Khan has created a rich, well-crafted world that will appeal to readers of S.A. Chakraborty’s The City of Brass (2017) or Erika Johansen’s The Queen of the Tearling -- Booklist
The second novel in Ausma Zehanat Khan’s powerful epic fantasy quartet, a series that lies "somewhere between N. K. Jemisin and George R. R. Martin" (Saladin Ahmed), in which a powerful band of women must use their magic to defeat an oppressive dark regime.
To fight against the cruel and superstitious patriarchy known as the Talisman, members of the resistance group known as the Companions of Hira have risked their lives in a failed attempt to procure the Bloodprint—a dangerous text that may hold the secret to overthrowing the terrifying regime. Now, with their plans in ashes, the Companions of Hira have scattered, and the lives of two brave women at the center of the plot—Arian and Sinnia—face unprecedented danger.
Yet a spark of hope flickers in the darkness—the Bloodprint has survived. It is hidden in Ashfall, the seat of Rukh, the Black Khan, whose court is ruled by intrigue and conspiracy. Treacherous enemies ruthlessly maneuver for power behind the throne, including the autocratic Grand Vizier; the deadly and secretive Assassin; the Khan’s deposed half-brother; and the commander of Ashfall’s army, who is also Rukh’s oldest friend.
The Companions of Hira must somehow reunite, break through Talisman lines, and infiltrate Ashfall. A master of treachery himself, the Black Khan joins forces with these powerful women to manipulate them for his own ends. But as Ashfall comes under siege, he is forced to make a deadly calculation . . . one that could cause irrevocable damage to the Companions and their fight for freedom.
This second installment of Khan's Khorasan Archives feminist fantasy series (after The Bloodprint) continues First Oralist Arian's quest for the Bloodprint, the codex promising to overthrow the Talisman, a male-dominated, Taliban-like regime enslaving women and obliterating literacy throughout Khorasan. Arian; Sinnia, her fellow Companion of Hira; and Arian's beloved Daniyar, the Silver Mage, are separately trapped and brutally tortured by Talisman members. They break free, unite, and seek the Bloodprint, held by Rukh, the Black Khan and potential Dark Mage, at Ashfall, the intrigue-infested capital that's under siege by Talisman forces. Bitter betrayals, testosterone-fueled male rivalry, erotic temptations, and dizzying shifts in allegiance abound. The author supplies a lush atmosphere based on Middle Eastern traditions, but her characters flounder in facile and often contradictory motivations. A six-page glossary of often confusing terminology can't make up for foggy and distracting linguistic stretches such as Arian's "disheveled" face. These diminish Khan's chief message: Arian succeeds by rejecting men who expect her to give up her individuality and her sworn duty. The challenging language makes it hard to get into this otherwise interesting tale.