“He waited. I waited. We both waited for what, I wasn’t entirely sure, but one thing I knew for certain was that he wanted this. I could tell by the look in his eyes and all I wanted was to kiss him back. I leaned in closer and he finally gave into the desire. He pressed his lips on mine, parting them tenderly. The strangely gentle strength of his kiss enveloped me. It gained momentum and suddenly I was wrapped around his body. In that second, I tasted the possibility of forever.”
Sixteen-year-old Isra Kalb has grown up starving in the slums of Islamabad. But hunger is only the beginning. When her father is mysteriously murdered and madness corrupts her mother’s mind, she’s left alone to fend for herself and her sister. Homeless and destitute, the only thing she has to remember her loving family by is a commonplace necklace–an amulet barely worth keeping.
Or so she thinks.
Swept into a web of lies, deceit and turmoil, Isra struggles to find a place for herself and Zaffirah, wondering if the strange creatures and visions she’s seeing are indications of the madness that took her mother. But when Snatchers capture Zaffirah, Isra learns her amulet isn’t so useless after all. Transported to Zarcane–the beastly garden where Adam and Eve were born–Isra comes face to face with her destiny. She’s a Keeper, charged with protecting the borders of Zarcane and keeping the demon hordes lurking in the shadows from taking realms that are not their own. And she’s not the only one; there’s a second Keeper, a boy whose identity hasn’t been revealed.
Now, in order to save her sister and fulfill her family’s legacy as Keeper of the Amulet, she has to find the second Keeper and close the borders.
Surrounded by betrayal, trapped between warring factions of angels, and desperate to save the only family she has left, Isra must decide:
Who can she trust when nothing is what it seems?
***I received this eARC in exchange for an honest review from REUTS Publications
- The premise of this story is amazing. The setting in Islamabad is a culture shock and a shift that’s surprisingly different. The life in the slums is graphic, the struggle for food, the sacrifice, how families fight to survive under this hardship, and the was children are snatched off the streets and mutilated to make money is horrifying and adds a gritty layer of darkness to the plot. This is not where you’d think the war for humanity would take place, where the fate of Eden and an age-old battle between angels and demons would wage, but it does.
- The story behind the amulets and the legacy of the Keepers is a mythological, magical journey in itself. The link between Zarcane(Eden) and the other magical creatures like minotaurs and dark fae was a delightful surprise. I loved the mix of whimsy and belief systems. The crystal creatures, the minotaur army, and the Keeper’s guardians were terrifying and beautiful. The way the fae swarm and bite like violent little leeches was crazy cool.
- Farid is hard to like and a little too violent for my taste. Growing up in the slums has made him into a tough, battle-ready kid. He knows how to navigate the streets and stir fear in the hearts of many of children. Farid seems unstoppable, invincible, and almost like a gang leader in how he deals out punishment and steals. Just when you think you have him all figured out, you see him with Maya and you can’t help but melt a little.
- Beneath the hard exterior is a boy who has been neglected, who lacks love, and all he wants is to share the love he never had with those who deserve it. Farid cares for Maya as if she were his own sister, buying her presents and glowing in her smiles. Although his relationship with Isra is a bit shifty, going from comfortable to awkward in seconds, he keeps her company and watches out for her. Farid has suffered emotional trauma not only from his life in the slums but his broken home. It’s really no wonder that he makes the poor choices he does, he feels suffocated and like there are no other options.
- Isra is frustrating. She stumbles through things in a little cloud, day dreaming never really focused on her surroundings and then suddenly she’s in a life or death situation. Isra makes terrible choices but she’s young and doesn’t have all the facts. I liked that she made mistakes, that she failed and picked herself back up, that she never lost hope. Not only did this make her more human but someone to root for.
- Ammun is that mysterious, gorgeous boy that turns Isra into mush. He’s intense, compassionate, and while he’s not exactly flirty, the chemistry is there. That being said, this isn’t a romance, in fact that’s not even secondary, it’s more like a small component that doesn’t drive the plot or have lingering effect. The Keepers is a twisted fantasy without the complications of angst.
- Several of the plot points were loose and fell apart or were completely forgotten. Isra’s fear of the snake, the random hissing and lurking in the shadows was brushed off and while it seemed as though it would have major significance nothing happened with it. The drama between Farid and Isra’s families was rushed and convoluted. The explanation was not as clear as it could have been to get the full weight of the story and the effect it had on both of their lives, more significantly Farid’s later alliances and decisions.
- The battle was short-lived and off to the side. For something that was so epic, that decided the fate of Zarcane and ultimately humanity, as the reader, all we got was the results of the bloodshed but no real details or descriptions of the carnage. The fight between Abaddon and her rival was glossed over and I felt like I was jilted an amazing scene.
- The minor characters were unique and lively but fleeting. When they were present, they left a big impact on the storyline, bringing some diversity and magic to the plot but not enough to get a firm grip on the blossoming relationship between the protagonists and each minor. Moreover, due to this disconnect, some scenes that should have been extremely emotional and upsetting were not at all.
- Warring factions in Zarcane, the role of the magical creatures, how Abaddon came into power were missing substantial explanation that might have solidified the sense of importance in being a Keeper and the dire consequences of what would happen should Isra fail. This sense of urgency and uncertainty were missing.
Anoosha Lalani has always had an insatiable desire to escape reality. It was a childhood trait that never seemed to fade out. If Anoosha were to make one wish, it would be to have wings to journey off the face of this planet and into the worlds of her stories.
When she’s not writing, you may find Anoosha attending high school in Singapore. Having moved around so much, she has had the wonderful opportunity to be exposed to a vibrant range of cultures, which often seem to find their way into her stories. Anoosha was born in Pakistan, the setting of her most recent novel, The Keepers.
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