This Woven Kingdom: A romance between stars set in a rich Persian-inspired fantasy world

Mythological and fairy tale tales are all the rage these days, with authors eagerly extracting familiar stories from Greek tragedy and European folklore for the bones they’ll use to create new tales. But while most Western readers are sure to have encountered a new favorite version of Little Red Riding Hood, The beauty and the Beastor even that of Homer The Odysseyit’s only in recent years that we’ve started to see more books inspired by texts from other cultures or belief systems from places like the Middle East or Southeast Asia.

And the results have been quite magical, weaving together elements of long-forgotten histories and marginalized cultures in fascinating and deeply enriching ways. (Yeah, that’s where I slip in my plea for everyone to run, don’t walk and read SA Chakraborty’s “Daevabad” trilogy, Tasha Suri’s sand empire duology, and RF Kuang The poppy war series.)

This woven kingdom is the latest novel in this vein, inspired by the Middle Eastern epic poem Shahnameh, which tells a fictionalized version of the history of the Persian Empire. It’s the first installment in a new trilogy from bestselling author Tahereh Mafi, probably best known for her mega-popular Break me series, and it uses this story to put a refreshing spin on the tale of two star-crossed lovers whose feelings for each other may well destroy not just a kingdom, but possibly humanity itself.

The fall long ago of the jinns known as Iblees, a being of fire who rebelled against God, meant that his people have since been cast out, abandoned by the universe and forced to look upon humanity (known as “Clay”) inherit the world that was once theirs. After centuries of exile and bloody warfare, the Fire Accord kingdom of Ardunia has ended the fighting and established something like peace between the races. Although this tenuous ceasefire has ended the overt bloodshed between Clay and the jinn, the jinn are largely forced to exist as second-class citizens in its aftermath, whose abilities supernatural powers are often exploited and where any use of their powers carries an automatic effect. death sentence.

This woven kingdom follows the story of Alizeh, a jinn working as a lowly servant in a noble house who struggles with the basics of survival even as she lives under the threat of constant persecution. The mystical ice coursing through her veins is not only uncomfortable, but marks her as the heir to a long-lost kingdom whose power is prophesied to one day lead to the downfall of the King of Ardunia himself. But Alizah, who lives a life of crushing poverty and suffers frequent abuse from those who consider themselves her best, dreams not of a crown, but of a quiet life in isolation, a life in which she will finally be able to stop running away from threats. both real and imaginary.

Prince Kamran of Ardunia has been summoned home by his grandfather, a king whose health is said to be in decline, which could mean the heir may have to start learning to rule on his own sooner than expected. . But when Kamran accidentally meets Alizeh in a city market, he finds it hard to forget the young woman and his attraction to her will ultimately jeopardize many of the things he has worked for for most of his life. Alizeh, for her part, worries about her own feelings for the prince, as well as the implications of the prophecy that has guided her actions for most of her life – and which has also cost her both parents.

The cursed romance that slowly develops between the two (almost in spite of themselves) is fun to watch unfold, even if it has a vaguely vague “instalove” at times. But their banter is charming, and given the many cosmic and mythological elements already at play in this story, no one will likely be surprised when it’s inevitably revealed in a later episode that they’re both destined to be drawn in. one by the other. It also helps that Alizeh and Kamran’s infatuation with each other is just one small element in a much larger and larger story, which grapples with geopolitical issues as deftly as it introduces magical robes capable of protecting their wearer.

As the heroines go, it’s easy to fall in love with Alizeh, a talented seamstress (and surprisingly skilled fighter) with a knack for creating beautiful, delicate clothes from the scraps others throw away. Desperately alone, her search for connection is often thwarted by her inferior status of both the lowest form of servant (known as snoda) and jinn, neither of which are identities. who easily lend themselves to making friends. Yet Alizeh remains kind and considerate throughout, offering a helping hand and a considerate heart even towards those who might try to harm her physically. Reader, I love it, that’s what I say. and I’m not entirely sure that Kamran deserves it. (At least, not yet.) Though he’s at least showing enough growth to indicate he might be on his way.

Mafi’s world-building is lush and detailed, from the dark mythological history of the Jinn race to the competing needs of multiple kingdoms simply trying to survive in a world of dwindling resources. (Part of the reason for Arundia’s constant friction with a neighboring southern kingdom, for example, is that it simply doesn’t have enough access to fresh water and has to import giant cisterns of it for its people.) Alizeh and Kamran must deal with predetermined futures that neither particularly desires, and make difficult choices based on more than just their own desires for happiness.

This woven kingdom The cliffhanger ending raises a lot of questions that only the second installment of the series will be able to answer, but the story’s decision to end just when all the plot twists start to collide is the kind of bold choice. which you must respect. Here is to spend more time in this world, as soon as possible.

Lacy Baugher Milas is the editor of Paste Magazine, but loves to dabble in all kinds of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.

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