A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers can compare the class system and king's rule with real kingdoms of the past and how they functioned. This story is set in a fictitious city, but some details are Middle Eastern, including public baths. Also, the Jinn as magical beings and Iblees as the devil originate in Middle Eastern mythology and Islamic tradition.
Trust your instincts. Accept duty and responsibility. Find honor and resilience in hard work. Contrasts the powerful who show mercy to others and the powerful who prey on weakness for their own gain.
Positive Role Models
Alizeh fears the devil who haunts her and fears being killed for being a Jinn. She doesn't make choices out of fear, however. She spares a desperate boy who threatens her life when she could easily kill him, defends herself and others when threatened, and trusts in those who want to help her. Kamran is angry a lot, but mostly because he's frustrated with how his grandfather runs the country and both how much and how little is expected of him. He's to marry and have an heir, but he's not to have opinions about the threats his country faces. When he trusts his instincts and shows compassion, he's punished for it, but still knows it was the right decision.
Characters are often described as having brown skin and have Middle Eastern names like Kamran, Hazan, Zaal, and Alizeh. Includes Middle Eastern mythology of the Jinn and Iblees, the name of the devil in Islamic tradition.
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Violence & Scariness
Some people killed in violent skirmishes with knives and swords, others are murdered in their sleep with no marks on them. A boy tries to kill himself with a knife rather than be sent to jail and needs magical healing. A maid is hit by her employer. Story of a boy who finds his father's severed head and tries to commit suicide and a girl who watches her mother burn to death in a house fire. Another story of kids killed, their brains eaten.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Kissing and some groping. Innuendo and much talk about producing an heir to the throne.
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"Damned" said rarely.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink at a party and in a street gathering where they also smoke shisha. Talk of opium habits of the generals.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Tahereh Mafi's This Woven Kingdom is the start of a fantasy series by the author of the very popular Shatter Me series. Teen readers need to be more prepared for the higher level of reading required than for a lot of mature content -- the character dialogue alone will definitely boost their vocabulary. Characters die in just a few skirmishes with knives and swords and others are found murdered in their sleep with no marks on them. A boy tries to kill himself with a knife rather than go to jail, and there's a story of another boy who finds his father's severed head and tries to kill himself. The goriest it gets is talk of kids' brains being eaten, which is a gross revelation but not part of the action of the story. Sexual content is simply a kiss with some light groping and some innuendo. Adults drink at a party and in a street gathering where they also smoke shisha (a water pipe). Iranian American author Mafiri adds many touches of her heritage in the naming of the characters, in setting details like the city's public baths, and in the mythology of the Jinn. The main character, Alizeh, while threatened at every turn and always fearful, still makes brave choices and shows resilience.
Is It Any Good?
On the scale of just how star-crossed star-crossed lovers can be, the royal pair in this twisty ride of a magical fantasy are a perfectly doomed perfect 10. First off, Kamran's grandad, King Zaal, has been trying to find and kill Alizeh, the secret Jinn queen, for half of her life -- the little matter of a prophesy claiming that she will be the cause of his death. Second, Prince Kamran is charged with producing an heir and was brought home from the army to marry, stat. And then there's the matter of Alizeh's Jinn powers. She's got super strength, invisibility, and other cool tricks readers learn about as the story goes on -- no wonder the nonmagical royals are so jealous they jail anyone for showing off. When Kamran sees Alizeh, disguised in her usual maid attire, dispatch a threatening street urchin, he's sure both that he's smitten and that she's a spy. This conflict drives the pair together in a such a beautifully orchestrated scene that you can imagine romance fans the world over crafting their fan mail before they've even finished the book.
This Woven Kingdom is nearly a perfect fantasy tapestry until the climactic action. Plots weave together, but not cleanly enough to follow the pattern sometimes. It's clear Alizeh is supposed to attend the ball, but it seems more like a vehicle to meeting Kamran again than a real escape plan, and as her plan unravels, it feels far too rushed. Still, there's quite the payoff at the end, with such a stellar cliffhanger for Book 2 that readers will be dying to dish out the spoilers.
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