5 Awesome Reads by Muslim Authors

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With the month of Ramadan around the corner, what better time to pick up some books written by Muslim authors? It seems I am not the only one in the book community who has thought this since a couple of book lovers (Nadia @scorpioreads and Zoya @AnInkyReader) have put together a Ramadan Readathon (just look at that stunning header).
For those of you who will be joining in, and for those of you who are just interested in picking up some awesome books, here are five to get you started:

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A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair. When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how. Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?
A story inspired by Jumanji with a Middle Eastern twist? With a hijabi on the front? And BOARDGAMES? I just want to drop everything and pick this one up right now but you know, I'm even more excited to save it and buddy read with others during the readathon. 

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What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?
For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.
For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.
When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.
But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
I've lost count of the amount of times I've mentioned An Ember in the Ashes on this blog and my Twitter. It's without a doubt one of my favourite books, and Sabaa just seems like an awesome human being. You can read my review of EMBER, here, and if you've already read this one, remember the sequel is out! Warning: if you read the sequel while fasting, there is a chance you may dehydrate due to tears = water loss.

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Khaled Hosseini, the #1 New York Times–bestselling author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, has written a new novel about how we love, how we take care of one another, and how the choices we make resonate through generations. 
In this tale revolving around not just parents and children but brothers and sisters, cousins and caretakers, Hosseini explores the many ways in which families nurture, wound, betray, honor, and sacrifice for one another; and how often we are surprised by the actions of those closest to us, at the times that matter most. 
Following its characters and the ramifications of their lives and choices and loves around the globe—from Kabul to Paris to San Francisco to the Greek island of Tinos—the story expands gradually outward, becoming more emotionally complex and powerful with each turning page.
It is unbelievable that I have gone 20 years without having ever read a book by Khaled Hosseini. I must rectify this ASAP, I will also be adding A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner to my TBR.

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Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City — until she's suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! When Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them, as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to bear? Kamala has no idea, either. But she's comin' for you, Jersey!
Another favourite! I love Marvel, and my love only grew when Ms. Marvel was released! This story is awesome, the illustrations are fantastic, and even though I've only read Vol. 1, I am looking forward to catching up on the new releases during Ramadan. The first one was a pretty fast read, too, which is an added bonus and means I can read it in between chopping veggies, ha.

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'Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.' Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. 'Are your parents quite disappointed?'
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?
I kid you not, Sofia Khan is Not Obliged had me laughing uncontrollably in public. It was so relatable and just absolutely hilarious. I wish I could give all of my friends, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, a copy of this book. 100% recommend. The sequel is definitely on my TBR for the readathon!

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I hope this list has helped you discover some fantastic new books to check out, and I really do hope you all join in with the readathon! It will be lots of fun, and I for one am looking forward to it. If you're looking for more reads written by Muslim authors, Nadia has put together an awesome and continuously growing Goodreads list which you can find here!
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ARC Review: Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh

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Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: Chapter 5 Books/Hodder
Release date: 16th May 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 416
Source: ARC
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The daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has long known her place—she may be an accomplished alchemist, whose cunning rivals that of her brother Kenshin, but because she is not a boy, her future has always been out of her hands. At just seventeen years old, Mariko is promised to Minamoto Raiden, the son of the emperor's favorite consort—a political marriage that will elevate her family's standing. But en route to the imperial city of Inako, Mariko narrowly escapes a bloody ambush by a dangerous gang of bandits known as the Black Clan, who she learns has been hired to kill her before she reaches the palace. Dressed as a peasant boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the ranks of the Black Clan, determined to track down the person responsible for the target on her back. But she's quickly captured and taken to the Black Clan’s secret hideout, where she meets their leader, the rebel ronin Takeda Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, his best friend Okami. Still believing her to be a boy, Ranmaru and Okami eventually warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. As Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets, of betrayal and murder, which will force her to question everything she's ever known.
If Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh isn't on your 'to buy immediately' list, get ready to add it. The Wrath and the Dawn was one of my favourite books on 2015, so much so that I actually couldn't bring myself to read The Rose and the Dagger because I couldn't bear the idea of it ending, and I still haven't. But after Flame in the Mist, I think I might just have to in an attempt to fill the Renée Ahdieh writing shaped hole in my heart.

Flame in the Mist is marketed as a Mulan combined with 47 Ronin YA fantasy. Though 47 Ronin I haven't watched, Mulan is without a doubt one of my most favourite Disney movies. Even though I only watched it recently (seriously, last year), the story really stuck with me and when I heard the wonderful Ahdieh would be writing a story that resembled Mulan's story, I was super excited. And then I saw that cover.
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The story follows Mariko who has been married off to the Emperor's son, but when her convoy is attacked while on route to the palace, everything turns upside down. Despite the death and carnage surrounding her, and a near-death experience, Mariko is tempted by the idea of freedom. Not only that, but she is determined to find out who had tried to kill her and why. She does this by disguising herself as a boy and infiltrating the Black Clan, which isn't an easy task. Despite her best efforts, she finds herself growing to care for the members of the Clan, and something doesn't seem right...

Behind the characters who stole my heart, the heart-racing action scenes and subtle romance, the story's message is without a doubt focused on female empowerment. Mariko's life has been planned out from her for as long as she can remember, and she is treated like an object rather than a human being whereas her twin brother is granted the freedom Mariko so desperately craves. Maybe this is what spurs Mariko to disguise herself as a boy and to prove her worth by infiltrating the Black Clan, and even though she is treated like dirt by the clan members at first, it gives her a sense of freedom and independence she's never had before.

I think Mariko and Inej would make such good friends.

I've also come to find that no-one writes romance - and complex characters - quite like Renée Ahdieh, and she makes the most innocent scenes seem tantalising. Seriously, I was blushing for most of the last half of the book. That just reminded me of this one scene where one of the characters tries to make Mariko uncomfortable/blush by talking about love. But I'm going off track. Let's talk about Okami, the shadow boy who stole his way into my heart. I felt the need to mention him and the fact that he was my favourite character (with the exception of Mariko herself) but I really don't want to spoil anything more.

Renée Ahdieh twists a tale of adventure, mystery and heart-melting romance with beautiful prose. The way she incorporates an entire language and culture into her books has become a trademark of sorts, and pairs flawlessly with her melodic writing. In a way, I am reminded of Laini Taylor's writing in Strange the Dreamer, which I only recently read. Ahdieh continues to steal my heart with her tales and now that I've read more than one of her books, I can confidently say that she has become one of my favourite authors.

Rating: ★★★★★
Favourite quote: "To me, you are magic."

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Discussion: 10 Reasons Why Summer (Reading) Sucks

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I know most people love summer because it usually means no school, no homework, trips abroad, ice-cream etc. etc. but I hate summer. Okay, maybe 'hate' is a strong word but I something-adjacent-to-hate summer. (Better?) And whenever I say this, people are shocked. They often assume it's because I'm a winter-baby... which I'm not. I was born in the middle of May. (That reminds me, it's my 21st birthday soon!) So, I thought I'd make a list of 10 Reasons Why Summer Sucks BOOK NERD EDITION. Essentially, this is a list of why reading during the summer sucks.

1. Bugs and insects
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Of course, this is number one on the list. The number one perk of summer is reading outside, right? WRONG. Bugs and insects are everywhere. Even when they're not there, I can feel them crawling all over me.

2. Hay fever
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Itchy eyes, runny nose, pollen everywhere. Need I say more?

3. Sticky fingers
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Okay imagine this: you're sitting outside, lounging on a deck chair or a blanket, ignoring the insects feasting on your flesh and the itchy eyes because you have your favourite ice cream/lolly in your hand to cool you down. And then you go to turn the page of your favourite summer read and- whoops, your finger is stuck on the page now. Forever. Your only options are to risk tearing the page or say goodbye to your finger.

4. Noise
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Kids laughing and playing. Families barbecuing. Sounds of birds chirping. It's disgusting.

5. Waterfights
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Keep those water guns away from me and my hair and my BOOKS, goddamnit.

6. The heat
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Sticky, sweaty, can't concentrate on my book because I am dehydrating over here. Not to mention sticking to everything I touch. And then I get up and, oh what's that? A layer of my skin left behind on the overheated chair. Amazing.

7. Topless dudes
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Don't even have the words.

8. Can't read in my favourite spot...
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...my BED. Because, again, it's too damn hot.

9. That big ball of death in the sky
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How can I read when the sun is on a mission to BLIND ME!?

10. Did I mention the CREEPY CRAWLIES?!
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How did they manage to get into MY ROOM? THE WINDOW WAS CLOSED.

So, yeah. Summer sucks and should be cancelled. Keep your heat and bugs and bring back the crunchy leaves and candles and hot chocolate with marshmallows. The only redeeming quality of summer is all the extra reading time to catch up on new releases. 

Enjoy your summer reading, I know I wont!
Do you guys have anything to add to this list? Comment below!

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Review: The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran M. Hargrave

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Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Publisher: Chicken House Books
Release date: 5th May 2017
Genre: Fantasy, MG, Adventure
Pages: 244
Source: a copy in exchange for an honest review
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Ami lives with her mother on an island where the sea is as blue as the sky. It’s all she knows and loves, but the arrival of malicious government official Mr Zamora changes her world forever: her island is to be made into a colony for lepers. Taken from her mother and banished across the sea, Ami faces an uncertain future in an orphanage. There she meets a honey-eyed girl named for butterflies, and together they discover a secret that will lead her on an adventure home. Ami must go back to the island of no return, but will she make it in time?
The Island at the End of Everything is another stunning story by The Girl of Ink and Stars author, Kiran M. Hargrave. Almost exactly a year after The Girl of Ink and Stars was released, we are honoured with another middle grade adventure by the wonderful Hargrave, and this story is just as magical and lyrical as the first, if not more so.

The story follows Ami who lives with her mother on an island where those who are suffering from leprosy are sent. The island is home to families that are a mixture of members who suffer from the disease, and those who miraculously manage to stay unaffected. Ami herself does not have leprosy, which is why when a government official is sent to Culion to segregate those with the illness - who are Touched, as they are called in the story - from those without, she is sent to an orphanage to another island with the healthy children. This means this children are torn from the only home they've ever known, from their families and loved ones, and sent to an unfamiliar island where immediately they are marginalised for being from Culion.

This book touched on many sensitive topics, and I felt they were all dealt with considerately and realistically. Despite loving her mother, there were times when Ami felt embarrassed by her illness, which I think is a realistic human reaction especially for a child. Ami seems very mature; she assists her mother with day-to-day tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and dressing. And when she is forced to leave home, she worries about her mother continuously. It doesn't help that Mr Zamora is a harsh and hard-headed man. However, he himself suffers in silence from a phobia of germs, and seeing some of the characters he treats like garbage respond by feeling sorry for him made me feel a certain way.
At the orphanage, Ami makes a new friend. A honey-eyed girl, who radiates joy and kindness even on the page. Born with a deformity herself, Mari feels like she understands Ami. It was wonderful seeing their friendship blossom in such a short time, and Mari is such a brave character. I think we'd all be better off with a friend like Mari fighting by our side. And let me not forget the cheeky little tag along to their adventure, Kidlat. God, he was adorable, I just wanted to hug him and wrap him up in a blanket and shield him from the world.

Somehow, I loved The Island at the End of Everything more than The Girl of Ink and Stars, and I wasn't sure that would be possible. I read it in just over 24 hours, only taking breaks to sleep and work on my dissertation. This new release by Hargrave only cemented her as one of my new favourite authors. Her writing is spellbinding and beautiful, and her stories full of adventure, diversity and tear-jerking plots with lovable characters. I'm not ashamed to admit I cried at the end (and before the end).

Rating: ★★★★★
Favourite quotes: That's the problem with believing there's a reason for everything - you have to take the good with the bad.

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Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Hodderscape
Release date: 28th March 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Pages: 384
Source: ARC
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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? Welcome to Weep.
What can I say about Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor? I should probably start off by making it known that this was my first ever Laini Taylor book. I've seen her DoSaB trilogy floating around the book community and even though the chatter was intriguing enough to convince me to buy the box set, I still haven't gotten around to actually reading it. Still, that didn't stop me from picking up Strange the Dreamer.

When the excerpt was released, for some reason I was a little disappointed by it. It was interesting, but a little meh compared to the hype surrounding it. But then when I started reading the ARC, I was immediately captured by Lazlo Strange, the librarian and main character, and connected with him on so many aspects but mostly his love of reading and all things books. Lazlo considers himself an outsider, losing himself in fairytales, stories about magic, and everything to do with the lost city of Weep. The mystery of Weep is unbelievably spell-binding; the idea that there's a magical city - with the most beautifully written imagery - that just went *poof* one day.
Laini Taylor's writing is beautiful, and I was mildly surprised despite all of the comments about DoSaB. Each sentence was utterly mesmerising, creating beautiful imagery to perfectly pair with the unique world-building and characters. Ah, the characters. We meet Lazlo, the librarian. But later on in the story we also meet Sarai, a blue-skinned goddess and some of the story is from her perspective which I wasn't expecting at all! Sarai quickly grew on me though.

At Laini's London event, she spoke about the motivations behind the story including how she wanted to write a story set after incidents many fantasy stories usually focus on, such as a war. So, instead of the Gods being alive in this story, the is set years after the Godslayer had already defeated the Gods. Therefore, the story explores the aftermath of the destruction left behind by the Gods.We see how the citizens of Weep have been attempting to move on with their lives.

Now, let's talk the ending. The story is quite long, being over 500 pages, and I feel like it could have been a little shorter. I was warned by several people that the ending would break me, and though I sort of guessed how it would end the further into the story I read, it was still heartbreaking to see it unfold. Laini did mention that she didn't want the story to end with this epic fight scene, and even though it didn't, it still managed to end with a bang.
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Rating: ★★★★
Favourite quote:
“You’re a storyteller. Dream up something wild and improbable," she pleaded. "Something beautiful and full of monsters."
“Beautiful and full of monsters?"
“All the best stories are.”
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Blog Tour: Author Guest Post by Danielle Younge-Ullman

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To celebrate the release of Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman, I have the honour of having her on my blog with an exclusive guest post just for you readers! For those of you who are unaware, Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined was released earlier this month on the 6th of April in the UK! And here is the Goodreads summary:
Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.

Without further ado, here is the wonderful guest post by Danielle:


Thanks for having me on the blog, Enchanted Bookcase! You asked me to give you a list of songs that remind me of the characters in my novel, EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED. This is a harder task than you might think—there’s a lot of great music out there and so my thoughts re songs for characters shifts and changes. But for now, here is my list…

Ingrid: Alaska by Maggie Rogers. I just discovered this song, and it is perfect, PERFECT for Ingrid and her story. I love it madly. Go listen, and they buy this girl’s music so she can keep making more.

Margot Sophia: Dido’s Lament from Henry Purcell’s opera, Dido & Aeneas. This is a beautiful aria, and one I first heard in high school. It’s also one of the few operas that are in English, which I find refreshing and which makes it a little more accessible, especially for English speakers who are just getting introduced to opera. Also, Margot-Sophia would have sung it beautifully.

Andreas: something by Leonard Cohen…maybe Dance Me to the End of Love or Closing Time

Isaac: Demons by Imagine Dragons

Jin: I imagine her really digging Bitch Better Have My Money by Rihanna, because Jin is such a tough girl. I think she’d also (secretly) like Cranes in the Sky by Solange.
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Ally: Brave by Sarah Bareilles—I like this for Ally, because it would be a good anthem for her.

Seth: Same Love by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Tavik: I feel like he’d like Eminem, so let’s go with Eminem, Not Afraid. For Ingrid thinking about Tavik, though, I would go with Hideaway by Kiesza, because although Tavik gets Ingrid talking about herself, he is also a kind of sanctuary for her. 

I hope you all enjoyed reading this as much as I did! I love seeing what authors think about their characters, and music is such an unexpectedly intimate thing. I feel like someone's favourite song says a lot about someone's personality or even just how they're feeling in the moment so I'm really glad Danielle took the time to do this for us readers! Just from the song choice, I can tell I'm going to love Jin.

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You can get a copy of Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined at the links below!
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About the Author
Danielle Younge-Ullman (danielleyoungeullman.com) is the author of the YA novels, EVERYTHING BEAUTIFUL IS NOT RUINED, and LOLA CARLYLE'S 12 STEP ROMANCE, and of the adult novel, FALLING UNDER. Danielle studied English and Theater at McGill University in Montreal, then worked as professional actor for ten years. This was character-building time during which she held a wild variety of acting and non-acting jobs—everything from working on the stage and in independent films, to dubbing English voices for Japanese TV, to temping, to teaching Pilates. She now lives with her husband and two daughters in in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleYUllman!


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NAONDEL Blog Tour: Author Guest Post

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NAONDEL by Maria Turtschaninoff is out this week (on 6th April) and because of how much I enjoyed MARESI, I am super excited to read this prequel! I'm even more excited to have the author on my blog with a guest post on her writing.

Book by book I have been building a fantasy world for the past ten years or so. I had no clear idea of the world when I began, and I still don’t: it reveals itself to me in pieces on a need-to-know basis.
It started with a girl with wild black hair, sitting under a table. I saw her in my mind’s eye when I was working as a museum guard, my most boring job to date. All I could do during the days of patrolling priceless paintings was imagine stuff. And one long, empty Tuesday morning I saw this girl in my imagination. She was mute. Or, she was not physically unable to speak, she just didn’t. I wanted to know why. What would silence a child? She’s the youngest in a large, very poor family, in a harsh environment. When she is born, nobody wants her, she is yet another mouth to feed. And nobody spends any time or care on her. They don’t speak to her. So she never learns to speak.
As I thought about this girl, a log cabin rose around the table she was sitting under. Logs indicate a forest, so I placed the cabin on the outskirts of a village, situated in a large wood. For a while that was enough, but as the story grew, so did the world. Where was this forest? What kind of a country was it? What was the climate like? Who ruled, and why? A city appeared, with a king. A countryside with farmers, a seashore with fishermen. And little by little countries around it started to take shape, too, countries with which my country, Lavora, was at war or did trade with. Suddenly I had a whole world on my hands – even though I had only the vaguest idea of what it looked like. My world is like a 15th century map – full of white areas that are only filled in when I travel to them – i.e. write a story set in that place.
The whole world spread out like ripples that emanated from that mute girl, and her name was Arra, which is also the name of the novel about her. It was published in Swedish in 2009 and in Finnish a year later.
In Arra, there are two short mentions of a nomadic people who herd sheep and have curly-haired little horses. That was all I knew about them when I set out to write the second novel, set in this (as yet unnamed) fantasy world of mine. I didn’t even know that the story was to be set among them, at first. All I had was a scene: a man cuts the hair of a girl. It is a symbolic gesture, full of meaning. But for the longest time I did not know who these two were, what their connection to each other was, what the action meant or where they lived. When I remembered the nomadic people called Akkade in my story Arra things began falling into place. The man is the father of the girl. And by cutting her hair, he is making her his son. Little by little I learned to know more about them, about their customs and habits and beliefs and about the vast, windswept steppe that was their home. The novel Anaché was published in Swedish in 2012 and in Finnish the next year.
This way my (as yet unnamed) fantasy world has grown, story by story. I have written about how Maresi came about elsewhere, but that story, too, started with a simple idea of a location and the voice of a young girl. Book by book the stories and peoples in them become more and more entwined, and in Maresi there are mentions of both Arra and Anaché, even though those stories precede Maresi’s with several hundred years and are set far away.

You can get a copy of Naondel at these links!
In the opulent palace of Ohaddin, women have one purpose - to obey. Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servants; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power. But the women have powers too. One is a healer. One can control dreams. One is a warrior. One can see everything that is coming. In their golden prison, the women wait. They plan. They write down their stories. They dream of a refuge, a safe place where girls can be free. And, finally, when the moon glows red, they will have their revenge.


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