Blog Tour Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

Hello, friends! I’m back with a blog tour review for Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim. Special thanks to the TBR & Beyond Tours team for organising the tour and including me in it!

Thanks to Delacorte Press for providing a digital ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Click here or on the banner above to check out the rest of the fantastic bloggers on tour!

Spice Road (The Spice Road Trilogy #1)
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 24 January 2023
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Rep: Middle Eastern, Arabian, Lebanese

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)


The first book in an epic fantasy series for fans of Sabaa Tahir, Hafsah Faizal and Elizabeth Lim, set in an Arabian-inspired land. Raised to protect her nation from the monsters lurking in the sands, seventeen-year-old Imani must fight to find her brother whose betrayal is now their greatest threat.

In the hidden desert city of Qalia, secret spice magic awakens affinities in those who drink the misra tea. With an affinity for iron, seventeen-year-old Imani wields a dagger like no other warrior, garnering her the reputation as the next greatest Shield for battling the dangerous djinn, ghouls, and other monsters that lurk in the sands beyond city limits.

Her reputation has been overshadowed, however, by her brother who tarnished the family name after he was discovered stealing their nation’s coveted spice – a tell-tale sign of magical obsession. He disappeared soon after, believed to have died beyond the Forbidden Wastes, and leaving Imani reeling with both betrayal and grief.

But when Imani uncovers evidence her brother may be alive and spreading their nation’s magic beyond the desert, she strikes a deal with the Council to find him and bring him back to Qalia before he can reveal the city’s location. Accompanied by Qayn, a roguish but handsome djinni, and Taha, a powerful beastseer whose magical talents are matched only by his arrogance, they set out on their mission.

Imani will soon discover there are many secrets that lie beyond the Forbidden Wastes – and in her own heart – but will she find her brother before his betrayals endanger the fate of all of Qalia?

In this epic and action-packed fantasy, one young heroine navigates the treacherous road between protecting the ones you love and staying loyal to the place you call home.


Colonialism, slave labour, brutality/cruelty, gladiator/ring fighting, prison labour, death, public hangings, sexual assault/attempted r*pe (not to main character), bullying


Note: The quotes below are taken from an advanced copy and are subject to change in the final version.

TL;DR: Spice Road is a book that I’m glad I was patient with because, despite a bit of a rough start, it really pulled through for me in the end! The world-building was descriptive and vivid, the atmosphere was tense, and the story unfolded at a fast pace. I loved the development of our main character, Imani, the most though. What had the potential to ruin a great read with an unsympathetic main character, was saved by realistic gradual growth and it made the second half of this book so much more enjoyable to read! There were a few twists and turns at the end that only served to increase the intensity of the story and now that I’m invested, I can’t wait to get my hands on book two to see what happens next! 😍

“We will fight, but first we will have tea.”

I enjoyed the world-building in this book. It wasn’t perfect and there were elements that I wish had been better expanded upon—for example, the magical history of the Great Spirit, the clan tensions and family history, but it didn’t bother me overly much while I was reading. We do learn a little bit about how this magical society functions and we do get glimpses of the political tensions between clans, but it’s not very in-depth and a bit more tell than show. I would’ve liked to see more of the differences in treatment between the more affluent clans rather than just being told about it. Aside from that, I really enjoyed the setting and atmosphere. From Qalia’s desert oasis town vibes to the unknown sands and the magical city held within to the chaos of a colonized city teeming with fear and brutality across the desert border—every location was so vividly depicted and easy to picture. I think my favourite was the magical desert city but it was also, by far, the creepiest location as well!

“It is magic, how words can be deadlier than daggers.”

The plot itself was pretty straightforward as we follow this group of Shields from Qalia as they cross the desert to retrieve Atheer, our MC’s older brother, to bring him back home so he can answer for his treasonous actions. The story is told from Imani’s point of view and although I tend to prefer multiple POVs, especially when the story involves a ‘crew’ such as it does here, I appreciated how getting only her pov allowed her character to grow as much as she did. Getting only one pov also increased the tensions between characters and I had a lot of fun trying to understand their motives and whether they were genuine and trustworthy or not. I will say there were a few character and plot twists that I didn’t particularly see coming and it shocked me and made me furious too, but there’s no doubt it also has upped the tension so much and I can’t wait to see how these relationships play out in the next book!

“If the world is dark and you are the only one with a flame, what would you do?”
“Share it,” I answered. […] “Yes, Bright Blade, for light not shared is light diminished.”

As much as I was invested in their journey, it was really the characters, specifically Imani, that made reading this book such a roller coaster ride for me. I admittedly couldn’t stand her at first and there were multiple times I wanted to put this down and stop reading because it was so unpleasant being in her head! She’s sheltered, naive, spoiled and entitled, and honestly believed she knew everything right and good and true. In reality, she was willfully ignorant about many things from her privilege to her brother’s disappearance and her sister’s changing behaviour. She was really something else at the beginning but I told myself to have patience and I’m so glad that I stuck with this story because Imani’s growth throughout the journey was so well done!

“Grief is a puzzling thing, the most; it is mangled love persisting in spite of the world’s best efforts to hinder it.”

The changes don’t happen quickly and although part of me wished that she “opened her eyes” sooner, it felt more organic and believable how it unfolded. As she found herself making decisions and encountering situations she never thought she would, she was forced to acknowledge her privilege and confront her worldviews and harsh judgement of others when their actions deviated from what she considered to be right. She doesn’t immediately accept her views might be flawed nor does her character do a complete 180 once she does accept that it might be—she still makes mistakes and stupid decisions, but she makes a concerted effort to be more open-minded. I really appreciated that about her character and it made me enjoy the latter half of the story so much more. There’s a big focus on family and the complicated relationship between siblings. I admired Imani’s dedication to rescuing her brother and I also liked how strong the sibling bond was between the three of them.

“We endeavor to shape the world, Imani. But now and again, the world succeeds in shaping us.”

“I do not know what awaist you on this journey, but a lamppost in the dark is often all one needs to find one’s way.”

Aside from Imani, there were quite a few side characters but I felt that most of them were fairly one-dimensional in comparison to her and existed mainly to push the story along. I was really curious about Taha and until now, I still haven’t figured out what’s up with him. There’s no doubt he’s been through a lot, especially knowing what his father is like, but the minute I think he’s one type of way, he does something to prove that completely wrong. It makes me wonder what’s really going on with him and I hope that we find out in the next book! I also wanted to learn more about Qayn and I’m slightly disappointed that he didn’t have a bigger role in this first book. There’s no doubt that we’re going to get a lot more of him in the coming book but he really felt like a prop in this. He’s another character that I’m not sure I can trust, so I’m keen to see how his arc will unfold. Another character that I really liked and who piqued my curiosity was Amari, Imani’s younger sister. She’s feisty and stubborn as hell and there were times when she acted pretty immature but then I remembered she’s actually pretty young and she acted like it. But there also seems to be more backstory to what’s been going on with her and I’m hoping that once the crew returns to Qalia, we’ll get to learn more about her character.

“The soul is neither static nor finite; we feed it out entire lives through our choices. Injustice shrinks one’s soul; generosity expands it. Acts of selflessness fortify it.”

Overall, despite a rough start and a slightly rocky road along the way, I thought this was a great debut YA fantasy novel. I was definitely invested in these characters and their journey by the end and I can’t wait to see what happens next; all I know is that it’s only going to get more intense from here.

“With magic comes monsters in the Sahir. Here, with riches come thieves.”

Maiya Ibrahim is the debut author of SPICE ROAD, publishing January 24, 2023 from Delacorte Press and Hodder & Stoughton. She graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Technology Sydney. When she isn’t writing, reading, or spending time with her family, she enjoys video games, gardening, and expanding her collection of rare trading cards. She lives in Sydney, Australia.

She is represented by Peter Knapp of Park & Fine Literary and Media, Claire Wilson of RCW Literary, and Mary Pender-Coplan of United Talent Agency.

Author’s Socials:
Website | Twitter | Instagram
Goodreads | Pinterest

Have you read Spice Road or is it on your TBR?

13 thoughts on “Blog Tour Review: Spice Road by Maiya Ibrahim

  1. So fun fact: this is the book I posted about wanting to DNF recently xD I definitely agree with it being a rough start. 😅 And yes, Qayn! Good time was much smaller than I expected, at least in quantity. He certainly has an impact but it felt like he only appeared three times. I assume there’s more to come in book two!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, yep. I do remember your IG comment about the book and I kind of made the connection. I thought to ask you about it but then I stopped myself cos I know it would’ve definitely coloured my thoughts/feelings on the book! 😂 I definitely could see why you wanted to DNF it, especially with the rough start and I was worried for a second that I’d do the same… But I’m glad I ended up enjoying it although I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy it more! I can’t wait to see what happens in book two and I hope Qayn gets more page-time cos yeah, he really only appeared three times, lol! Do you think you’ll continue on with the series?


  2. So glad that you kept with it bc it did get better but it was a bit of a rough start and some of it was a little all over the place. Hoping book two will
    Be better!! Great review, Dini! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is on my TBR and I keep seeing nothing but great things about it! I appreciate the honesty in your review, though! It gives me a way more realistic expectation and I still can’t wait to read it.


  4. Another one that I have on my TBR. I need to lower my expectations about this one considering it has a rough start. It’s great that it ended up being an enjoyable read for you, despite everything. Great review, Dini!


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