The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi #BookReview #EpicFantasy #LGBTQ+

I will be recording the podcast for this book later today. So check back later for a listen 😊

Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.
Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.
Clear is the blood of the slaves, of the crushed, of the invisible.

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.

Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment, by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the empire. But when Sylah and Anoor meet, a fire burns between them that could consume the kingdom—and their hearts. 

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution. And when she joins forces with Sylah and Anoor, together these grains of sand will become a storm. 

As the empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn. 

What’s it about (in a nutshell):

The Final Strife is an epic fantasy tale about a land divided by people of different colored blood and the desire for the oppressed to take back the freedoms stolen from them.

Initial Expectations (before beginning the book):

The cover is beautiful, and I feel it speaks to the diversity contained within the pages. The blurb confirms that diversity, and I love that it taps into African and Arabian mythology to form the base of the story. I am unfamiliar with either mythology, so it will be new to me, which is exciting.

Actual Reading Experience:

This world is foreign to me in its roots and in its creation, so at first, it was a bit difficult to understand and follow. The world-building, however, is so incredibly detailed that it enabled me to overcome any lack of knowledge on my part and be immersed in the telling. The world in The Final Strife is terribly complex and layered, and I loved it. Sometimes the amount of detail slowed down the reading pace, but it also helped in understanding this strange new world where everything hinged on the color of your blood.

There is so much diversity in this story – diversity as defined by our own world as well as diversity within the confines of the book. Sexual diversity, cultural diversity, the inclusion of people with disabilities, and more are all integrated parts of this story and add so much richness. I felt like a complete picture was shown rather than a narrow, focused one.

Anoor and Sylah are very much flawed heroes, so flawed that I did not instantly like or root for them. However, they did grow on me as they began to grow within the story to the point where I could see the glimmer of a hero in each of them. Hassa was my favorite character, but I talk about her more in the character section of my review.

The relationships in this story also are worth mentioning. I love the complexities in all the connections, particularly mother/daughter or mother-figure/daughter. The story showed how much these relationships impact daughters, how they grow into womanhood, and how they feel about their own worth in society. Conditional love is the norm, and that can have many different consequences for the one who feels the need to live up to these conditions.


Hassa was by far my favorite character. She is a hero on so many levels that she just made my heart happy. I enjoy flawed heroes as the book has with Sylah and Anoor. However, still, the pureness of Hassa’s heart and the steadfastness of her soul are what I gravitated towards. She is brave and humble, intelligent and unassuming, wise and reflective – she is everything good in the book’s world and our own. I would love to see more of Hassa in the upcoming novels.

Reminds Me Of:

This story is incredibly unique. I wouldn’t even know what other stories to compare it to.

To Read or Not to Read:

If you love complex and unique fantasy worlds with a rich cast of diverse characters, The Final Strife is a book you won’t want to miss!

My Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

16 Replies to “The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi #BookReview #EpicFantasy #LGBTQ+”

  1. I’m about 30% into this novel and have the same feelings as you so far. Didn’t really care for Anoor and Sylah initially, and the world-building slowed me down at first, but now I’m able to read at a faster pace. I agree – it’s really a unique story.

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    1. Very. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read anything remotely like it. It is hard to draw parallels except for the obvious.

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  2. The cover caught my attention, Tessa, and it sounds like a great read once you got into it. I do like deep world-building and the diversity in the novel sounds intriguing. I’m not familiar with African and Arabian mythology, so that intrigues me too. Thanks for the review and recommendation.

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  3. That cover is so striking. I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Tessa. It does sound good.

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    1. I’m curious too. I can’t even imagine what things the other two books will hold. Though, I am curious about where Sylah is going and what it’ll be like.

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  4. I have an eARC of this book and it’s one of my Most Anticipated Books for this year, but I haven’t been able to read it yet. Your review makes me want to read it right now, but it’ll have to wait a bit longer.

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