Daughters of Izdihar by Hadeer Elsbai – ARC Review!

As a waterweaver, Nehal can move and shape any water to her will, but she’s limited by her lack of formal education. She desires nothing more than to attend the newly opened Weaving Academy, take complete control of her powers, and pursue a glorious future on the battlefield with the first all-female military regiment. But her family cannot afford to let her go—crushed under her father’s gambling debt, Nehal is forcibly married into a wealthy merchant family. Her new spouse, Nico, is indifferent and distant and in love with another woman, a bookseller named Giorgina.

Giorgina has her own secret, however: she is an earthweaver with dangerously uncontrollable powers. She has no money and no prospects. Her only solace comes from her activities with the Daughters of Izdihar, a radical women’s rights group at the forefront of a movement with a simple goal: to attain recognition for women to have a say in their own lives. They live very different lives and come from very different means, yet Nehal and Giorgina have more in common than they think. The cause—and Nico—brings them into each other’s orbit, drawn in by the group’s enigmatic leader, Malak Mamdouh, and the urge to do what is right.

But their problems may seem small in the broader context of their world, as tensions are rising with a neighboring nation that desires an end to weaving and weavers. As Nehal and Giorgina fight for their rights, the threat of war looms in the background, and the two women find themselves struggling to earn—and keep—a lasting freedom.

The Daughters of Izdihar is a story of rebellion, of romance & of women fighting for the right to control their own lives. Nehal is the daughter of a prominent family, never wanting for anything, that is until her family decide she is to marry and she realises she has no say in the matter. Giorgina comes from a poor family who rely on her for income and hope that, if she marries well, she can bring the family up in society. These two women couldn’t be more different, and yet through this story they will come to realise there is more that binds them, than sets them apart, not just because of their talent with weaving, the magical ability certain people have access too. Both drawn into the Daughters of Izdihar, a group fighting for the rights of women in a country who sees women as second class citizens, they both have their own reasons, their own goals to achieve, but all that may seem small in light of tensions rising with their neighbouring country, a country who sees weaving, and especially female weavers as a threat. Nehal and Giorgina will come to see just how small their problems are in the broader context of the world, but that wont stop them from trying to achieve their happy endings.

This is going to be somewhat of a mixed review because there was so much about this story that I enjoyed, but I just felt everything needed a little more development to make it great. Nehal and Giorgina are both intriguing characters, and extremely realistic. One rich, one poor, their differences are shown through not only the decisions they make, but the options they have in life. Nehal was your stereotypical rich girl, never had someone say no to her, lived a life of luxury always getting her own way. So when she gets married off to help her family out of debt she ensures that she gets something out of it. Giorgina is someone who wants so deeply to marry for love, but when that gets taken away from her seemingly overnight, she realises that she is a girl with a tarnished reputation who could ruin her family if anyone ever found out. They both have their own reasons for joining the Daughters of Izdihar, one out of need and the other out of interest, but they are both guilty of using the group to further their own, personal, needs first and foremost.

Nehal and Giorgina are our only POV’s, but we do spend a large amount of time with Nico, the boy Giorgina loved and Nehal was forced to marry and, if i’m being honest, he was a bit of a wet lettuce. He was someone who was so used to his privilege that he never understood the true benefit of it, and there were times when, alongside Nehal and Giorgina I got so angry at him for just standing back at letting events take place without standing up for the things he believed in. In fact, Nico, as well as Nehal and Giorgina were all quite selfish characters, never quite willing to upset the balance to the point of it affecting their lives, or only willing to join the fight when it directly affected them. They were incredibly one dimensional, and I struggled to empathise with them throughout the story, which meant some of the emotional scenes lacked the impact they should have. However, I did find them growing on me more towards the end of the story, and I’m hoping that they will grow on me more in book two.

I enjoyed the world building and it’s easy to see how the author based her world on that of modern Egyptian history. She creates a world where women are seen more as possessions than people, a world where being different is dangerous and adds into this the element of weaving. A form of magical control of the elements that certain people can use. This, as well as the fight for women’s rights were our two main plot points of the story, and I was a little disappointed by how little information and history we get around the magic, as well as the lack of page time in general it gets. The women’s rights movement, however, was so exceptionally done. She shows the dangers of speaking out for what you want, how those things can be twisted into something else and how men would do anything to keep the status quo, keep control over their wives and daughters, for fear of what would happen if they got a say. There was no real antagonist in this story, rather there were characters dotted throughout who come up against our MC’s and are used to show the thoughts and beliefs of many people, not just men, and there was one character in particular who I desperately wanted to get killed.

The romance was ok. It was a little jumpy. Giorgina and Nico’s relationship was already in motion, but we do see the drama and fallout of this after Nico has to marry Nehal. And Nehal finds herself in a romantic entanglement that could cause her some serious harm if anyone ever found out. I think, the fact that I struggled to like and bond with the characters meant that I struggled to get invested in the romance arc’s. Nehal’s felt rushed, and I struggled to feel the angst and drama between Nico and Giorgina.

Overall, I did enjoy this story. It took a little while to get going, but once the story picked up pace I found myself getting more and more invested in our characters. It just desperately needed more development, of the characters, world, magic, romance, and I am sincerely hoping we get this in the next book.

3 replies »

  1. Such an intriguing premise and a great review! I might have to give this one a go, though I struggle to connect to characters when the development isn’t there like you do, so we’ll see.

    Liked by 1 person

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