I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Desert Jewel by Natalina Reis
Release date: October 29th, 2016
Publisher: Hot Tree Publishing
Genre: Young adult, fantasy, romance
Rebellion brews inside Milenda’s
heart as the date for the Trials approaches. As the heiress to the throne of Natale, she is forced to choose a consort from the survivors of the grueling quest across the desert.
Milenda’s heart belongs to Jaali and wants no part in the ancient and cruel ritual, but the Elders—the true rulers of Natale—will not back down.
Jaali was brought from the far North as a child slave. His only chance to be with the woman he loves is to volunteer for the Trials, no matter how dangerous or how much Milenda objects.
Together they begin their journey of discovery and rebellion against the Elders. But will their love be enough or will they lose everything they’ve fought for?
Desert Jewel was an interesting story about love, survival and inner strength. Another impulse request on NetGalley, I was worried that it wouldn’t be as good as its fabulous cover artwork. However, I found myself staying up late at night just to finish it. I was captivated throughout and couldn’t help but keep turning the pages to see what would happen next.
Much of what made the story so addictive were the characters Milenda and Jaali. They were very well written, with great depth, that you couldn’t help but root for them. When the story first started I was worried that Milenda was going to be the stereotypical entitled princess (think The Heir/The Crown) but thankful she wasn’t. There’s no stomping around or tempertantrums. Instead, Milenda is driven by bettering herself and those around her. Jaali’s story broke my heart into a million pieces. The slow reveal of how he was treated as a slave, beaten and raped, was well written with great care and tenderness. I loved how together, he and Milenda could overcome anything they set their minds too. Their romance was beautiful but at times, if I’m completely honest, a little too sickly sweet. I adored them, don’t get me wrong, it just sometimes seemed a little too much. They needed each other too much by the end and that bothered me. I’m a firm believer that you can benefit by being with your partner, but don’t have to lose too much of your own independence in the process.
The world created in this story was fascinating. It takes place in an African nation where magical abilities exist. One magical being that I absolutely adored was Mjusi, a flying lizard-like creature. He was perfect comic relief! Always there to help out and raise a smile when needed. Where the story lacked was in the explanation of the gods and goddesses. They are mentioned in the novel but not much background was provided. I had so many questions about their abilities and why hadn’t they done anything to direct change within the kingdom?
I honestly can’t believe how quickly I read through this book! I finished it within a day. It’s about 200ish pages but felt like much less. The chapters are short and the writing quite simple and to the point. After previously being burdened by an overly descriptive book, this one felt like an easy, breezy read. It was just what I needed!
While written as a stand alone, the ending left enough open for a sequel, which I would happily read in a heartbeat. I really hope that we get more from the characters and world established in Desert Jewel. There are so many possible storylines that I’m totally going to be stalking the author’s Goodreads page hoping that the sequel will be her next release!
Natalina wrote her first romance in collaboration with her best friend at the age of 13. Since then she has ventured into other genres, but romance is first and foremost in almost everything she writes.
After earning a degree in tourism and foreign languages, she worked as a tourist guide in her native Portugal for a short time before moving to the United States. She lives in Virginia where she has taught English as a Second Language to elementary school children for more years than she cares to admit.
When she is not writing or stressing over lesson plans, she shares her life with her husband and two adult sons.