Book Reviews

Review: The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi

I don’t have the words to describe how much I loved The Final Strife. It has it all. There’s queer romance, world building with some serious twists, and more secrets than anyone knows what to do with. If you love fantasy series starters, you have to read The Final Strife! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.


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.


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

TW: child abuse, drug abuse, drug use, withdrawal, torture, racism

I was beyond excited for this fantasy series starter debut before I even finished. And now that I’m done, I am even more obsessed than I ever believed possible. Sylah used to believe that freedom, that rebellion from oppression, was possible. Trained for that purpose alone, the decimation of her old rebellion leaves her searching to fill the ache and she does so with drugs and fighting rings. But when a serious of consequences and decisions lead her to meeting Anoor, her entire world will change.

Firstly, the world building. The world El-Arifi has created is stunning. You can feel the very sand beneath your feet, the dry air swirling around you. But even more so, the ways that El-Arifi illustrates the oppression, the consuming grip of the empire is gripping and rage inducing. By showcasing multiple perspectives, The Final Strife allows readers to see what no one else can – a more comprehensive, but by no means without secrets, view of the playing pieces. As they advance upon each other, keep their own mysteries hidden behind smiles, and truths they might not even know.

Secondly, the action and pacing in The Final Strife is phenomenal. I was easily and almost immediately swept away. Carried off in a current full of conspiracy, betrayal, and decisions. I devoured this book in a matter of days I was so obsessed. Many of my notes are just me reacting to the awe of the story El-Arifi created. Combined with the queer romance and my heart was entirely smitten. At the same time, The Final Strife also explores important questions of right and wrong.

Thematic Exploration

Is settling the score the only answer? If we end up resulting in one sided broad stroke thinking, are we not doing what our oppressors are as well? Are we not failing to see individual’s ability to change, to be different? Not acknowledging our own varying levels of privilege and oppression? All of these questions are grappled with on a variety of levels with different characters all throughout The Final Strife. In this series starter, El-Arifi has laid the foundation for a truly spectacular series as well as book.

(Disclaimer: Some of the links below are affiliate links. For more information you can look at the Policy page. If you’re uncomfortable with that, know you can look up the book on any of the sites below to avoid the link)

If you love fantasy series starters, you have to read The Final Strife. It has an immersive world full of characters who will be wrung to the brink of dilemma all wrapped up in an action plot of secrets. I cannot more highly recommend this book and I will be awaiting the next one! Find The Final Strife on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, & The Book Depository.


What is your favorite series starter?

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