Author: Sara Hashem
Series: The Scorched Throne (Book 1)
Released: 2023-07-18
Publisher: Orbit

This book is almost 500 pages, but it’s a rare instance where I feel every page is warranted. It’s by no means perfect, no book is, but it does the jobs it’s chosen to do, and it does them very well.

Sylvia is a painfully well-written female protagonist. She’s not “strong but beautiful, powerful but dainty,” or any other contortion some authors use to soften the female lead’s sharp edges or dull her shine. The male characters don’t need her to need them to have their place in the story, and as a result she’s very fleshed out and very real.

The overarching plot of the book is fairly straightforward: Sylvia is the only survivor of the Jasad royal family to have escaped when her nation was invaded and burned ten years prior. As the only people with magic, Jasadis who survived the purge are considered dangerous, and so are hunted. Sylvia has made a life for herself in a small town, remaining hidden from sight, and would like nothing more that to live to the end of her days in this unimportant obscurity.

Unfortunately, Sylvia’s magic, although tightly bound when she was young, is still very powerful and occasionally makes an appearance. One such instance brings her to the attention to the Heir of Nizahl, who is in the area hunting a group of Jasadi rebels under the guise of searching for a champion to represent his country in an upcoming competition among the remaining nations. Rather than send Sylvia to prison, Arin enlists her as the Nizahl champion for reasons Sylvia can’t figure out.

The book doesn’t shy away from the complicated nature of war, or its after effects. Sylvia’s trauma isn’t a plot device to garner her sympathy, it’s a part of her character and has shaped who she is as a person. Some might call her distant, abrasive, or unlikable, which is often what drives authors to soften their female characters in the first place, but I feel like it only makes her more real. Sylvia and Arin are both sharp blades that lunge and parry each other through the majority of the book, even as more information is slowly revealed and the circumstances begin to change.

The plot becomes bigger than Sylvia or Arin as the book goes on, encompassing both the past and present as the story begins to challenge the reader’s notions of who, exactly, the villains really are. It doesn’t shy away from the nuance of large-scale conflict, or the reality that battles don’t occur in a vacuum.

The Jasad Heir isn’t a quick read or a simple one, but with its beautiful worldbuilding, nuanced characters, and realistic themes, it’s a good one.

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