Review: The Balloon Thief (#1) by Aneesa Marufu

Goodreads | Bookshop.org

For Khadija, the only escape from her father’s arranged betrothal is the sky. When she spots a rogue hot air balloon fighting against its ropes, she leaps at the chance for adventure.
Khadija soon finds an unlikely ally in a poor glassmaker’s apprentice, Jacob. But Jacob is a hāri, and Khadija a Ghadaean.
The hāri are oppressed and restless―their infamous terrorist group, the Hāreef, have a new fearsome leader. And the ruling Ghadaeans are brutal in their repression. Soon, a deadly revolution threatens their friendship and their world. The Hāreef use forbidden magic, summoning jinn―wicked spirits made of fire―to enact their revenge, forcing Jacob and Khadija to choose what kind of a world they want to save… 

Thank you to Chicken House for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This book drew me in from the very first page, and I really loved the concept and focus on hot air balloons. It was such a unique idea and I love how the world building centred around the balloons from the very start.

I listened to the audiobook, which at the start of the book really drew me in and I enjoyed Khadija’s chapters a lot. The concept of her escaping her possessive and controlling father gave an added layer to the story that felt really important and well written. We also had a POV of Jacob, a Hari, who were looked down upon by society.

The unlikely friendship struck between these two meant the prejudices and divergences between the two characters were faced head on and discussed throughout the book. I really enjoyed seeing the divisions dissolve between the two main characters and this felt like an important theme.

However, this book did start to let me down in the second half, as more and more started to happen. We went from a story focusing on family, friendship and prejudice, to a highly complex world including terrorism, Jinn, protests, attacks and dark magic. There was an introduction of a large amount of characters that left me feeling confused and struggling to focus on the story.

Overall, this book started so strong and I really loved the concept throughout, but lost me as it became overly complex and seemed to drift away from the original plot and point to the story. A solid debut with great world building, but I most likely won’t be continuing with the series.

★★★
3 out of 5 stars

-Beth

May your shelves forever overflow with books! ☽

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