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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai (Reviewed by Shazzie)

 


Official Author Website
Read Lukasz's review of the book here
Order The Daughters of Izdihar here - U.S | U.K


OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: Hadeer Elsbai is an Egyptian-American writer and librarian. Born in New York City, she grew up being shuffled between Queens and Cairo. Hadeer studied history at Hunter College and later earned her Master’s degree in library science from Queens College, making her a CUNY alum twice over. Aside from writing, Hadeer enjoys cats, iced drinks, live theater, and studying the 19th century.

FORMAT/INFO: The Daughters of Izdihar is the first book in the Alamaxa Duology. It is written in third person, and contains 368 pages and 36 chapters, and was published on January 10th, 2023 by Harper Voyager in harcover, ebook and audio formats in the U.S, and in paperback, ebook and audio by Orbit Books in the U.K.



OVERVIEW: 

“You were never entitled to choose your own husband.” 

Hadeer Elsbai does not shy away from showing the lives women lead in a patriarchal, misogynistic society. And I am all here to read the way she presents it. That said, this book is a lot more than just that, and one you should absolutely check out.

THE DAUGHTERS OF IZDIHAR is the first in the Alamaxa Duology(yay for duologies), a fun, feminist book set in an Arab inspired society where certain people have elemental magical powers, that follows two women, Nehal Darweesh and Giorgina Shukry against the backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement and more.

Nehal Darweesh is a highborn lady whose marriage is arranged with the intention of alleviating her family’s financial misfortunes, but all she wants to do is be part of the first female military division called The Daughters of Izdihar. She is an ambitious woman who has water weaving abilities, and wants to put them to good use, and thus, proposes to her fiancé Nico that their marriage be one of convenience where she gets to attend school and be a part of the country’s forces, since it isn’t what he wanted either. Giorgina Shukry works at a tiny bookstore, trying to make ends meet for her family, is an earthweaver, and belongs to the lower crust of the society. These women have many things in common, but what brings them together? Nico.

Early in the book, the author makes clear to us how these women are connected, without the element of suspense. This is because the majority of the book focuses on how they, and the supporting cast of characters, interact with each other and establish relationships through their commonalities. Nehal and Giorgina are at the forefront of this vividly imagined world, and we see how they navigate their respective situations and also try to be a part of the women’s suffrage movement in any capacity they can. The difference here is their respective personalities, and how they deal with their personal relationships: Nehal is brash, outspoken, and has openly combative relationships with others around her when they don’t exactly agree with her, but Giorgina keeps to herself and is a meek person at the beginning of the book. They way they deal with situations and people changes as the story progresses, and we begin to see them influence each other and how they see certain aspects of the world. They grow more confident in their abilities, and we see Nehal put in more effort to work on her skills, Giorgina learns to stand up for herself in very uncomfortable situations.

The narrative doesn’t just talk about sexism and the infantilisation of women, but also highlights how the feminist movement works towards giving women a say in their own lives in different ways, depending on the strata of society they belong to, and does a really lovely job is showing us just how pervasive misogyny is in everyday life. I found myself rooting for your main characters and the others every time they asserted themselves, and can’t wait to see how things change in the next book.

For me, the highlight of the book is how it deals with the women fighting to be given a voice, but it has so much more. Some characters I would like to shake until they learn to behave better, a magic system that has many implications for the political future of the country, and some cool training scenes. Given the ending, I will pick up the next without hesitation. But, I had a few small things bother me here and there – what looked like a very minor instance of head hopping, and some repetitive language.

CONCLUSION: Hadeer Elsbai has set a wonderful story set in a beautifully imagined world, one I predict will have most readers on tenterhooks for the conclusion to this duology. It is absolutely a must-read for anybody who enjoys feminist fantasy stories, and one I will recommend for years to come.

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