cover image The Battle Drum

The Battle Drum

Saara El-Arifi. Del Rey, $29.99 (544p) ISBN 978-0-593-35697-5

El-Arifi’s incendiary second Ending Fire fantasy (after The Final Strife) again weaves hypnotic African and Arabian myths into the tumultuous tale of a blood-caste-segregated empire mired in conspiracies. The story circles the inextricably bound destinies of three dauntless women. Sylah, a member of the red-blooded Ember caste, leaves her beloved Anoor’s side on a quest to understand the tidewind, a perpetual tempest wreaking havoc on their homeland, along the way encountering a fanatical cult and a dreadful war prophecy. Blue-blooded Duster Anoor, having usurped Sylah’s destiny as the queen of the Ember-ruled empire, loses her already tenuous grasp on political power when she’s wrongly arrested for murder. As she fights to clear her name, she uncovers unsavory secrets that could drive their empire to ruin. Meanwhile, clear-blooded Ghosting Hassa grapples with secrets of her own as she unearths evidence of atrocities perpetrated in the name of the empire. As the women contend with both the ghosts of the past and the irascible winds of the changing times, their discoveries threaten to spark a war. By toggling between key points of view, El-Arifi grants readers a dramatic bird’s-eye view of both an unraveling world and the indomitable spirits of the women embroiled in its maelstrom. This is a knockout. Agent: Ginger Clark, Ginger Clark Literary. (May)