Freedom's Slave by Heather Demetrios
Book Three of the Dark Caravan Cycle series
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: February 28, 2017
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from Edelweiss
Summary (from Goodreads):
An Empress Fighting for Her Crown
After three long years in exile, Nalia is ready to return to her homeland and sit on the throne that is rightfully hers. But the gods might have other plans. Forced to endure untold horrors on the journey to Arjinna, Nalia learns that it will take more than cutting down the tyrant Calar to get her crown.
An Army Fighting to Survive
Raif’s return to Arjinna as the commander of the revolution against Calar and her army isn’t as smooth as he’d hoped. Though he has more soldiers than ever before, his love for Nalia is losing him the trust of his comrades...and the war. But little does the resistance know that insurrection is brewing among Calar’s own ranks—and from the one person she trusts the most.
A Land Worth Fighting for
Arjinna is dying—Calar’s evil experiments with dark magic and the strength of her own psychic powers threaten to destroy the land of the jinn. Is Nalia and Raif’s enduring love enough to transform and rescue their homeland? Will they be willing to save the realm, no matter the cost?
What I Liked:
This book... this book. I just finished it a few minutes ago and I'm pretty speechless. I liked Exquisite Captive and Blood Passage, but I think this book is Demetrios's best work. I loved this book, and I hated it a little too (you'll understand why, and it'll make you love/hate the book too), in the best of ways. The author took me on quite the emotional roller coaster, but the book was brilliant and stunning because of that roller coaster.
In this final novel of the Dark Caravan Cycle series, Nalia and Raif return to Arjinna. Raif must lead the dissenting tavrai, who begin to distrust him because of his faith in Nalia. He and the army of jinn find allies in unexpected places, as all of Arjinna looks to the fall of Calar. Meanwhile, Nalia must learn ways from the old empresses - on her own. She'll need to find her way back to the battle - to Raif - in order to claim her throne and bring peace to Arjinna. No one will be spared, from Calar, or from the gods.
I will do my very best to keep things as vague as possible! But bottom line - I really recommend this conclusion novel, especially if you've read Exquisite Captive and Blood Passage (or even just Exquisite Captive). This conclusion is nothing short of intriguing, mind-blowing, heartbreaking, terrifying, sexy, and satisfying.
This book had a bigger focus on Raif than it did on Nalia. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that Nalia is not physically present in the first half of the book. It was strange, her not being anywhere significant (in relation to Arjinna, Raif, and the others). BUT, she was somewhere she needed to be. And the story would not have been as complete with her glued to Raif's side (and the others). With Nalia's absence, there are a lot of chapters in the perspectives of other jinn - jinn are somewhat newly introduced in this book but play a very significant role in the story.
While Nalia isn't really in the first half of the story at all, she is extremely present in the second half of the story (like, reunited with Raif, etc.). She is every inch the warrior and survivor that we have known her to be - and then some. I love the completeness of her transformation into empress. In this book, she is confident and yet unsure of herself, protective and merciful, compassionate and yet merciless when it comes to the safety of those she loves. While I stand by my original statement (that this book focuses more on Raif than Nalia), Nalia is always the center of the trilogy's story. I loved seeing her reach her full potential and make her claim for the throne.
Raif... oh Raif. Raif, to me, is the most important character in this book. With Nalia not being by his side in the first 50% of the book (or thereabout), it's hard on him. He's lost at first, and it's so heartbreaking to see him try to fight a war and be separated from his rohifsa at the same time. I can't say too much about things, but I really, really felt for him. But Raif is the strongest character of this book, and series. He endures so much, and fights through so much pain (not the physical kind), and he is so strong and selfless and every bit the leader he has proven himself to be.
Two characters change the course of this story - Taz, the commander of the jinn army, and Kes, Calar's lover. When we're introduced to Kes, it's strange - why is the perspective of the lover of Calar (the story's villain) being presented? But Kes no longer stands with Calar, and wants her deposed. He secretly starts to support and meet with the resistance, and eventually, Raif and the tavrai. Kes's story is so heartbreaking and almost hopeless, and yet he finds his own hope and light. I didn't like him at first (for obvious reasons) but it wasn't before long that I absolutely loved him.
I love how Demetrios does that. She takes characters that you think you'll absolutely hate - Kes, Shirin, to an extent, Malek, and makes you feel for them. Well, Malek, no. I didn't like him at all, and never would have. We all read Blood Passage, right? Good riddance. He's not in this book.
Taz is the other really important secondary character that gets chapters from his perspective. He is several thousand years old and the commander of the jinn army that came through the Eye with Raif. He becomes a good friend to Raif, and a huge support for Raif when Raif was stuck (I'll leave it at that). Taz is a good man, and it's hard not to love him. My heart broke for him like my heart broke for Kes. But, like Kes, I loved how Taz found his hope and light.
As with the other books, I love the world-building of this book and series. The Middle Eastern touch, all of the jinn lore and myths and magic, and the Arjinnan setting of this book - Demetrios did an amazing job in crafting this world. Clearly she did her research, with all of the italicized words, the settings, the tales and lore. This is easily the best written and most researched jinn story/series in YA literature that I've ever read!
Okay fine, I'll talk about the romance. I mentioned that Raif and Nalia are separated for about 50% of the book. Let me (sort of) discuss that first. This separation - it's necessary on several levels, but it's something that you don't really realize is necessary until the story starts to move. Like at first you're like WHAT? Because the separation happens immediately as the story begins. But you will see how necessary it is (in my opinion). I hate separations like that (what is worse is the separations in which they don't know the state of the other). But I get why the author did it, AND in some ways it was good, because it opened the story to focus more on Raif, and give way to chapters from Taz's and Kes's perspectives.
But the romance is so strong, in this book. Even in the first half of the book, with them being separated, you can practically feel the strength of Raif and Nalia's love. Their bond is so strong and unshakable, and the distance doesn't hurt them at all. Their reunion, around the 50% mark, was so beautiful. And from that point on, the romance is sweet, sexy, and so heartwarming. I loved seeing Raif and Nalia back together! Like any couple, they have their arguments, their moments of doubt, and their slip-ups. Raif was definitely dealt the harsher end of the stick, in terms of, well, everything. But I love how powerful and unshakable the romance was. They endured quite a bit and yet they never stopped loving each other.
Yes, there are plenty of sexy times in this book. Demetrios does some fade-to-black but she also doesn't leave everything up to the imagination. Which I applaud!
One thing that I was a huge fan of - so I mentioned that Raif is more of the focus, in this book. And yet, it's really all about the empress (Nalia). I LOVE how Raif is so willing to cede everything to Nalia (all of his power and influence over the tavrai, for example). But what I love even more? Nalia does the same; she brings Raif to be her equal, at her side, and not behind her. If she is empress, she is emperor - that kind of thing. I love this.
I don't want to say anything about the battles and Calar and the ending, but I will say - this book is a whirlwind of action and death and scheming. There was never a dull moment in the book. I should also follow up on my comment about this book taking me on an emotional roller coaster. Um, yes, Demetrios really takes readers through every single emotion possible, in this book. And she does it so well. For example, Raif's defeat and anguish was so palpable, or Shirin's frustration, or Nalia's desperation, or Kes's disgust, or Taz's pain. Everything was so amplified, and I truly felt the characters' pain and joy and hope like it was my own.
In the end, this book was incredibly satisfying. It's full of nonstop action, life-or-death craziness, plagues, magic, heartbreak, hope, sexy romance, and love. Not every character gets a HEA (which is so sad!), but Raif and Nalia get a nice ending (yes, I will say that much, spoiler or not). After everything that Raif (Raif and Nalia, but Raif more so) was put through, he'd better get a nice ending with her! I think Demetrios wrapped up the series perfectly, and ended the story in a way that really fit and made things work. I loved this book, with all of its heartbreak and despair, its hopefulness and passion and love.
What I Did Not Like:
I already talked this to death, but my sole complaint would be something that is and isn't a complaint. I always hate long separations between the main couple, and the separation between Raif and Nalia was brutal. It was tough more so because it was so long (the duration of time, I won't say specifically), and they don't know how the other is doing, during this separation.
BUT AGAIN. I think the separation was necessary, in the end. When it first, errr, happened, it definitely didn't feel that way. But the story couldn't have gone in the direction that it did, without the separation. Still, I hate separations!
Would I Recommend It:
I highly recommend this book, if you're already somewhere in the series! This is an excellent and highly engrossing conclusion novel that will take you for a ride, make you feel every emotion possible, and keep you on your toes until the epilogue. In general, I recommend the series. It started off looking like there would be a crappy love triangle, but that wasn't the case. I love the culture and magic and lore behind this series, and the sweet and sexy romance between Raif and Nalia, and the gritty, bloody battle to reclaim Arjinna. Demetrios has masterfully written a powerful, epic fantasy series here!
4.5 stars -> rounded down to 4 stars. I'm rounded down but I really enjoyed this book. Demetrios makes up for all of the separation and heartbreak in the second half of the book, I promise. This is such a great conclusion novel! I wish more YA trilogies ended as well as this book - with a HEA, but also a realistic ending that doesn't have all of the problems magically fixed or gone. I'm excited to read more by this author, whether series or standalone! Bad Romance is next for me.
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