Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement.
Nahal is a waterweaver who dreams of being trained at the Alamaxa Academy of the Weaving Arts and joining the Ladies Izdihar Division of the army. Her family have other plans, they wish to marry her off to help repay her father’s debts. When she finds out her betrothed is already in love with another woman, Nahal sees an answer to her problems. In exchange for his permission to attend the Academy, she will allow him a concubine.
She might have finally had a chance to live amongst others who understood what it meant to hold this strange, rare power that had been equally scorned and feared since the Talyani Disaster. Instead, she was to be sold off into marriage to a man she barely knew.
Giorgina is a bookseller from a poor family and has no desire to be a concubine. She is lucky to have her job, which she uses as cover to to attend the meetings of the Daughters of Izdihar, a group of women campaigning for the right to vote, for women to finally have some independence and say in how the country is run.
The Daughters of Izdihar is a story of women’s suffrage, set in a secondary world with elements of Islam. With everything going on in Iran, you realise this is history oft-repeated, and I found it a little depressing. While there are no morality police, there is plenty of police corruption and injustice in this story.
I wanted more magic. Nahal enrols in an academy for weavers but very little time is spent there. Instead the women go to marches, hand out fliers, and spend a lot of time lamenting their lot in life. Oh and they get into the kind of trouble where they needed to be rescued by men all the time. I know this was a reflection on the society, that women are belongings to be protected, but it was frustrating to happen over and over again.
Giorgina is obsessed with maintaining a good reputation, she is poor so she believes it is all she has. This is a world where a woman having sex before marriage is so shameful her whole family will become outcasts if people know. Her father is not the sort to forgive her either, although you would think if the consequences were so dire, they would do everything in their power to keep it secret.
I wanted their magic to liberate them, but it is another thing used to oppress them. It’s seen as unnatural, although it’s not a gender based power, men are allowed to go train to be magical soldiers without fuss. Only rich women can go train, with their male guardian’s permission.
Because the women aren’t trained their magic bubbles up with their emotions, causing accidents, which are then used to highlight why weavers are bad. The women want to show how they can use their powers to help, but every time they seem to make things worse.
It’s meant to be based on modern Egyptian history, but it has dropped the colonial elements and fight for independence, focusing on the suffrage movement alone. There is a war brewing in the background, so perhaps, like in our history, that will further women’s liberation later in the duology.
I feel like this is a duology where you will really need to read both books, since this was setting everything up for things to happen in book two and it didn’t feel like anything was resolved at the end of this book. It’s a well-written book, just not really what I was wanting to read when I picked it up.
The Daughters of Izdihar is published by Orbit and will be available in paperback, ebook and audiobook editions from 12th January 2023. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.
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