The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


The Student Site of Castilleja School


Reece Reads: This Woven Kingdom book review


School is in full swing, college applications are almost due, and I’m more stressed than a triple-tied hair-band, but still, let’s read. It’s my only joy.


“This Woven Kingdom” by Tahereh Mafi is a young adult fantasy romance novel that takes place in the mystical world of Ardunia. There are many other nations in this world, but unfortunately, the author does not provide a map (HUGE fantasy faux pas), so there’s not much else I can tell you. Just know that Ardunia is “a formidable empire — the largest known in the world,” and yes, they repeat that MANY, MANY times (49).  


In Ardunia, and the rest of the nations, there are two races of people: Clay and Jinn. The Jinn have slightly superhuman abilities and are thought to be the original inhabitants of the earth. The Clay are much more prolific, but they have no special abilities. They are basic humans. In this world, Clay people are the rulers of their respective kingdoms and hold the social and political power in each nation. The Jinn are the persecuted minority. 


In this novel, there are two main characters, Alizeh and Kamran, but the first few chapters focus on Alizeh, so let’s start with her. The premise of this novel is that Alizeh, the supposed long-lost heir to the ancient Jinn kingdom, must reclaim her throne and empire by overtaking the current rulers. However, Kameran, who is, surprise surprise, the grandson of the King and the crown prince of Ardunia (who doesn’t love a good royalty romance?), stands in her way. 


Now I wouldn’t even be reading this book if there wasn’t romance, so as a shock to absolutely no one, Alizeh and Kamran fall into a forbidden love. 


Now, before I move on, I have to say that when I picked up this book, I didn’t know who the author was. Upon further research, I realized that Tahereh Mafi also wrote the bestselling series “Shatter Me”. I absolutely hate “Shatter Me”. This was my first ick. 


For context, “Shatter Me” is a very popular dystopian novel that first came out in 2011. What started as a simple YA trilogy somehow progressed into a six-book series with five novellas totaling well over three thousand pages. To add fuel to the fire, the fourth book in this never-ending series came out four whole years after the third, indicating that the series was finished, and she just wanted to add more. 


I am a firm believer that NO fantasy/dystopian series (especially those with romance) should be over four books. I don’t care how complicated the world-building is or how slow the romantic burn, but no one should have to read over a thousand pages before they get to the climax of the story.  


Additionally, in “Shatter Me”, Mafi starts the series with a disclaimer about the “stricken prose” in the novel, acting as though she was a Nobel laureate producing award-winning literature. Now I’ll be the first to defend the validity of the YA, Fantasy, and Romance genres, and I think people who hate romance readers and writers are simply ignorant. But, at the same time, you must take the genres for what they are. More often than not, these books are plot-driven novels (as opposed to style-driven), whose audience cares more about what is happening rather than how it’s written. When authors try to break this mold, it often comes off as cringy or try-hard. In “Shatter Me”, Mafi fell victim to this trap, and her writing felt inherently cringy. 


Because of my experience reading “Shatter Me”, I was not looking forward to reading “This Woven Kingdom”. I was pleasantly surprised. 


In “This Woven Kingdom”, Mafi writes well-developed characters with motivations, contradictions, and actual personalities. The novel is written in the third person point-of-view; it seamlessly switches between Alizeh’s perspective and Kamran’s perspective every few chapters. The characters are written with such intellect and repartee that their banter is honestly awe-inspiring. I often found myself circling vocab words that I wanted to look up and phrases that I needed to remember for future use. 


For example, the next time an absolutely gorgeous 5’8” bookworm with beautiful brown hair comes up to you ranting about romance novels, feel free to take a page from Kamran’s book and say, “I grow tired of this conversation. Do assist me in welcoming its swift conclusion” (52).


All jokes aside, I truly loved this book. It was the perfect balance of style, plot, romance, and suspense. Because the novel switched perspectives, there were many mini-cliff hangers between characters that kept me engaged. Likewise, there were so many mini-twist in the story that I honestly didn’t see coming. The author was inventive, witty, and creative in her storytelling.


Now, this wouldn’t be a Reece review if I didn’t mention the romance. I hate to say it, but there was a bit of insta-love on Kamran’s part in the beginning. When Kamran first meets Alizeh, he doesn’t know who she is, and vice versa. Alizeh, who works as a low-level servant wearing a snoda that covers her face, is walking in the street one night when someone tries to mug her. Kamran, who is hiding in the shadows trying to disguise his stately presence, sees the interaction take place and is immediately enthralled by Alizeh’s being. He finds himself stuck in a state of melancholy, constantly thinking about her and wanting to know more. Alizeh, on the other hand, notices him hiding in the shadows but is not infatuated in the same way. 


Alizeh’s progression of romantic interests is much more natural in my opinion, but both perspectives are interesting to watch. Kamran is slightly obsessed with Alizeh, constantly thinking about her in the back of his mind, so when they finally meet again, his feelings are more satisfactory. Alizeh, on the other hand, experiences a rush of emotions, similar to that of a new crush. Either way, I loved the romance in this novel. It was refreshing, it was tasteful, and it was exciting. 


Although it’s marketed as a forbidden romance, I wouldn’t call it that exactly. Some aspects of their relationship are forbidden, but it never fully develops into a relationship (yet). There’s no sneaking around in corridors or hidden messages, but there are concealed feelings and wishful thoughts. 


On page 307, in Kamran’s perspective, Mafi writes, “Was it terrible that his heart pounded in his chest at the soft sound of her voice? Was it worrisome that he felt nothing but pleasure to be held at her mercy?” and I swooned. This man was the death of me. Although he had an instant infatuation with Alizeh, lines like these (and there are plenty of them) made it worth it. 


From Alizeh’s perspective, however, she experiences slightly different feelings. During a moment when she and Kamran are stuck in an enclosed space with each other, Mafi writes, “Alizeh felt a bit faint, and she did not know then whether to blame the dark or the nearness of the prince, whose ever-increasing proximity had begun to brew a counterintuitive cure for her panic. His closeness somehow dulled the sharper edge of her fear, imbuing in her now an unexpected calm” (326).


All in all, the romance in this story was light but tasteful, the plot was twisting and engaging, and the writing style was different yet intriguing. I highly recommend this novel to anyone who wants to try a solid young-adult fantasy romance. The world-building is a bit confusing at first, so I wouldn’t recommend it as an intro to fantasy/dystopian books, but it’s a solid second read. 


If you liked the “These Hollow Vows” duology by Lexi Ryan, you would really love this book. They have similar pacing and structure though “These Hollow Vows” is a bit faster and “This Woven Kingdom” has slightly more clever writing. 


Currently, the series has two published novels, “This Woven Kingdom” & “These Infinite Threads”, with the third set to come out in early 2024. I’m really excited for what’s to come in the rest of the series (the plot twists, romantic development, and inevitable betrayals), but I just have one thing, one wish, and one prayer for Tahereh Mafi. Please don’t fall victim to the “Shatter Me” trap and let this story end in a “swift conclusion.” Four books. MAX!


I rate “This Woven Kingdom” five out of five C’s, but the author needs a sixth: conciseness.

Reece Reads is published biweekly on Fridays. To access more reviews, click the “Reece Reads” tag below.

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