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Sharakhai, the great city of the desert, center of commerce and culture, has been ruled from time immemorial by twelve kings—cruel, ruthless, powerful, and immortal. With their army of Silver Spears, their elite company of Blade Maidens, and their holy defenders, the terrifying asirim, the Kings uphold their positions as undisputed, invincible lords of the desert. There is no hope of freedom for any under their rule.
Or so it seems, until Çeda, a brave young woman from the west end slums, defies the Kings’ laws by going outside on the holy night of Beht Zha’ir. What she learns that night sets her on a path that winds through both the terrible truths of the Kings’ mysterious history and the hidden riddles of her own heritage. Together, these secrets could finally break the iron grip of the Kings’ power…if the nigh-omnipotent Kings don’t find her first.
Rating: ★★★★☆ (EDIT 20/05/16: previously a 3 star rating, changed to four when I reread it)
~ARC provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review~
Don’t be put off by my three-star rating! That was partly because of my own laziness. I didn’t realize how long this book was and I think some scenes dragged on too long but nonetheless it was a great book!
Sharakhai is ruled by twelve immortal kings who have imposed their harsh power on their subjects, and on the desert tribes. Çeda is the daughter of a woman slain by the kings, rises to avenge her mother’s death and bring down the ruthless dynasty.
I would like to start with how amazing of a character Çeda is! She’s so ambitious and fascinating! She begins the novel as a pit fighter known as the White Wolf and then begins to search for clues to the murder of her mother when she was 8 years old. We are given an intimate look at her life, both when she was a child, and when she was a teenager to present day. Left only with a book of poems by her mother, Çeda grows up in the slums of this desert city. Sharakhai is the centre of a desert of great depth, a well-structured society ruled by terror and Çeda has to unravel the mystery of her mother’s sudden death which leads her to the exclusive Black Maiden. Beaulieu created a highly competent protagonist which leaves the reader rooting her at every given moment. There is no ‘wtf why did they do that?’ moment. What Çeda does is completely understandable. The rage she feels over the death of her mother, the quiet yet complex affection for Emre, her old friend— she’s no mary sue character and I loved it! The same is true of the supporting cast – Emre, for example, gets the occasional chapter of his own, and the narrative voice feels equally genuine.
Beaulieu creates a large world of classes in a city driven by dominance and fear. Mobility within those classes is very limited. The mysteries of Sharakhai are slowly unravelled as Çeda searches for the truth. Twelve Kings finishes with the promise of a bigger adventure, and it was great to read and I can’t wait for the other books.