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“DIVIDED BY BLOOD. IMPRISONED BY FATE. BOUND BY DESIRE. WELCOME TO THE INTOXICATING WORLD OF THE FAE.”

FaeboundIn Faebound, Saara El-Arifi offers a uniquely fresh and intriguing twist on the familiar fae stories and folklore. Full of fierce women, dangerous prophecies, deadly intrigue, queer love, and endearing animal companions, this rich, diverse, and dangerously seductive epic fantasy will keep you mesmerised from start to finish.

In a time long past, the three Gods of this world created their own three races: the Fae, the Elves, and the humans. Now, only the Elves remain. At least, that is what the Elven sisters Reeyan and Lettle have grown up believing. Yet when they find themselves forced out into the terrifying wilderness beyond the borders of the Elven lands, it doesn’t take long for their world views to be shattered. The Fae, who haven’t been seen for a millennium, are still very much alive, and soon the sisters find themselves submerged in an intoxicating world full of intrigue, secrets, seduction, and conflicting desires.

Okay, let me start this review off by saying that I think Faebound should not be primarily marketed as a romantasy. Not because I want to imply that romantasy is inferior to other fantasy subgenres, but purely because I think it will attract a readership that will be sorely disappointed when this story doesn’t offer what they were looking for. To me, the romance aspects in this book are by far the weakest aspects of the story, and Faebound will be way more enjoyable if you think of it as a political epic fantasy with some strong romantic subplots developing in the background.

In my opinion, Faebound absolutely shines in its exquisite and deeply immersive world building. El-Arifi has a true gift for creating vibrant worlds that are just teeming with rich history and lore, and which are also delightfully and casually queer-normative. I absolutely loved how this sumptuous and mystifying world unfolded so organically before my eyes, and I was immediately pulled in by the entrancing atmosphere. The concepts of the drum magic, diviner magic, and the sentient and mind-linked Obeah animal companions completely captured my imagination and sparked an exciting sense of wonder and intrigue. 

And just as vibrant and alive are the characters, who absolutely leap off the page with their strong personalities. I am always a sucker for a good sibling dynamic, and Faebound absolutely nailed that strong sisterly bond. Even though Yeeran and Lettle are polar opposites, they love each other more than anything in the world and will stop at nothing to protect each other. I also really enjoyed how both of these women are true forces to be reckoned with, but each in their own unique way; Yeeran as a physically strong warrior and Lettle as a more intellectually strong diviner.

Now, the pacing in Faebound is arguably a bit rocky, with most of the action and big events happening in both the first and last 20% of the book. Yet for me, it absolutely worked. The middle section offers a very intimate, slow-burn, and character-driven narrative, where the world building deepens as the characters are desperately trying to grapple with the implications of the new realities they have been exposed to.

As a primarily character-driven reader, I loved this slower section, as we really get to soak up all the rich tidbits of rich lore and get to just sit in the characters’ complicated feelings. Though at the same time, I do think this section could have focused a bit more on the relationship developments. Especially Yeeran’s sapphic love story felt quite rushed and underdeveloped, coming across as more of a lust/sexual attraction without any real emotional depth or chemistry at all.

That said, those little quibbles didn’t hinder my enjoyment all too much, and the slow build-up resulted in an exciting climax full of shocking twists and riveting revelations which set up the sequel in a tantalising way. El-Arifi is just a master at writing jaw-dropping plot twists that are surprising in the most satisfying way possible, and I personally can’t wait to see how the story develops from here.

While I personally don’t think this story quite lives up to the brilliance of El-Arifi’s debut The Final Strife, I still had an absolute blast with it and now feel confident in calling her one of my auto-buy authors. If you are looking for an intoxicating and diverse epic fantasy that will restore your faith in fae stories, then you have to check out Faebound!

Faebound

Faebound

Faebound

Faebound

Faebound

Faebound

Faebound

Faebound

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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