The Final Strife – a review

The Final Strife
Saara El-Arifi
Adult Fantasy

Harper Collins UK
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Once this book hooks you in, you can’t let go. I had to stay up until way past midnight to finish it and it’s a long while since I’ve had to do that. It’s a slow starter and I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy it at first but once I got into the story I was completely hooked.

There are three classes of people in the empire, red blooded, blue blooded and clear. The red bloods or Embers are the ruling class and they rule their empire without mercy. The blue bloods are the Dusters who do all of the work and the clear or translucent bloods are simply invisible and known as Ghostings. 

Four Wardens control every aspect of life and their disciples learn from them. Every ten years, the disciples become the new wardens and the Aktibar Games are held to choose new disciples from the ranks of the Embers. These games and the opportunity that they bring for change are the focus of the novel. This is a familiar scenario but there is nothing familiar about the story that the author creates here.

We read the story through the eyes of three different women, an ember, a duster and a ghosting. Each of the women has her own agenda and through each of the view points we gradually learn more about the world they live in. Sylah was trained from birth to win the games but six years before, her entire family was murdered in front of her. Now she is a drug addict who survives by fighting for money in the ring. Anoor is the spoilt daughter of the Warden of Strength. Her only interest appears to be creating more and more extravagant outfits to wear. Hassa is a ghosting and also a friend of Sylah’s. As a ghosting, she has no worth in society but she is far more than at first appears. These women’s lives become intertwined and their interests coincide but nothing is quite as it seems.

The three women are very different and at first two of them at least, don’t seem very likeable. However, as the story develops and we learn more about each of them, you find yourself caring for all three. The relationships cover love, anger, hatred and betrayal and right up until the end, you aren’t quite sure how things are going to turn out.

Interspersed with the story are brief extracts from the wardens’ journals which show us more about the way they govern their empire and the horrific way the Dusters and Ghostings are treated. We also get extracts from the story tellers or griots which add more to our understanding of the world.

I found the world building amazing. Bit by bit, we learn about the society, its history and the magic system. I loved the way that the characters themselves don’t know their history and it gets gradually revealed to them and the reader.  The magic system is really logical and based on blood which makes sense as blood is such an integral part of this story.  It’s a dark world and there are some distressing descriptions of punishments meted out to the Dusters and Ghostings but for me, this book was unputdownable.

The book is definitely part of a series but doesn’t end on a cliff hanger. This part of the story concludes in a way that ends satisfactorily but leaves plenty of questions for the next books. I loved this debut novel and can’t wait to see how the story develops next.

The Final Strife is published by Harper Collins UK on 23rd June 2022

Thank you to Net Galley and the publishers, Harper Collins UK, for my ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Janette

Recently retired Ex-Assistant Head of a large primary school in Leicestershire although I seem to be in school teaching quite a bit still.

3 thoughts on “The Final Strife – a review”

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