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
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This one really didn't work for me, but one thing that can be said for it is that there really wasn't a love triangle! (It isn't that they never work… it's just that they don't usually work, and they really can be frustrating when they aren't done well.)
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Oh FOR REAL Kelly. I can probably write an essay about the different love triangles are out there and how ridiculous each and every one of them are. LIKE, IS IT TOO HARD TO HAVE ONE LOVE INTEREST? :'D And while I see these weird relationships in real life (triangles, pentagons, dodecagons, you name'em), I'd rather have an OTP in fiction.
I'm so sorry this one didn't work out for you! At least there wasn't a horrendous love triangle LOL.
I LOVE this book. I don't even know what made me decide to read it, because I didn't think it would be my thing either. But it is. It IS my thing. And I love it. The setting is incredible. Jayden is fabulous, Kadesh is fabulous… and Horeb is horrible- which is a fun little play on words hahah. And the family stuff is amazing too! I am so, so glad you enjoyed this one- hope you love Banished too! Great review 😀
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YAYYY Shannon, I'm so glad you loved this one! I was SO pleasantly surprised by this book. I read the sequel already and while I didn't love it as much (I just want Kadesh and Jayden to be happy ok??), I really can't wait for the last book in the trilogy. ALL THE CHARACTERS ARE ALL THE AMAZINGS. Even the horrendous Horreb (gotta love that alliteration haha) is interesting to read about.
The setting definitely sounds interesting – I've never read a book set in Mesopotamia 🙂 I haven't heard of this book before. I dunno, I"m not big into romance though. I'm glad it surprised you, that's always the best feeling!!
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Yeah, if you're not big into romance then this probably wouldn't be the best book for you haha. It pretty much centers around the romance that develops between Kadesh and Jayden (which is absolutely swoony). BUT the setting was absolutely stunning!
My blog buddy loved the first book, I need to look more closely at these YA books. It seems the genre has shed a lot of its tropes and has adapted to more interesting themes
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It definitely has! If you decide to pick this one up, I hope you enjoy it 🙂
I do love forbidden romances, so I think this will work very well for me. I don't know why I haven't picked it up already! I'm eager to find out more about these characters, from your descriptions I think I will love them. Except for Horeb! 😀
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Oh yes, get ready to hate Horeb, haha.
But OMG GIRL YAAS TO FORBIDDEN ROMANCES. Aren't they the best? *swoons* I really hope you like this one if you decide to pick it up!
The comments about a love triangle definitely put me off this book cause I simply cannot tolerate them these days. I am glad that there doesn't seem to be one though and it has me a bit more intrigued now. I do love the forbidden romance trope and I love unique setting. There's just something so charming about a desert setting and I love that we get to explore the Babylonian culture cause I'm not too familiar with it either. My interest in this book has been renewed and I think I'm definitely going to have to give this book a chance. 😀
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YAYYYY LOIS I'M SO GLAD I WAS ABLE TO CONVINCE YOU. 😀
Omigosh though, forbidden romance gets me EVERY TIME and the desert setting was truly stunning. I hope you pick this up soon, and enjoy it as much as I did. <3
Thanks for being the guinea pig, Alia. Lol. I, too had reservations about this book due to the allusion of to love triangle. So yay!
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YESSSS, it made me so happy NOT to see a love triangle. :)) I hope I've convinced you to pick this one up!
I've been on the fence about this since it came out. All the mixed reviews made me put it on the back burner. Glad you enjoyed it! I hope to read it soon.
Me too Lekeisha 😀 I'm so glad I decided to pick this one up!
Why haven't I heard of this? I love the setting of Mesopotamia and the rich world-building you describe!
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OMIGOSH, if you love this setting, then you'll definitely enjoy this book. Hope you pick it up soon!
I'm happy you gave this one a shot, Aila. It was one of my favorite books the year it came with all the beautiful descriptions. I was okay with the romance too despite it being rushed. I did read the sequel recently and sadly wasn't the biggest fan. 🙁 Something about the writing was off for me! Anyways, hopefully, you'll enjoy it as much as you enjoyed this first book, Aila!
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I'm so glad you liked this one!! I recently read the sequel and enjoyed it a little less because of all the trials and tribulations that the characters had to go through. I mean, I know it's all for the sake of the plot but I JUST WANT KADESH AND JAYDEN TO BE TOGETHER, IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?! D: Lol.
I can't wait to see what's in store for the final book!
Ohh, if you're into the 'dessert settings' you should DEFINITELY read "Blood Red Road" by Moira Young! Absolutely fabulous and addicting to read (so beware) 🙂 I have yet to finish the series!
Thanks for sharing this awesome review!
Florentine @ Readiculously Peachy
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Ooh that's exciting. I like the title already 😀 Thanks so much for the recommendation!
I've read a few reviews on this one that mentioned the heavy romance setting, which is why I've shied away so far – but I really like the sound of the desert setting and how true to the culture it sounds, particularly with the betrothed and everything. I must say I'm glad the character finally stood up to him. Lovely review Aila!
Thanks so much Jeann <3 And I really didn't think I would like the romance! I was just like, "ohh well the setting seems super cool so I'll just stick through it." But it was surprisingly enjoyable, and I totally fell in love with the characters. 😀 Gotta love those heroines that grow a backbone!