Book Reviews

Review: The Battle Drum by Saara El-Arifi

I had the highest hopes for The Battle Drum and they were all fulfilled. With sequels you can never know, but El-Arifi delivers one that feels expansive and captivating all over again. Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


Anoor is the first blue-blooded ruler of the Wardens’ Empire. But when she is accused of a murder she didn’t commit, her reign is thrown into turmoil. She must solve the mystery and clear her name without the support of her beloved, Sylah.

Sylah braves new lands to find a solution for the hurricane that threatens to destroy her home. But in finding answers, she must make a decision, does she sacrifice her old life in order to raise up her sword once more?

Hassa’s web of secrets grows ever thicker as she finds herself on a trail of crimes in the city. Her searching uncovers the extent of the atrocities of the empire’s past and present. Now, she must guard both her heart and her land.

The three women find their answers, but they’re not the answers they wanted. The drumbeat of change thrums throughout the world.

And it sings a song of war.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

TW: domestic abuse, miscarriage, self-harm, addiction

The Battle Drum is a sequel that never lets up. Not only does El-Arifi separate our faves Anoor and Sylah, but they really go through the wringer here. Beginning with an amazing book one recap – please do this more in book series – The Battle Drum picks up the steam from The Final Strife and keeps running. Anoor is faced with politics and diplomacy, but also not knowing who she can trust. Betrayal, retribution, and secrets plague Anoor. It forces her to figure out who she really can trust, but also what kind of person, and friend, she is.

For Sylah, The Battle Drum begins with her haunted by Jond’s betrayal and she has to discover what that means for who she is. We never want to assume we have been lied to, that we would fall for manipulation, but when we find out sometimes it can destabilize us entirely. But in The Battle Drum all of our characters, including one of my favorite Hassa, will be tested in ways they might not survive.

In many ways, The Battle Drum feels like returning home. El-Arifi is able to drop us swiftly back into this world of legacy, blood, and misconceptions. It manages to balance these earth shattering discoveries, while never dragging the plot or making it feel too much at once. The Battle Drum navigates truth and subjectivity. The idea that one person’s truth will be another person’s lies, history, villain origin story. Pieces begin to click together at lightning speed with disastrous and major repercussions for the future.

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El-Arifi delivers a show stopping sequel that will ask us what the sacrifice and cost of love is. What happens when we discover knowledge and know are faced with the consequences. The knowledge that our world has just changed and nothing we do today is the same as yesterday. In a world where we are merely concerned with revenge and retribution for our love, for the injustices, how does a cycle like that ever stop?

Find The Battle Drum on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.


What is your favorite sequel you read this year?

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