Have you ever finished a book, crying? Crying, but not crying for the reasons you thought you’d be when you started the book? Have you ever sat quietly reading and then shouted an expletive, causing the concern of your partner? Well, I have. Guys, I finished Spice Bringer. What an emotional roller-coaster of a book. And I thoroughly enjoyed it all and I think you might, too! So, if the you’re intrigued by a book featuring a super compelling female lead, snarky salamander (I KNOW!), and fascinating world building, read on for my review of Spice Bringer.
Genre: Young adult fantasy
Author: H.L. Burke (Check out her website for more of her books)
Where to Buy: Amazon
Page length: 282
My Content Rating: PG+ (pretty tame, with some violence and some super duper light innuendo)
Spice Bringer is the story of a young woman named Niya who has a terrible illness. Niya lives at a temple with her mentor Ovar, and together, with Ovar’s fire salamander friend, Alk, they cultivate a crop of what’s known as Vitrisar, a rare plant with healing powers. Through various spoilery circumstances, Niya must undertake a quest to protect the last-surviving Vitrisar seedling and bring it to another temple far away, in the hopes of assuring access to the life-giving seed to thousands of people who suffer from the same disease as Niya. Along the way she and Alk (who goes with her on her journey) run into Jayesh, a fallen priest, Advika, a princess trying to secure her succession to the throne, and others.
What I Loved About this Book:
I think for me, there were a few things that really sold this book. First, Alk the salamander is pretty much what everyone wants in a mystical companion creature. He’s sassy, he grants mystical powers, he’s a secret softy. Ugh. I loved Alk.
I also really enjoyed Niya. I felt like she was written in a way that made her both relatable, but not always likable. She is a character with flaws and who makes mistakes. She displays amazing character growth throughout the story. She felt real and fleshed out, and that made reading her perspective so enjoyable.
I couldn’t finish this section without also mentioning the world building. The world of Spice Bringer is clearly based on southern Asia, with heavy influences from Indian culture played up strongly. It’s refreshing to find a non-western-based fantasy. Also, at no point does it ever feel as if the author is creating caricatures or basing her world on stereotypes. It feels researched and also loved. And that shows in the details. The whole system of religion was fascinating, and the evocative language used for the food and clothing really set the place. Finally, the set up of the spice, Vitrisar, and the plague-like disease, the rasp, was really interesting.
What I Didn’t Love:
So, I liked a lot of what was in this book, but there were a few things that just didn’t quite work for me. First, I really wish there was more of Princess Advika in the story. From her first chapter, I was totally on board with this character. She seemed cool, capable, and totally rad with a sword. I wanted to know everything about her. But then… she kind of appears every now and then, but I never felt like I really got to know her. And some of her decisions are just…illogical? But she doesn’t seem like a character who would do stupid stuff. So, I think I just needed more of her to better understand her and to also have more of her awesomeness.
The second thing I didn’t really like was the romance. I get that I have a particular taste, and I really generally don’t like romance these days, and some people do. And if you are a romance person, then READ THIS BOOK because the romance is very touching… for what it is… which is a romance. But, for me, I think it felt kind of forced? The first half of the book felt like very much not a romance. More like a coming of age story. And then, roughly around the 50 percent mark (I might be a bit off here), two characters start making googly eyes at each other, and then it becomes a main story piece. But it didn’t feel like it was from the beginning. So, honestly, it didn’t work for me. Perhaps if there was more hinted from the very beginning, it would have felt more natural and built upon, and maybe it would have rankled me less.
Would I Recommend: Absolutely. I’d recommend this book for anyone who enjoys young adult fantasy, whether you are a young adult or not. Honestly, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even with the things I didn’t love. H.L. Burke has a captivating writing style and does very well with dialog. That coupled with the world building and Niya (who is one of my favorite YA heroines this year) mean you should definitely add this book to your reading list.
So, that’s my review. I’m always looking for more reading recommendations. What books are you guys planning to read in October?