The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi was my Goldsboro GSFF box book, and it is absolutely stunning in its slip case. I was super excited to delve into this African and Arabian inspired fantasy that explores a world divided by the colour of ones blood.
There are three blood types in the Empire. Red of the Embers, the ruling class. They have access to magic and complete control. Blue of the Dusters, the working class. They work on plantations and in factories and are treated as though less than human by the Embers. Clear of the Ghostings. They have their tongues cut out and their forearms cut off in penance for an uprising over 400 years ago.
First of all, the representation within this book is fantastic. Unless I’m mistaken every single character in this book is Black. There is also great LGBTQ+ representation, both in romantic and sexual relationships (enemies to lovers anyone?) and also in having transgender and non-binary/multi gendered people. And just to top it all off there is disability rep from the Ghosting characters who have been mutilated. However, they have developed their own language and have adapted their tools to work for them. Now I know that representation doesn’t make a good book, but in a good book? Well it just makes it even better!
We follow a drug addicted woman who has red blood but was raised as though she was a Duster. She was supposed to be the chosen one, but things don’t go her way and she misses her chance. She struggles with her addiction and also with her place in this society. She was raised to hate those with red blood, but that includes herself. We also follow a young woman living a life of plenty, the daughter of one of the most powerful women in the Empire. But she is hated by her mother, and lacks skills in the BloodWerk magic that other Embers can do. Finally, we follow another woman, this time one with transparent blood. She is a slave, as are all of her kin, but with how little the Embers notice her she is able to slip in and out of places she should never be. There is a lot more to her than meets the eye.
So not only is there the conflict present between the different classes of people, but there is the tidewind. It blows each night and is strong enough to rip the skin off of a person. If you get caught in it? You’re dead. It used to follow a pattern, you could make sure you were inside on time. But lately? The tidewind has been getting more powerful, more unpredictable, and more dangerous.
I adored the character development within this book, it’s pretty strong from two of our main characters and seeing their change and growth throughout the book is incredibly satisfying (as well as allowing us to learn more about this world along with them). I also need to know more about this world. I don’t want to spoil anything but there are so many secrets partially revealed and mysteries to unravel and I just need the second book already!
On CAWPILE I rated this: Characters: 10, Atmosphere: 8, Writing: 9, Plot: 9, Intrigue: 8, Logic: 9, and Enjoyment: 10 giving an average of 9 and a 5* rating!
Highlight here for trigger warnings: addiction, violence, slavery, blood, classism, death, racism, torture, murder, child abuse, confinement, grief, ableism, alcoholism, emotional and physical abuse, genocide, police brutality, suicide attempt, colonisation.
If it wasn’t already obvious, I adored this book. We have politics, characters, a slow burn romance, and fights for human rights along with a mystery about the rest of the world. I LOVE IT. Please let me know if you have read this or if you’re thinking about it. Because I need to chat with people about this book!!!