Book Review : The Jasad Heir

I received this book for free from Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review : The Jasad HeirThe Jasad Heir (The Scorched Throne, #1) by Sara Hashem
Published by Orbit Books on July 18th 2023
Pages: 523
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three-stars
Source: Orbit Books

Ten years ago, the kingdom of Jasad burned. Its magic outlawed; its royal family murdered down to the last child. At least, that’s what Sylvia wants people to believe.
The lost Heir of Jasad, Sylvia never wants to be found. She can’t think about how Nizahl’s armies laid waste to her kingdom and continue to hunt its people—not if she wants to stay alive. But when Arin, the Nizahl Heir, tracks a group of Jasadi rebels to her village, staying one step ahead of death gets trickier.
In a moment of anger Sylvia’s magic is exposed, capturing Arin’s attention. Now, to save her life, Sylvia will have to make a deal with her greatest enemy. If she helps him lure the rebels, she’ll escape persecution.
A deadly game begins. Sylvia can’t let Arin discover her identity even as hatred shifts into something more. Soon, Sylvia will have to choose between the life she wants and the one she left behind. The scorched kingdom is rising, and it needs a queen.

In this Egyptian-inspired debut fantasy, a fugitive queen strikes a deadly bargain with her greatest enemy and finds herself embroiled in a complex game that could resurrect her scorched kingdom or leave it in ashes forever.

The Jasad Heir is a debut fantasy novel by author Sarah Hashem, which takes place in an Egyptian-inspired world. The novel follows Sylvia, who is actually the presumed dead heir to an overthrown kingdom, Jasad. Sylvia has hidden for most of her life, fearing that her identity as a Jasadi, which is alone punishable by death, will be exposed. I was very interested in the concept of this book, but the novel does suffer from pacing issues and lacking execution. Ultimately, The Jasad Heir reads more like a young adult fantasy novel than an adult novel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but something to keep in mind.

 

I liked many aspects of The Jasad Heir, but I certainly struggled with the characterization of Sylvia. I never truly was able to like her as a person, let alone find her sympathetic, but I found her outright frustrating as the novel progressed. I grew irritated by her constant indecisiveness about what she owed her people as the Jasad heir. Though I think it’s truly an interesting concept the book presents about the role of an heir, it’s not executed very well. Author Hashem states in the author’s note at the end of the novel, “For the Jasad heir, I wanted to know what do you owe to a place and a people you’ve barely known, but without whom you wouldn’t exist?”

 

“There is no such thing as a worthy sacrifice. There are only those who die, and those willing to let them.”

 

But it seems that neither Sylvia nor the author herself can quite figure out the answer to this question for most of the novel. In the beginning of The Jasad Heir, Sylvia seems pretty firmly in the “I don’t owe anyone anything and I’d be an awful queen,” camp. She’s purely concerned with her own survival, which I liked. Personally, I’m tired of reading about pure and selfless heroines who are ready to serve themselves up as martyrs at the first given opportunity, so this was a nice change. As the novel progresses though, Sylvia constantly swings back and forth from two extremes, abandoning her duty to her people and taking up her rightful role as queen and reclaiming what is hers by birthright—there’s never any in-between or compromises.

 

“A kingdom cannot fall when its Heir still stands. You cannot outrun your duty, ya umri. It is an inheritance by blood.”

 

And if that constant indecision didn’t aggravate me enough, Sylvia has no problem disregarding the remnants of her loyalty to her people when it comes to the Nizhal Heir, Arin. Though I knew this slow developing relationship (it is definitely a slow burn, so don’t expect a ton of spiciness), between the heirs of two enemy nations was problematic, especially due to Sylvia’s secret identity, very conflicted behavior, and the fact that she’s basically Arin’s captive/employee/mortal enemy, I was particularly invested in it. In fact, when my interest in the events of the book was waning, the relationship between these two characters kept me coming back, and is largely what will keep me reading future entries in the series.

 

I actually liked Arin quite a bit more than Sylvia, even though we don’t get to read from his perspective very often. Despite his acclaim as a fearsome general, it’s clear that he also has a tortured past with more to it than what it seems. Even though he’s notorious for his battle prowess, strategic mind, and cold personality, he has very loyal followers and at least appears to want what is best for Sylvia, a member of the Jasad and a magic user, both things that he has sworn to kill. He also has what appears to be a very clear cut goal and purpose of his life until Sylvia comes along to make him question everything he knows. 

 

He should know better than to share his smiles with me. I should know better than to crave them.”

 

But to be honest, much outside of their relationship felt largely unimportant to me. I was surprised to see other reviewers saying they didn’t think that The Jasad Heir met the criteria for a “romantasy” because I definitely felt it did. In fact, I would say if anything was lacking, it was the fantasy part, not the romantic part. Though readers learn about the gods in The Jasad Heir, they don’t seem very important nor do the countries that are tied to them. I also can’t tell you much about how the magic system of the world works. Despite the fact that only the Jasadis have retained their magical powers, which is the reason they are hunted, the rest of the world once had their own magic, which is long gone. We don’t know what happened to the rest of the magic or how even the Jasadi’s magic works. Sylvia can’t even properly access her own considerable magic. So to me, the fantasy was more of a backdrop than a focus of the novel, and the burgeoning relationship between Sylvia and Arin, the part with the biggest implications. 

 

Sylvia is chosen as Arin’s champion for some type of battle royale competition, a la The Hunger Games, and she spends a great deal of time having to train with him, even though she’s already been trained for combat, which strikes me as an odd choice. I brushed this contradiction off though because I was glad for any excuse, no matter how flimsy, for Sylvia and Arin to interact. However, I could not feel excited about this competition, as Sylvia herself was completely unbothered by it, even with assassination attempts involved and the secret of her identity on the line. The stakes just didn’t feel high at all, especially with these weird political balls thrown in before them, which of course requires Sylvia to wear a gown and look absolutely stunning (this is one of the many parts that read like a young adult novel). Maybe if Sylvia had some sort of lingering injury, anxiety about her abilities or more of a consistent vendetta to the people who took down her family and country, I could have cared more. Instead, there’s absolutely no tension to this part of the novel, which is such a shame and really stands out after reading other novels, like Fourth Wing. Some of Sylvia’s fellow competitors were killed or sabotaged and I was unable to be anything but plain indifferent to the events.

 

Plus, the actual competitions aren’t until the very end of The Jasad Heir and seem to be over in the blink of an eye. The final 20% of the novel or so is dedicated to Sylvia having to play nice with the other champions and their political backers. It was hard for me to keep all of the political motivations of these world leaders straight and it somehow managed to be both uncomplicated and messy simultaneously. The other heirs beside Arin and Sylvia aren’t very well developed beyond a few personality traits. They boiled down to, “beautiful and crazy ambitious woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants and isn’t above stooping to torture,” and “spoiled rotten and undeserving heir with no redeeming qualities.” These two heirs are clearly supposed to be some sort of foil to Sylvia and Arin, and Sylvia’s even related to one of them, but it never feels like these two other heirs could serve as anything more than a mild inconvenience to either Arin or Sylvia. It’s all just convoluted without a whole lot of substance. 

 

Regardless of the lacking complexity levels when it came to the politics, it just felt like far too much was crammed into the very end of the novel. To even out the pacing, a lot of other things, such as Sylvia’s training portions with Arin’s soldiers in captivity, or her life in hiding as an apprentice alchemist (something which didn’t end up being too important though definitely mentioned in marketing blurbs), could have been cut in order to give this kind of large event its proper due. Instead, this battle royale largely felt rushed, half-hearted, and like a mere plot device to bring Sylvia and Arin together. Once that had been accomplished, it was clear that the battle royale needed to get out of the way. 

 

Despite not being a huge fan of Sylvia’s decision making or how certain things in The Jasad Heir were executed, I do want to know what happens next and definitely plan on reading future books in the series. My hope is that now that a lot of the set up is done for the characters, the next novel in the trilogy will illuminate more about the world and its magic. I think The Jasad Heir is a great choice for fans of Fourth Wing and Tasha Suri’s Empire of Sand , as well as other slow-burn romances, particularly of the enemies-to-lovers variety.

 

three-stars
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Book Review : The Jasad Heir - Blogging with Dragons

Posted July 13, 2023 in ARCS, Book Reviews, Fantasy

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