Wednesday 5 May 2021

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Review: The Black Khan by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Black Khan by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Black Khan by Ausma Zehanat Khan

Published: 11th July 2019 | Publisher: HarperVoyager | Source: Bought
Ausma Zehanat Khan's Website

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.
From The StoryGraph

My other reviews of The Khorasan Archives Series:
The Bloodprint

WARNING! I cannot review this book without spoiling the others in the series. Read no further if you're planning on reading this series and don't want it spoilt for you.

I really enjoyed The Bloodprint, the first book in The Khorasan Archives series by Ausma Zehanat Khan, that I couldn't wait too long before picking up the second book, The Black Khan. For the most part, I was thoroughly impressed with The Bloodprint, but with the sequel, Khan really steps things up a notch. It was absolutely epic!

The Black Khan picks up where The Bloodprint left off. Arian, Daniyar and Sinnia have all been captured in the lands ruled by the Authoritarian. As such, the first part of this book is very dark and disturbing. Each of them suffer at the hands of the Authoritarian and the Khounum, who turned out to be Arian's older sister, Lania. Arian is collared, unable to use the Claim, kept at her sister's side when not being tortured by the Authoritarian. Daniyar is also tortured, and forced to fight to the death for her with the Authoritarian's soldiers night after night. Sinniar is, unsurprisingly, tortured in her prison cell, and injected with drugs she soon finds herself addicted to. It really isn't easy reading at all.

But with The Black Khan, the scope of the story becomes wider. The Bloodprint mainly focused on Arian's Audacy (mission) to find the sacred text of the title, a quest story, staying mainly with Arian, Sinnia and Daniyar as narrators. But with The Black Khan, we see what's going on elsewhere, particularly with the Black Khan himself, Rukh. After his betrayal of Arian and her companions to take the Bloodprint for himself, he returns to the city he rules, Ashfall, to find the Talisman army almost at the gates, and orders left by his commander, Arsalan - who accompanied him to Black Aura for the Bloodprint - neglected. There are no soldiers at the wall, no defences in place, and with war imminent, Ashfall is seriously unprepared and in incredible danger.

Two of my favourite things about high fantasy are court politics and intrigue, and the strategising for war, and The Black Khan has both in spades! I bloody revelled in it! There is so much going on all at once for Rukh. He wanted the Bloodprint because he knew it would be the only thing to defend against the Talisman. As the Black Khan, he is also the Dark Mage, but in his pursuit of the Bloodprint, he's neglected to work on his powers, and is desperate to have his powers woken to defend his city. All the while, his enthusiastic and sweet-hearted younger sister, Darya, is continuing to get things wrong. Darya always seems to manage to talk out of turn, or behave in a way that isn't proper for the Black Khan's sister. She is constantly admonished and rebuked, but she only wants to help her brother, and has the best of intentions - even if Rukh forbids her from joining the Council of Hira, her deepest desire. Arsalan has a huge amount of work on his hands as he has to get the Zhayedan army ready to protect Ashfall from the imminent Talisman onslaught. At the same time, there are others at court who have their own agendas, their cataclysmic machinations taking place right under Rukh's nose.

Honestly, there is so, so much going on in this book, and it's just so epic! There are quite a number of narrators, new characters introduced, and subplots to follow. I'm generally not a fan of more than three prominent narrators, as it tends to get confusing, and you end up having to wait for several chapters to find out what's happening in a certain place with certain characters until you're back with their narration. However, this isn't the case with The Black Khan. While it often switches between narrators, for the majority of the time, the story focuses on one location at a time, rather than jumping around all over the place. So, for example, when the story is focusing on Ashfall, the narration will switch between Rukh, Arsalan, and Darya, and a few other narrators we see less often, events playing out as they would but seen from someone else's perspective. I really, really appreciated this, as we're not left hanging with mini-cliffhangers throughout the story it will take pages and pages to see the outcome of. You're right there, in it continually.

As such, I was constantly sitting on the edge of my seat. The tension in this book just builds and builds. Khan is such an incredible writer; this story is so well plotted, and incredibly gripping, and I just couldn't tear myself away. I absolutely love what Khan does with Rukh. He is not a good guy. He will absolutely use underhand tactics, betray trust, and use people as pawns, and I bloody can't stand him! But I understood him. Rukh has a duty to his people, and he will absolutely do whatever it takes, no matter the cost, to defend his city. I appreciated his sense of duty, and how smart he is to make the maneuvers he does. I don't like the guy, but I respect him, and I can't deny his narration was absolutely one of my favourites, despite how despicable he can be. I also adored Arsalan! He is a guy you want on your side in a fight, most definitely. Also incredibly smart, his strategising was just beautiful! But I also just loved him as a character, and really felt for him and the predicament he's put in. His subplot is heartbreaking. Mate, I just want to give the guy a hug.

Honestly, I could just go on and on about this book, but I'm starting to worry about spoilers. The Black Khan is just bloody incredible and so exciting! Honestly, I loved it so much, I immediately bought the fourth book in the series, The Blue Eye, because I couldn't wait to see what happens next. Do not sit on this series! It's amazing!

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