At just ten years old, she was the sole survivor of a massacre that killed her entire family and toppled her country. In the time since then, Sylvia has built a new life for herself. Far away from her home country, she has a job, friends, and simple hopes for her future. But her past is never far away. If anyone ever discovers who she is she’ll lose everything again. When things begin to fall apart will she be destroyed? Or will she rise up as Essiya, the Jasad Heir, and crush her enemies? Find out in Sara Hashem’s debut novel The Jasad Heir, out July 2023 from Orbit.
[Note: While I am reviewing this novel independently and honestly, it should be noted that it has been provided to me by Orbit for the purpose of this review. Warning: My review of The Jasad Heir contains some spoilers!]
A queen without a country in The Jasad Heir
It’s been ten years since Sylvia saw her entire family killed right in front of her. She still doesn’t know why she was spared. All she knows is that if anyone finds out that she is alive, she won’t be for very long.
The Kingdom of Jasad was one of four countries that all had magic powers running through them. Over time the magic faded from the other three countries but Jasad and its people retained their magic. Of course, this power difference caused envy and distrust between Jasad and the other countries. It became necessary for a fifth power to rise up and settle disputes between the four countries. Nizahl is this fifth power. Created from people from all the countries and with no allegiance to any of them, Nizahl is supposed to be a neutral group that can arbitrate for the others.
After a supposed aggression by the Jasadi rulers at a meeting of the leaders that resulted in the deaths of all those present (except Sylvia, or Essiya as she was known then, but no one knows that), the Nizahl crushed the Jasadi. The country was completely wiped out. It is now a barren wasteland, abandoned by all. It was decided that magic itself was the cause of the Jasadi’s aggression. Magic-madness is considered a thing, where the power of magic makes the user crazy and dangerous. As a result, any Jasadi who managed to escape the war is hunted down, put on “trial”, and executed for the simple crime of existing.
She just wants to be left alone
Sylvia is one of those Jasadis that managed to escape. She made her way to a small village far from her home country. There she was taken in at an orphanage, hired as an apprentice to the local apothecary, Rory, and even made friends. Well, they made themselves her friends. Sylvia just wants to be left alone. But Sefa and Marek didn’t really give her a choice and eventually, they became her friends. Now she has dreams of taking over Rory’s shop, buying the house down the road, and living there with Sefa and Marek as they all grow old together.
Sylvia lives her life and makes her plans. But she knows that everything could come crashing down around her in a second if someone figures out she’s Jasadi, especially if they learn she’s the heir to the throne. Luckily (or not, depending on your view) her grandparents fit her with magical cuffs when she was little to control her magic. Eventually, they would have removed them but they died first. So now Sylvia has no way to access her power. The upside to this is that she can’t be caught using magic, so the chances of anyone finding out who she is are pretty slim.
Then she messes up. Big time. Another Jasadi is uncovered in her village. When he is killed, she feels bad for him and privately (she thinks) recites the Jasadi funeral rites over his body. Unfortunately for her, the Nizahl heir, and head Jasadi hunter, Arin, overhears her. She is sure that she’s done for. But the cuffs hide her magic from him. Without proof of her magic, he won’t accuse her. Instead, he opts to keep her close while he unravels her secrets. He declares her the champion for Nizahl in a hunger games style competition between the countries.
Sylvia is racked with guilt about representing the Kingdom responsible for the death of her entire family. But if she doesn’t play along she’ll be killed. In the end, she makes the only choice she can. Now she’s locked in a deadly game of subterfuge with Arin. Can she outsmart him and keep her true identity secret? Or will he finish the job his father started ten years ago?
An amazing first novel from author Sara Hashem
So I mentioned it already, but this is Sara Hashem’s first novel. First novels are notorious for not being very good. But Hashem has avoided this cliche! The Jasad Heir is funny, well-paced, and intriguing. We start with the premise that the Jasadi are the victims, but as Sylvia learns more about what her grandparents were really like, she grows less sure. Things become every bit as muddy as most politics are and there are no real good guys and bad guys. In fact, everyone in power kind of sucks. This challenges Sylvia’s very core beliefs and leaves her very vulnerable. But not weak. She is a very strong character who is very capable of making decisions and accepting the consequences of those choices. I found her absolutely fascinating and relatable.
And she’s surrounded by equally captivating characters. From Sefa and Marek who are incredible friends to Arin, who is both a formidable foe and an alluring siren. Even the guards have distinct and engaging personalities. I have to say that The Jasad Heir was a happy surprise that I couldn’t put down until I was done (who needs sleep? Not me!).
The Jasad Heir is a perfect summer read
Usually when we think of summer reads we think of the stupid easy kind of books. Books that are engaging but have no real substance. But I think that we should all expect a little something more from our summer reading. And The Jasad Heir is a great choice! It has all the excitement, fun, and romance that you expect from a summer read, but it has so much more.
The book takes a deep look at things like prejudice, justice, genetics, and free will. But because of Hashem’s wonderful writing, it never becomes a heavy or depressing book. It should definitely be at the top of your summer reading list this year!
My Rating: 10/10
The Jasad Heir by Sara Hashem is available. Will you be checking out this book from Orbit? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.