Jayden’s family is slowly disintegrating throughout the book, and she tries her best to save everyone in it. I love her devotion to her family, even to her sister that is on the path to idol-worshipping.
The religion in the book fits the world, and it isn’t straight up in your face. Yes, the characters mention terms like “Mother” and “Abraham,” but no, they’re not saying it in a way that feels like we should go on a path to discover them. It’s just something that helps make the world more authentic, as well as provides support Jayden as she tries to salvage her family. We start the beginning of the book with her dancing for her betrothal, even as she admits that she doesn’t like the man she is betrothed to (to the readers). Then comes the arrival of a stranger, which changes everything.
Like seriously, romanticists (like moi) will definitely enjoy this one. It may seem like a quick-to-form attraction, but in actuality, the events up to their meeting and traveling through the desert took several months. There is a large focus on the attraction between Jayden and Kadesh, who is more than what he appears to be, throughout the book. In fact, their relationship influences a lot of Jayden’s decisions, since she wants to be with him instead of her betrothed. I thought I wouldn’t like the way these things were handled, but I actually did! Herod, Jayden’s fiance, is an unlikeable character that becomes even more unlikeable as you read about the things he did. It’s really obvious who the love interest is, and he’s quite swoony too.
Okay, but when a guy tries to do everything he can to help you save your family? Yes please. Kadesh was so alluring, and although we don’t get to see much of his thoughts (as this is told in Jayden’s first person POV), we can tell from his actions his depth of emotions for her. I really can’t wait to read more about his own background and the place where he’s from in the next book. The heavy theme on romance means that a lot of what the characters do are dictated by their feelings, which I’m totally cool with. I know that some readers may be annoyed with their slightly reckless actions because of those feelings. But again, I can totally roll with that.
‘There are times, Jayden, when a woman’s emotions run higher and fuller than the waves on the Gulf of Akabah, threatening to drag her to the bottom and drown her.’
Jayden is continually growing throughout the book, which made me like her so much more. In the beginning she’s too afraid to even say her true thoughts about her betrothed, but towards the middle she starts growing more of a backbone. She goes out to buy a dagger by herself for protection. She stands up against Horeb and confronts him. Despite the numerous obstacles she faces, she’s not hesitant to go against them. Jayden’s resourceful and determined, which has all the makings of a wonderful character to read about. The deep passion she had for Kadesh was also so sweet to see, in contrast to characters who like to push their love interests away “for the good of all.”
The rich, historical background of ancient Mesopotamia and its lush desert is a refreshing setting to find in YA! Add to that the authentic characters that reflect on the culture during that time and a forbidden romance that makes you feel all the feels, and you get an absolutely delightful read. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Jayden and Kadesh as they go against the obstacles in order to reclaim their family and love in the next book. Readers should definitely pick this one up for a sweet, lovely romance in a unique historical setting between selfless characters that try their best to protect their loved ones from the perils of the desert.
Rating: 4 out of 5