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The Chronicles of Ghadid #2

The Impossible Contract

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Second in K. A. Doore's high fantasy adventure series the Chronicles of Ghadid, a determined assassin travels to the heart of the Empire in pursuit of a powerful mark, for fans of Robin Hobb, Sarah J. Maas, and S. A. Chakraborty

Thana has a huge reputation to live up to as daughter of the Serpent, who rules over Ghadid’s secret clan of assassins. Opportunity to prove herself arrives when Thana accepts her first contract on Heru, a dangerous foreign diplomat with the ability to bind a person’s soul under his control.

She may be in over her head, especially when Heru is targeted by a rival sorcerer who sends hordes of the undead to attack them both. When Heru flees, Thana has no choice than to pursue him across the sands to the Empire that intends to capture Ghadid inside its iron grip.

A stranger in a strange city, Thana’s only ally is Mo, a healer who may be too noble for her own good. Meanwhile, otherworldly and political dangers lurk around every corner, and even more sinister plans are uncovered which could lead to worldwide devastation. Can Thana rise to the challenge—even if it means facing off against an ancient evil?

368 pages, Paperback

First published November 12, 2019

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About the author

K.A. Doore

5 books161 followers
K.A. Doore grew up in Florida, but has since lived in lush Washington, arid Arizona, and cherry-infused-everything Michigan. While recovering from climate whiplash, she has raised chickens, learned entirely too much about property assessment, photographed cacti, and now develops online trainings, none of which has anything to do with – or perhaps has everything to do with – her BA in Classics.

She writes fantasy – mostly second world, mostly novels – with a touch of horror and a ton of adventure.

The first book in the Chronicles of Ghadid Trilogy - an adventure fantasy about queer assassins who save the day - will be published by Tor in March, 2019.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 89 reviews
Profile Image for Silvia .
635 reviews1,402 followers
August 12, 2019
First buddy read with Acqua (also how is this only our first BR??)

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

4.75 stars!!!

Sometimes a family can be an assassin, her girlfriend, an annoying magical nerd and three dead camels and I think that's beautiful.

Yes I'm leaving that tagline because it's more accurate than anything else I could possibly write in this review.

Anyway, this book is the second in The Chronicles of Ghadid series and while it follows different main characters than The Perfect Assassin, you shouldn't jump directly into this one if you haven't read that first, because you will miss important information and context that makes this world so interesting.

And speaking of the world, after reading TPA I knew I loved it, but this second book solidified my appreciation for it (and it made me realize that it's perfectly possible to get attached to a fictional city, and oh how I am attached to Ghadid).

While TPA was more focused on the city, giving a cozy introductions to the world and its rules, The Impossible Contract expands our horizon and shows us what's beyond Ghadid, bringing us to the sands below and to the Empire's capital. I loved seeing the different rules and customs, I loved the different stakes that this book's characters faced, and the fact that magic played a much bigger role than in book one. It's also simultaneously rather darker than TPA and funnier, and a little more hopeful. Also, camels. 🐪

TIC follows Thana, Amastan's cousin, who has a contract to kill Heru, the Empress's en-marabi (sort of a necromancer) and a man whose work many people consider blasphemous. When she doesn't succeed on her first try, she finds that there's so much more going on, and the stakes are higher than she could have ever imagined. Also it doesn't hurt that her healer is really cute. What follows is a rather action-packed adventure among zombies, guuls, sand, magic, sand, and more sand. And have I mentioned camels? 🐪

Thana, Mo and Heru are one of the best and most fun travelling trio I've ever met in fiction. Heru is exactly the type of character I can't help falling in love with, with his deadpan, accidental humor. He's a first class nerd, a Ravenclaw who does everything he does for the sake of expanding the horizons of knowledge. Someone please keep him away from camels.

Thana is a wonderful MC. She wants to prove herself not just as the daughter of a famous assassin, she wants to built her own name and to do so she ends up having to cross the desert with unlikely allies. My heart ached for and with her more than once, and I just wanted her to get her happy ending.

Mo is the other side of the nerd coin, she and Heru have very different principles but rely on similar strengths. Usually it's the MC that has to see their beliefs challenged during their character arc, but here Mo takes on that role and it works so well. I love her (and so does Thana).

I'm sure I could say much more (and come up with more camel jokes), but I'll finish by saying that this was such a joyful experience for me, and this series is so much fun to read and to talk about with my friends who've also read it. Even though I've already read the ARC I think I will listen to the audiobook when it comes out because that's how I read TPA and it was so nice.

So, if you're looking for a well-crafted world, a cute f/f romance set in a scary desert, well-rounded characters and an adventure that's above all fun, definitely get your hands on this book. And don't forget to read The Perfect Assassin first for soft gay ace assassins and murder mysteries.

TWs: blood, gore, blood magic, violence, slavery, vomiting, injury, magical healing, animal deaths, eye horror, minor character deaths, zombies, mind control
Profile Image for Acqua.
536 reviews189 followers
February 21, 2020
buddy read with Silvia!

4.5 stars.

When I heard that The Perfect Assassin was going to get a companion sequel that was also about assassins but with a main f/f romance, The Impossible Contract instantly became one of my most anticipated books of the year. And it didn’t disappoint.

While reviewing a sequel, one of the first things I think about is how the sequel is in comparison to the first book. And in this case, I can say that I’ve never read two books in the same series that had such different strengths. Where The Perfect Assassin was a slow-burn mystery all set in the same city, The Impossible Contract is a fast-paced journey book involving necromancy. It’s darker and bloodier – and, in a way, also messier than the first book, not as clear in its direction or themes, but way funnier at the same time.
I can’t tell you if it’s better or worse, but what I can tell you it’s that it’s different, and that I enjoyed it a lot more.

This is the story of Thana, the daughter of the famous assassin known as “the Serpent of Ghadid”. Thana has always wanted to prove herself, to be seen as something more than “the daughter of someone famous”. She wants to be a legend herself, and this new assassination contract seems to be her chance… except it’s impossible, and she ends entangled into a web of political and magical machinations that reach as far as the capital of the empire.

And help her meet a cute healer girl. I loved Mo so much, and her relationship with Thana. They are people with very different values and strengths and… they made it work anyway, but it wasn’t easy and seamless. Thana, who learns that she doesn’t have to be a copy of her mother; Mo, who learns to not deal in moral absolutes. And it’s so interesting to see how the romance storyline is a foil to the one in the first book.
(Also, Mo deserves the world and a hug.)

I can’t not mention the third relevant character, Heru, the man Thana has been hired to kill. He is a powerful en-marabi, a necromancer, and a really self-important, irritating man obsessed with researching magic. He ended up being the funniest character in the book – not by his intention – and ended up having all the best lines.
Also, he’s the reason me and Silvia keep making zombie camel jokes.

While I can’t talk about the villain without spoilers, I will say that for a character who got relatively little page time, they were really fascinating.

I talked about the worldbuilding in this series before, but can I just repeat how… not obvious and yet so logical it is to have a water-based magic system and economy in a desert fantasy book? And the repercussions that has on a world in which there’s also blood-based necromancy? This is how you do worldbuilding.

The only thing that didn’t work for me that much was the pacing. Journey books often have pacing problems, but in some places here it was clear that a scene had been cut and then summed up, so that sometimes we’re only told about things I would have liked to see – but that’s a minor complaint, and I overall really liked this.

Acqua: maybe that many dead camel jokes was too many dead camel jokes

Acqua, a few seconds later: ...but I am absolutely going to keep beating the dead camel
Profile Image for Ash | Wild Heart Reads.
244 reviews141 followers
August 23, 2019
The second instalment in the Chronicles of Ghadid The Impossible Contract is a fantastic blend of magic, adventure and undead camels.

Thana, having grown up as the daughter of the Serpent of Ghadid, is determined to carve out her own legacy. So when she is offered a contract to kill Heru, a en-marabi to the Empress, she takes the contract despite knowing the danger involved. After all Heru's work is blasphemous and his crimes must be punished but as Thana's contract leads her further from home than she's every been, she finds there might be something much more sinister than one en-marabi.

"She was Thana Basbowen and she was more than just the Serpent's daughter."

I loved The Perfect Assassin and The Impossible Contract is just as brilliant. Doore has crafted an incredible world in the form of Ghadid. The setting rises from the page and engulfs you until it leaves you longing to visit the city that sours high above the sands. The Impossible Contract expands the world beyond on Ghadid, we are taken on a journey to the seat of the Empire's power and to the desolation of the wastes. Just like Ghadid these places are brought to life by Doore's incredible world-building and skill. 

The three main characters are an absolute delight to watch. From assassin, target and exasperated healer to reluctant allies and more as the book progresses, there's no end to the shenanigans and danger Thana, Mo and Heru find themselves in. I'll be honest Heru annoyed me at first, he's something of an arrogant ass, who's not exactly concerned with the opinions of others but he grows on you until you're fondly shaking your head at his antics. 

I loved watching Thana and Mo's relationship unfold. The yearning was on point. Mo had her own perceptions on the assassins as a healer and Thana hid that part of her for most of the time they were together. I liked that, although that did create tension, it wasn't overblown for dramas sake. They both had things to work through, they did and they came together and even in the tense moments it never feels doomed.  

There was a brief moment in the middle of the book that I felt like the pacing dropped a little and I was worried that maybe I wasn't going to like this as much as I did The Perfect Assassin but it picked up and the last third was intense and gripping leaving you flying through the pages to know what happens. 

Something I love about these books is that whilst there murder and high stakes and evil undead, there's something cosy about them. They feel like coming home. They're soft. This is probably an odd way to describe books about assassins but it's the only way I can think of to describe them - soul-nourishing content.

Both The Perfect Assassin and The Impossible Contract (and book three) should be on your tbr. Queer assassins, undead camels, truly unique world-building and characters you can't help but love! 

"It isn't murder. If anything, it's the exact opposite. I'm giving them immortality."

*I received an eARC via Netgalley from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own*

This review and more can be found at https://wildheartreads.wordpress.com/
Profile Image for charlotte,.
3,129 reviews819 followers
October 29, 2019
I had to stop her. I had to save you. I couldn’t lose you.

On my blog.

Rep: lesbian mc & li, gay side character, black mcs

CWs: violence, gore, eye horror

Galley provided by publisher

This is a review that took me a week to write. Because how am I supposed to review a book I loved a whole lot. I have not much more to say than I love this I love this I love this.

The Impossible Contract follows Thana as she and Amastan take on a contract for an unknown benefactor. But their target is a lot harder to kill than it seems, and suddenly there are living dead coming after them, and Thana has no choice but to follow Heru (the target) and try find out what’s going on.

Some favourite things about this book:

> We’re taken out of Ghadid and get to see more of the world K. A. Doore has created and it’s wonderful. Something I mentioned in my review of The Perfect Assassin was that you don’t get to see a lot outside of Ghadid, it feels a little isolated. But here, you find out a bit more about it (although it’s still a fantasy centered on the city, not one of those massively expansive stories).

> There’s an f/f romance. Yeah. Who wouldn’t love that.

> I loved Thana and Heru’s relationship a lot. There were points in the book when I laughed out loud because of it. Heru went from being a character I really didn’t like to a character who I reluctantly liked to a character I loved. And the way his and Thana’s relationship developed? Beautiful.

> Mo! Imagine thinking I wouldn’t die for her (but so would Thana, so that’s covered really, isn’t it?)

> I didn’t see the plot twists coming. Sure, I kinda if-you-squinted guessed one of them but otherwise they came out of the blue and were just so good.

So what are you waiting for*? Read this book!

*November. We’re waiting for November, Charlotte.
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,718 reviews856 followers
January 25, 2021
#1) The Perfect Assassin ★★★☆☆

Trigger warnings for .

Representation: Thanna (mc) Black & lesbian; Mo (mc) Black & lesbian; Amastan (sc) poc, gay & asexual; queer scs.

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Profile Image for anna (½ of readsrainbow).
588 reviews1,789 followers
January 4, 2020
rep: poc cast, lesbian mc, sapphic li
tw: death, blood, violence, gore, eye horror, body horror

Review also on my blog. ARC provided by the publisher.

3.5 ☆

While The Perfect Assassin was all about Amastan and the moral dilemma of being an assassin, The Impossible Contract gives us a totally different kind of hero(ine). Thana takes pride in her profession and more than anything, wants to be remembered for her work. It’s so refreshing to read in a world where we’re used to only male characters being allowed to have an ego this size. (Also in her case it’s justified…)

We’re introduced to more of the world we already came to love, this time around learning about other aspects of it. In fact, it can almost feel less like coming to familiar land & more like discovering a whole new one, only with a few rituals we recognise. The change in perspective does wonders for the worldbuilding (not that it was bad before, the opposite really, but that it allows for further exploration).

That change also brings Thana to the spotlight and she’s a great main character. While Amastan questioned his every step and thought about all possible consequences of each, Thana just does. No fear, no doubt in her, only the burning need to fulfil her plans. Especially when someone she holds dear is in danger.

And that brings me to the romance part of the book and it’s probably not a surprise to anyone, if I say it was my favourite one. Thana’s lesbianism was the more relatable thing I have ever read and the whole love plot line was done in such a beautiful, slow way!

All in all, The Impossible Contract is a fast-paced fantasy adventure in a cool setting, with a group of very endearing characters to lead the reader through all the ups and downs. If you enjoyed the first installment, you definitely want to discover more of the world thanks to this one.
Profile Image for Hélène Louise.
Author 18 books81 followers
June 10, 2020
The first book of the series, "The perfect assassin" was one of my best last reads, and I was rather sure to love the sequel as much.
Alas it wasn't the case...
The world building is always as interesting and well conveying all the sensations, in a coherent and credible atmosphere. The writing, for most parts, is still very good. But my problem was with the characters.
If the unpleasant one, Heru, is interesting and rather endearing in a Rogue kind of way, the heroine, Thana, isn't. She's a two dimensional character, boring and not very clever, without any appealing flaws to made for it. She's young, obsessed with her calling (being an assassin, she has none of the intelligent and wise doubts that Amastan had in the first book) and doesn't evolve much. The third main character, Mo, isn't more interesting. She's a kind and thoughtful healer, and sexy to Thana's eyes, that all we're going to get. As a result the romance is flat and dull, not touching at all.
I tried to read on for the story itself, but I had to give up and about 75 %, realising that if I wasn't excited by the story's developments at this point, the book wasn't just for me.

A shame, but if you liked "The perfect assassin", you should absolutely try and read this one, as I seem to be the only one disgruntled by the characters' psychology or, more accurately, the lack off it.
Profile Image for Anya.
763 reviews168 followers
July 1, 2017
Got to beta read, get excited folks!!!!!
Profile Image for Shan( Shans_Shelves) &#x1f49c;.
918 reviews79 followers
September 11, 2019
Thank you to Netgalley and Tor publishing for providing me with copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rep: Sapphic MC, POC MCs, f/f romance.

The Impossible Contract is a new exciting sapphic fantasy featuring: a complex-unique magic system, kickass assassins, soft healers, Grumpy magicians and even some undead!

I went into this book fully expecting an assassin story and while we do get our assassins we also get so MUCH MORE. The Impossible Contract was a whirlwind that had me on the edge of my seat with so many twist and turns- right down to guessing the villain!

This book is told from the POV of Thana; an assassin also known as the “serpents daughter” who is working tirelessly to make a name for herself and get out from under her mother’s shadow. Thana was such a fantastic protagonist. While she’s determined, loyal and deadly; she’s also protective, sweet and loving. I adored her close family friendship with Armastan and her, hate-to-I suppose-you’re-okay, friendship with Heru.

Let’s talk about the sapphic romance and how it had my heart soaring!! The assassin falling in love with a healer is a trope I didn’t even know I needed. Mo and Thana were adorable; they were a bright light when the book started to get darker. Also did I mention it was slow burn with some good ole pinning.

“The desert fell away and all Thana knew was Mo’s soft palm against her cheek, Mo’s warm dark eyes, Mo’s cunning pink lips.”

While an exquisite read I felt Heru’s racist remarks let this book down. He repeatedly speaks down to the people in Ghadid, mocks Thana’s culture and calls the Azali- who live and travel through the desert- “sand fleas”. These comments infuriated me.

Overall; I really enjoyed The Impossible Contract. It was an exciting, entertaining read. Even though this is the sequel to The Perfect Assassin, it can be read as a stand-alone. I’ve never read TPA and I had no problem following along with the story.

Content Warnings: Racism, Death, Grief, Undead, murder of camels, violence, gore, bloodshed, misogynist language, sexism.

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Hanzel.
160 reviews21 followers
July 26, 2020
WOW!!!!! That one word, there are few trilogies that set-up the second book as better, much, much better than the first one, THIS is one of those, the first book was about laying out the Desert world of the Cousins(I do not have a better catch phrase), at first I thought it was just assassins pure and simple with a bit of magic, there are a lot of those around, but then came the healers, the marabi, then in Book two we are introduced to the en-marabi(I do hope I am right, since I honestly do not know if those two mean the same marab and marabi, I tried googling the words and they came out different, as the author is a linguist, I would love to ask her!!!!).

Book two just progressed from being familiar with your backyard(or backcity), to opening your horizons, now we see the bigger cities and we are introduced to an empire that cites Gahdid as a satellite city, The Mehewrat Empire ruled by the Empress, the story starts with Amastan(the hero from the first book) and Thana the daughter of the Serpent of Ghadid, unfortunately Amastan just became a footnote here, a little bit of action here and there(but honestly, he was ummmmmmmm.......), So Thana, the newest cousin to "graduate", as far as the saying that the apple does not fall far from the tree, this does not apply to her, there are actions, reactions that simply is just Thana, none of her "legendary" mother's calculated thinking(truth be said though, Thana must be very, very young still), I wonder what Ms. Doore's reason was for portraying Amastan, the way he is and for portraying Thana in her own pay, such a marked difference, getting back to the story, as the story broaden, same with the characters viewpoint, we are introduced to Heru, the second emissary of the Mehewrat Empire and a healer Mo, the meeting of the three primary protagonists and their subsequent adventure is where book two revolves around in.

Honestly, this was a really fantastic story, the actions never die down, the lore just keeps building and the interaction between the three is funny, lovely(well I am not that affected by gay romance, but it still is a view that needs getting used to and understand), and not at all "dry", Heru is such a fascinating character that sometimes, I feel he became the focal point of the story, but again Ms. Doore's ability to shine all her characters to his/her own spotlight, when the situation suggests, you appreciate them more.........

I have started reading the third book as I write this and again........well, that is how interesting this trilogy is..........
Profile Image for Nikki.
952 reviews49 followers
November 12, 2019
I received this book from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

I somehow missed that this wasn’t a direct follow on from the first book, and I did spend some time missing Amastan 💙💙 I just loved him, okay? But Thana is a great main character and I ended up really enjoying this story too!

It was great to see some of the world outside the town, and venture further afield. And I really felt for poor Thana - she’s not a poor assassin, just had unfortunate circumstances! Plus her failing in the face of Mo’s beauty is super cute.

Plus the overarching story is so excellent - I realised literally right before we were told what was up and kicked myself for not getting it earlier - it’s so easy to get caught in the glorious mystery of it all.

Doore’s writing continues to be engaging and beautiful. I challenge you to read this book and not fall in love with this universe. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for lune.
144 reviews7 followers
December 19, 2021
Esse livro me irritou demais, quase um mês com ele aberto. Me deu um bloqueio terrível e não conseguiria pegar outro porque ainda não consigo abandonar muitos livros, enfim.

No primeiro livro é compreensível a gente não vê tanta morte porque somos introduzidos ao universo justamente com a formatura de Amastan, todas as dúvidas deles e tudo mais.
Nesse aqui não tem essa margem sabe, Thana já tem contratos feitos e tudo mais. Todos eles tiveram um treinamento incrível e o fato dela repetidamente não conseguir fazer nada é MAÇANTE.

Era óbvio também que a gente ia ter um mommy issues, já tava esperando isso mas fica num nível que não dá. O rolê é que a Serpente nem sequer aparece no livro, nem em memórias dela colocando pressão em Thana nem nada sabe mas o TEMPO TODO, Thana tá trazendo que filha da serpente isso e filha da serpente aquilo. E óbvio que não precisa a mãe aparecer pra a gente simpatizar com a situação da filha mas não rolou porque em nenhum momento foi tratado como um problema que ela desenvolveu sobre essa pressão e tal.
Os únicos momentos que ela fazia o mínimo do rolê dos assassinos era com um Amastan mental falando com ela, essas cenas ficaram horríveis.

Ela e Mo foi muito bleh. Eu não consegui gostar, ela sente essa atração (que a autora não sabe escrever por sinal) e aí sente um apego sem motivo nenhum mesmo e fica adiando coisas óbvias e aí o livro sendo dirigido pelo plot deixa tudo tão óbvio é um saco. O conflito delas duas não dá pra se importar também, tanto porque a autora usa uns saltos de tempos só pra colocar ação e tal, tanto porque a gente não vê muito da personalidade dela, é dito que ela busca muito mais do que só curar mas nada é mostrado e aí Thana tem na cabeça dela os porquês de Mo e tal, então não se torna legal não.

A escravidão apareceu bastante nesse livro e eu não gostei do jeito que rolou, me deixou incomodada.

Com certeza não vou ler o próximo, tanto porque o universo nem sequer é mais interessante pra mim quanto porque não vou arriscar perder um mês de leituras por um bloqueio por causa de livro parado e maçante.
Profile Image for Marta Cox.
2,570 reviews191 followers
October 24, 2019
I haven’t read the first book The Perfect Assassin but I found this worked extremely well as a stand-alone. Thana is a young assassin out to prove herself and finally gets her very first contract but there’s a catch ! Her target has magic, knowledge and just happens to be more than ready for Thana. Still she’s not giving up easily but what if she needs him alive ?
I quite liked Thana as she’s resourceful and determined but boy is she out of her depth ! Her target Heru is arrogant, annoying and actually rather racist so it’s quite easy to dislike him but the author finds ways to make him funny at times which was a lovely surprise. The third character who stands out is Mo the healer who is dedicated, peace loving and quite a revelation as this story progressed. I wasn’t overly impressed by the attempt at romance here but that’s only a slight niggle .
The world building mainly consisted to give the reader a sense of the space within the desert with the tribes that lived there and the Empire that ruled over them. Speaking of which I particularly enjoyed the way Thana rose to the challenge once she entered the palace but my lips are sealed.
So an assassin who takes on much more than she bargained for. A magical system that stymied me at first but I think if I’d read the previous book I would have understood how important water was to all. The only thing that let this slightly down was the pace because it felt like a slow buildup and then everything just hurtled along towards a big finish. A very satisfying conclusion and I look forward to reading more from this author.
This voluntary take is of a copy I requested from Netgalley and my thoughts and comments are honest and I believe fair
Profile Image for Nathan Makaryk.
Author 3 books109 followers
January 7, 2020
Fantastic! The Impossible Contract continues all the creative world-building from The Perfect Assassin and adds so much more, taking the story and the consequences so much farther than the first book. If you're new to the series you can certainly start with this book, but since its predecessor is such a fun read as well, I'd recommend picking up them both. The Impossible Contract does a great job of evolving past its own premise, letting the ever-increasing stakes bring the characters and their relationships into dangerous new territories. It's fast-paced but knows when to slow down and take its time. I'd love to shout about all the daring new developments but most would be considered spoilers, so suffice it to say that this is not a "more-of-the-same" sequel. Very glad there is a third book on its way, because I'm ready for more.
Profile Image for Alan.
90 reviews7 followers
August 28, 2019
In so many ways this book felt like it was made for me. I read and loved The Perfect Assassin earlier this year, and adored the blend of fantasy with the pace and structure of a thriller. It offered something new and fresh, while feeling anchored in the characteristic imagination of the best fantasy worlds. The Impossible Contract takes those same elements and expands on them in the best of ways. While the world fans sunk their teeth into in TPA is still there, Doore opens everything up in TIC to give the work a truly epic stage. With a fun cast of characters, pulse-pounding moments, and a beautiful f/f romance, The Impossible Contract continues Doore's tradition of queer, genre-bending epic fantasies.

TIC is both a sequel, and a stand alone novel, and puts the emphasis on adventure, in comparison with TPA's focus on mystery. The novel retains Doore's earlier interest in the moral quandaries faced by her assassin characters, this time following the much harder (though just as unsure as Amastan) figure of Thana. Most of the story follows three central figures: Thana (and assassin struggling to live up to her mother's reputation and carve her own mark), Mo (a much more morally rigid character, whose vocation as a healer is at odds with Thana's profession), and Heru (the best character! a stuck-up, arrogant, yet lovable necromancer with a heart of goldish substance). The trio make a for an entertaining group to follow, and I enjoyed the dynamics of their uneasy alliances and double-crosses.

All this is sprinkled with gorgeously described scenery, undead camels, and an epic fantasy take on the zombie apocalypse. Definitely recommend!
Profile Image for K.A. Black.
Author 1 book6 followers
September 2, 2019
This book was a fantastic addition to The Chronicles of Ghadid. Thana is a force to be reckoned with but still comes across as very human when dealing with a budding romance. The romance doesn't weigh down the plot though. Impossible Contract remains high energy and fast-paced through character development, with enough twists to keep interest. As a fan of the first book, I found that Doore kept pace with herself in having her characters leech into your heart so that you care what happens to them. In fact, I thought Doore was going to rip my heart out and claim another death by a cousin in the last half of the book.

Definitely don't miss this one. It can be read as a stand-alone, but then you'd be denying yourself Amastan's story and why would you do that?
Profile Image for Becca Fowell.
118 reviews45 followers
December 7, 2019
After getting to know (and getting attached) to Amastan in book one, we now get the chance to get to know one of his cousins, Thana. Now I loved Amastan and wasn’t sure if I’d like this book without him as the main character, but I was wrong, I fell for Thana pretty darn quickly. Being the Serpents daughter means everyone has really high expectations for her, and I feel so sorry for her that she has to try and live up to her mother’s reputation.

I liked that we got to see outside of Ghadid; The Perfect Assassin centered around their town, but in this book we get to see their journey to another city, one that is worlds apart from theirs. Thana finding ways to blend in to a city where she stands out is absolutely genius, especially where she has to put herself completely out of her comfort zone, her versatility is amazing.

I had an inkling on the ending but was a little unsure, but I was right about it. It does not happen often, usually I’m terrible at figuring out endings and plot twists.
Profile Image for Tessa.
77 reviews
July 13, 2020
3,5* I really enjoyed this book but there's something about the romance and the emotional beats that doesn't work for me. Apart from that this book is a great read!
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 7 books40 followers
October 1, 2019
An intense, twisty plot and characters you love--and love to hate in some cases--make this book one of the most exciting reads of the year.

When Thana's contract goes awry, she finds herself torn between duty, heart, and the greater good. But nothing is black-and-white where power and human nature are concerned, and when the dead rise again, a greater threat looms over a land that doesn't have the first clue what's coming.

KA Doore is a masterful story-teller, and my heart was pounding through both the intense action scenes and the tense attraction scenes between Thana and Mo, the feisty healer with a heart of gold and an unshakable moral compass. Thana is a total badass and Mo is everything good in the world. And then there's Heru. But you'll have to read the book to learn about him.
Profile Image for Kat.
329 reviews17 followers
October 11, 2019
Book 2 in the Chronicles of Ghadid series, it takes place a few years after the events of the first book, The Perfect Assassin. This time, the story is centered on Thana, cousin to the assassin introduced in the first book. As the Serpent's Daughter, she has a lot to live up to, which is also why she was chosen for a special contract: to kill Heru Sametket, second marabi advisory to the Empress. It seemed simple enough, until the dead became reanimated, and bent on destruction and death. Seeking to complete her contract, Thana ends up traveling across the desert to the Empress's palace alongside Heru and a healer named Mo, but Heru manages to thwart her every time, to the point where the two reach an uneasy truce as a larger, more dangerous, game comes to light.

I loved the first book, so I was eager to read the second. Fortunately, it holds up well to the first. Unfortunately, it didn't seem quite as flawless, but perhaps it's an interesting reflection of the different narrators. In the first book, Amastan was careful, precise, and thoughtful. In the second book, Thana is a bit more reckless, a bit less thoughtful, and very reliant on Amastan's wisdom. She has a lot of live up to, so I imagine the strain and stress to be incredible.

The Characters

The characterizations in these books are amazing. The characters are unique, consistent, and flawed. They feel like real people.

Heru annoyed me to no end, but I still loved his character. He had a strong sense of self-preservation, but was extremely adept at playing a dangerous game. He sometimes felt like a fool, a bit too lost in his research, but always managed to find the upper hand and play his roles to perfection. I wanted to love Thana. She was an interesting character from the first book that I would have liked to see more of, so I was glad to see this book was about her. I expected someone just as skilled as Amastan, but she proved to be very different. She had a lot to live up to and I think it made her flawed in a way that felt a little dangerous and a little thoughtless. She wasn't quite as perfect as Amastan, not quite as brilliant, and little too likely to pass on the details. She felt young, younger than Amastan had. Still, she was strong and capable and an amazing female character. Mo, the healer, was incredible. Dedicated to her profession, she felt deeply, trusted easily, and felt betrayal the hardest. I think she was the deepest feeling character and it helped soften Heru and Thana. She was a beautiful addition, and I really felt for her character at the end of the book.

The Setting

I expected that the setting would remain unchanged for this second book. I expected to be further plunged into Ghadid. While more of the city was explored, it also went well beyond that.

The characters explored the desert, the mostly unmapped Wastes, and the capital city of the empire. The world expanded at a quickly escalating rate. It felt like it should be difficult to comprehend, as though adding so much to the world in one book should be too much, but I was relieved it wasn't. I suppose there just isn't much to a desert beyond sand. Seriously, though, the city and the desert came to life. Both were well-described without being overboard and they each played their own roles before the author moved on to the next locale.

I loved that the world building went beyond Ghadid, but I'm a bit nervous about the next book. I don't want to say too much, but something devastating happened to Ghadid and it kind of hurts that so many of the people and places I had gotten to know won't be coming back. I'm apprehensive about what will happen to Ghadid. At the same time, I was worried about book after book taking place in the exact same city. It looks like that won't be an issue and I look forward to what the author offers next.

The Plot

The title says it all: Thana's contract will be impossible. I was dying of curiosity to see how that would happen, and wasn't disappointed. This was truly a greater game than merely completing a contract as the first book had been. Couched within a greater, deadlier game, it was a breathtaking adventure.

I didn't like that it was so easy to spot why it was impossible, but I appreciated the layers of complexity that kept being added to it. Heru's character was really quite exceptional as it was usually him that added the next layer. Thana felt a bit reactive to the plot while Heru felt like the plot-driver, but it worked in a harmony that the characters themselves had a hard time establishing, which was actually a lot of fun.

My only real complaint here is that the first half was so darn slow. Information was revealed at a snail's pace and the story felt like it was meandering a little. One thing would happen and then another path would be taken and then another layer was added and suddenly they're in the Empress's palace. I was so happy when the second half really took off. That's where most of the action was. That's when the plot really picked up, when the game was well and truly deadly and afoot. It was fast-paced and I found I didn't want to stop reading. At the same time, I wasn't ready for the story to end.


This was a good follow-up to the first book. I don't think it quite matched it's predecessor, but it wasn't a bad successor. It added to the world and the character bank while also nodding to the characters of the first book. The story wasn't quite as strong, but I also went into it with high expectations as I rated the first book a 5. While disappointing, I did appreciate the many twists and turns. I was definitely surprised, and was very pleased when the last quarter of the book really got my heart thudding. That second half really was quite wonderful.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for a free e-copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Drema Deoraich.
Author 3 books12 followers
February 7, 2020
Thana, novice assassin and daughter of the legendary Serpent of Ghadid, sees a chance to prove herself when she accepts her first contract. Her target, visiting diplomat Heru, holds the power to bind souls to his own purposes. Thana’s strategy seems solid until a new and frightening enemy appears and attacks Heru. Clearly, Thana doesn’t have all the pieces to the contract’s puzzle, and she isn’t the only one trying to kill her mark.

When Heru flees Ghadid for the Empire’s capital, Thana has no choice but to follow him across the sands even though Mo, a healer from Ghadid and Thana’s crush, complicates matters by tagging along with the target. But Heru’s enemies find him even on the sands and scatter the caravan, leaving Mo, Heru, and Thana alone and dependent on one another to survive. Thana learns there’s much more to this contract than she knew. Whether she fails or succeeds, the price will be high—for her, for Ghadid, and for the Empire.

I was charmed by the first book in this series, The Perfect Assassin, and this sequel does not disappoint. While Amastan makes an appearance, it is Thana who takes center stage here.
Young, determined to succeed, and eager to equal or even surpass her mother’s fame, Thana comes to life on the page. At every apparent obstacle to her goal, I found myself rooting for her.

K.A. Doore presented all her characters, even her villains, in ways that surprised me and made them feel more real. Mo and Heru each had their own arc and felt authentic, fully developed. At first, I didn’t like Heru, but that changed as I got deeper into the story. I especially loved seeing Thana and Mo connect in a sweet, romantic way and was glad for them both. Thana’s indecision over whether or not to tell the truth about who she was kept me biting my nails throughout, especially since Mo’s sincerity made her all the more vulnerable. Secrets between lovers are never wise, a lesson Thana learns the hard way.

There’s plenty of action to be had here. The Impossible Contract has its share of fight scenes with assassins escaping out windows and across rooftops, as did Perfect Assassin. But in Contract, we also get conflicts with nature and the threat of death in the wastes, not to mention wild guuli who haunt the sands in search of living bodies they can inhabit. Dark magic behind the bound, undead attackers pursues the characters throughout the book and in many settings. Not all dangers scream. Some whisper. Sometimes those are the scariest of all.

While Assassin’s setting was focused on the city of Ghadid, Contract’s plot unfurls while the characters are on the move. Scenes are vividly shown, whether in Ghadid’s platforms raised above the sands, the Empire’s lush capital city, or out on the sweltering and treacherous sands. Details make perfect sense in each context, like the sacredness of water, the shushing of wind-blown sand, the cultural differences between Ghadid and the capital. Descriptions of the caravan journey and camps along the way brought clear visuals to my mind. I could see and feel the rolling gait of the camels, smell both humans and animals in the group, taste the salty sweat of the travelers. Doore does a delightful job of making her readers long to see these places in real life. If there was a travel agent who could book a trip to Ghadid or the capital of the Empire, I’d take it in a heartbeat.

This is the second book in the Chronicles of Ghadid series. The Perfect Assassin came first; the third book, The Unconquered City, is due out in June of 2020. This is such a rich, detailed world that it doesn’t seem like fiction. Fantasy readers will easily lose themselves in the pages of The Impossible Contract and read long after they should be asleep. Ghadid, and its famous family, will linger long after the last page is turned. Most highly recommended.
Profile Image for Liz (Quirky Cat).
4,166 reviews64 followers
November 5, 2019
I received a copy of The Impossible Contract through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The Impossible Contract is the second novel in K.A. Doore’s Chronicles of Ghadid series. And it is just as bright and brilliant as the first novel – if not more so. Set in a fantasy world full of assassins, lose spirits, and magic, this series is one to spark your imagination.
Thana is the daughter of the Serpent, though she wants to become known for something more than her parentage. So when she is given the opportunity to take upon a contract of her own – her very first – she doesn’t even hesitate. Even though it is going to be the most difficult contract known to her guild.
One thing is for certain, whether she completes or fails this contract, she’s going to become a legend. And that is worth all the risk in the world to Thana. Now she can pave her own path and create a name for herself.
The Chronicles of Ghadid is described as being perfect for fans of Robin Hobb, Sarah J. Maas, and S.A. Chakraborty. Being a particular fan of the latter, I can’t agree with this recommendation enough. It is a lush and brilliant world – one that gives ample time for us to fall in love with its characters.

“In the next few moments, they'd either become legends in her family's history or cautionary tales of future. Despite the tension of the moment, she couldn't help but feel a spark of jealousy. If they succeeded – and they would, they had to – all the credit would go to Amastan.”

The Impossible Contract was nothing like what I expected – it was a hundred times better. When I’m reading the next novel in a series, I tend to avoid the description of the novel – weird, I know. Because of that, I was sort of expecting this tale to be more about Amastan. So I was delighted to learn that it was going to be about Thana and her first contract ever.
I immediately latched on to Thana and her dominant personality. This is a girl who knew what she wanted out of life, and she wasn’t afraid to take the risks required to get there. Yet her determination only made her read as more human, rather than less. It’s clear that K.A. Doore excels at writing dynamic characters.
Speaking of, there are two other characters of interest in this novel. First, there’s the obvious: Thana’s contract. The man she’s been hired to kill. He was also nothing like what I expected, but I imagine I’m not the only one in that boat.
Then there was the love interest. Oh, how I adored her character. She was everything that Thana was not, and was the perfect complement to her character. I would happily read about these two all day, every day, given the opportunity.
Okay, now it’s time to talk about the plot. Wow. The Impossible Contract left me shook. I knew that it was probably going to up the ante from The Perfect Assassin, but there was no way I could predict everything that K.A. Doore through at us in this novel. It was amazing, breathtaking, and harrowing to read it as it all unfolded.
If I could have one wish; it’d be that I could read The Impossible Contract for the first time all over again. I wish I had savored it more, for it was as intense as it was brilliant. I actively enjoyed trying to read between the lines; trying to see what K.A. Doore was just shy of telling us. That made the read much more exciting, for obvious reasons.
While I am sad that I’ve already finished The Impossible Contract, I do have some good news! There’s already a title and cover for the next book in The Chronicles of Ghadid. The Unconquered City. And wow, that title is giving me the chills. Anyone else?

For more reviews check out Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks
Profile Image for Katharine (Ventureadlaxre).
1,522 reviews46 followers
October 5, 2019
Thana is the main character of book two. We saw her first book, often mentioned and seen here and there, but the focus was on Amastan as we saw him do his final trial and become an assassin, then stumble across a murder mystery. Here, the roles are reversed; Amastan is now often mentioned and seen here and there, but Thana, daughter of the most infamous assassin Ghadid has ever known, is the star of the show.

Now old enough to be an assassin in her own right, big things are expected of The Serpents' daughter. Kept hidden for most of her life (acting as though her uncle was in fact her immediate family, so those who are aware The Serpent is more than a scary story don't take out any past grievances on her) Thana is finally given her first contract. She immediately turns to Amastan to partner for such an important job, and from there they start what they're best at. Gaining intel, sneaking into places in the dark, and wielding their lethal skills.

Only the mark is an incredibly powerful (and magical) right-hand man of the Empress - we didn't see much of her in the first book, but we soon learn she believes that she rules over Ghadid. Usually her palace is too far away from Ghadid for her rule to really matter; it's just the occasional stirrings over who thinks they own what part of sandy map; and... initially, that's why Thana has been given this job, she thinks. To send a powerful message to the Empress. War is said to be coming soon anyway... it may as well be on Ghadid's own terms.

Usually I hate a character POV change; I get attached to a character over the passage of a whole book, and if it isn't obvious that it's going to happen I get really cranky that I have to leave a favourite behind. Only Doore does this really, really well, and pulls it off flawlessly. We see enough of Amastan at the start and get to see him from another POV who cares about him like a brother that it's just as good to see him. Then, we get to care for Thana more and more, and don't miss Amastan as much as I'd expect when the plot naturally focuses on Thana and mentions of Amastan, though still constant, are less.

Kudos to Doore; very few have managed to pull that one off so well on me (and I realise there's never anything wrong with a character POV change from book to book... it's just my own preference), I just want to nail it down how well Doore pulls this off.

Also, thank you for giving us a gay main character again, and how this doesn't matter in the slightest. Nor a mention or grimace to be seen. It's simply attraction.

Our other main characters are Heru; the mark, and Mo; a healer who heals Thana after something goes awry and then sticks around through her own set of steadfast morals and belief in her G-d given powers that she is to play a part in the protection of Ghadid and their people. And this explores much of what it means to rely on water, waste water, and a whole lot about power, the rights of animals, honouring the dead, and countless others.

Doore's study of both political and power weighing too far or too little to either side, character study in how you can take such an annoying character and both show what drives them and how they come to make their decisions (trying not to give too much away here, but it's not Thana... Thana is a little blind to her own limits at times but gosh is her heart in the right place!)

Both books stand alone, really; but they're so good you want to read them all. I can't wait for the third one, The Unconquered City. Possibly coming out in June 2020 currently.
Profile Image for Graculus.
613 reviews10 followers
October 29, 2019
I picked up The Impossible Contract shortly after reading and enjoying the previous book set in this universe, The Perfect Assassin - I suppose it was a little too much to expect lightning to strike twice as, while I enjoyed this book in the most part, it didn't quite work for me as well.

We start this book a few years after the events of the previous one - the protagonist of that book, Amastan, is mingling with guests at a party having been given the order to assassinate one of them. His partner in this is Thana, who we met as a supporting character in The Perfect Assassin, working undercover in the household of their mark for months in order to get things in motion. Their plot goes wrong, forcing them to improvise later and for Thana to take a life for the first time on her own. Remember we're dealing with societally-mandated assassinations here, in this case for someone who's a powerful man accused of sexual assault against women who have no other recourse.

Thana is then approached to take on a contract of her own, to assassinate the ambassador of the powerful Empire which has tried to overrun Ghadid in the past. She's heartened to discover that he's a powerful but ethically-challenged sorceror and enlists Amastan to help her - again, due to circumstances outside her control, things go wrong and Amastan is badly injured, forcing Thana to continue the contract alone. This will force her to leave Ghadid for the first time, travelling to the Empire's capital city and discovering that she has to make a choice between her contract and the future of her people. There's a bigger threat at play here and her mark seems to be the only person who can help her save Ghadid.

As with the previous book, there's a lot to like in The Impossible Contract, not least the dilemma in which Thana finds herself. She's honour-bound to kill the man whose powers she needs to protect her people against a major threat - Heru doesn't help by being pretty callous about what he does, including killing in the name of science, so he's not exactly helping her decision making a lot of the time.

What didn't quite work for me was the romance sub-plot. Thana and Heru are travelling with a healer called Mo, who Thana falls into insta-love with on first meeting her and who she lies to relentlessly throughout a good chunk of the book. Heru is supposed to need Mo and her powers but to be honest, a few hours after finishing the book I can't quite remember what the logic behind it was. In exchange for not telling Mo he's a mass-murdering sorcerer with powers over the dead, Heru agrees not to blab that Thana is an assassin. The truth comes out, of course, and equally unsurprisingly Mo forgives Thana a hell of a lot faster than is probably realistic. Except that Mo is more of a plot device than a character here, being a bit two-dimensional for my tastes.

Anyway, overall I enjoyed more about the book than I disliked and happily give it 4 stars. I'm not sure I care enough about Thana to read anything else in which she's the main character though, I guess I didn't really feel like I knew her at all by the end of the book.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Nikki.
810 reviews5 followers
July 4, 2022
Trigger Warnings for: Death, violence, gore, animal death

DNFing about 50% in.

I tried to push through this one, seeing as I wanted to DNF the first book but ended up enjoying it. However, I'm struggling and frustrated.

The only reason this contract is impossible is because Thana is wildly incompetent. The very first chapter starts with Thana nearly messing up a job and having to assassinate a target in a different way because she nearly messed up. That should have been my first warning about this book. So far, nearly halfway through, there have been about three instances where Thana thought 'yes this is the perfect time to kill my mark' and then it's gone horribly, which the reader is well aware it would, seeing as they all happened well before the halfway mark. At one point she even has a chance to not be seen by the mark but instead goes and talks to him like an idiot. Even aside from that, within the story itself, I'm not sure why this contract is considered "impossible". Sure he can do magic but that alone shouldn't make it impossible? Is it because he's an ambassador? It didn't really make too much sense to me. Thana had so many chances to kill him and just didn't because of "some plan" that we often times weren't even really told what it was until it failed to work. There was one point where she had a conversation with her mentor about a plan and the mentor (also the previous main character) claimed he couldn't see anyway the plan could fail; I saw like five different ways it would fail, and I was in fact right about how it did fail. The only reason Thana ever "succeeded" always felt like convenient plot reasons.

Thana's feelings for Mo also seemed to come out of nowhere. She met her once and then was suddenly acting like she knew her really well. It just didn't feel very natural. They also were both really flat characters. Mo was the kindhearted healer. Thana was a determined assassin. That's about it for both of their personalities. I didn't really feel any chemistry when they started saying they wanted to go see a city together. They barely knew each other.

So, this one is a DNF for me. I was far too frustrated and didn't want to push myself further. Which is a shame because the last third of the first book was my favorite part and made me like it quite a bit. I was hoping the same would happen for this one but I wasn't sure it was worth the risk considering how annoyed I was with this.
Profile Image for Sarah Wright.
189 reviews5 followers
November 11, 2019
5/5 stars — an edge-of-your-seat fantasy adventure

The second chronicle of Ghadid lives up to its predecessor while introducing a new cast of characters and a mystery with scarily high stakes. The Impossible Contract expands the setting introduced in the previous book, elaborates on the water-based magic system, and continues K.A. Doore's seamless incorporation of queer characters into fantasy stories.

Thana: daughter the famed Serpent of Ghadid, an assassin anxious to prove herself independent of her mother's legacy on a high-stakes contract. Mo: a young but powerful healer who dreams of traveling beyond Ghadid despite rules dictating that healers may not leave the city. Heru: a mysterious foreigner sent to Ghadid by Emperess Zara ha Khatet herself on business that immediately sets him at odds with Thana. A web of half-truths binds these three as they set out in the same direction on three different missions. Doore wrote complicated, ever-shifting character relationships well in The Perfect Assassin, and The Impossible Contract continues that trend to endlessly entertaining effect.

The Impossible Contract felt more plot-driven than The Perfect Assassin, but that's not a bad thing by any means. Though lighter on mystery and heavier on adventure/quest than TPA, the plot of The Impossible Contract was still suspenseful and excitingly tense, with elements of horror and a couple of devastating twists. In short, it's a different kind of story than the first book in the series, but no effectively told and very fun to read. Also, Thana and her companions traveled outside of Ghadid, giving context to life in the desert city and expanding the world. I'm interested to see whether Ghadid's tensions with the Empire play into future books in the series.

If it wasn't apparent from my review to this point, I highly recommend this excellent book to anyone who enjoys fantasy novels. To readers who liked The Perfect Assassin: Great! You'll love The Impossible Contract too. Haven't gotten around to TPA yet? That's fine! TIC can be read as a standalone. You honestly can't go wrong with a fast-paced fantasy featuring zombies, awesome magic, and an extremely relatable protagonist.

A personal footnote: This was actually my second readthrough of this novel. While I usually take notes as I read so I'll be able to write my review afterward, I got so caught up in the story I stopped annotating after the first quarter. I guess now I can say with certainty that The Impossible Contract has high reread value!

content warnings: fantasy-typical violence, some gore/body horror, brief fantasy racism, death of a parent

** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. **
October 27, 2019
Thana, is the daughter of a the great serpent, an assassin of legend, who was known more for being ruthless then breaking her contract for love. Thana though is tapped to take a special contract that is set to be her first on her own, and would employ her "special skill set", the mark, a Marabi that is in Ghadid on the business of the Empress. Is this contract as impossible as it sounds. Thana will be pushed to her limits to try to carry it out, but can she even suceed?

SO this is the second book in the Ghadid books by KA Doore. The first was about Amastan but this one focuses on a character that is mentioned in the perfect assassin, but only as a small side character. Impossible Contract takes place, what seems to be a few years after the previous book, and it appears that these books may end up being pretty much stand alone with some basic ties, as both the first and second book are that way.

What I didnt like about this book.

Overall this book was a solid sophomore entry into a series, and managed to shrug off a lot of what can plague seconds in a series. However, it did feel like Doore ran out of ideas, as the book was both a bit shorter than I expected as well as it seemed to wrap up a bit more quickly than I thought it was going to.

There was a period of time towards the end when I thought maybe this book unlike the first would end on a cliffhanger and this book and a third would be very closely connected, and while some of that may be true, the book wrapped up in the last 50 pages. It did seem to rush towards the ending and take a few jumps that at the time seemed to give a bit of whiplash with the book.

What I did like about this book:

I really enjoyed going back to the world of Ghadid. In the first book, the world mostly encompassed just the city with a bit of going out into the wastes, but only for dramatic effect in a couple scenes. However the second book is able to flesh this world out a great deal more, as the majority of the book does not take place in Ghadid at all but in the surrounding areas, even going so far as to the capital of the Empire where they meet the Empress herself. It also introduces a lot more cultures, outside of the Culture of Ghadid with its tagels and robes.

I really enjoyed the change in perspective of this novel, and how that also expanded things. It was interesting to see the female/female relationship in this book where the first book focused more on a male/male relationship.

Overall a solid book and another fun read from Doore. I look forward to where this series is going to go in the future, and really want to see what the fallout of the ending of this book might be for the future of this world.

4.0 stars.
Profile Image for kaylina.
337 reviews8 followers
December 3, 2022
4.5 / 5: Thana felt like a child on the sands for the first time, staring up at her world from a new perspective; loss and wonder tangled together inside her . . . [she] had heard iluk call Ghadid a hundred different names--the city in the sky, the impossible city, the city of clouds--but only now did she understand.

Pride burned hot as an ember in her chest: that was her city.

ignoring how i fell off the wagon with this book for a good few days, this was a highly intense adventure that i was wholly fascinated with from start to finish. once i picked this story back up again, i tore through it in less than a day and it was an experience of a lifetime.

the same 4.5 that i gave to amastan's story is quite different compared to the 4.5 that i've decided to rate thana's story. what both cousins share in common is their fierce loyalty to their city and it's that level of dedication that makes for such wonderfully crafted characters with clear motivations. beyond that, however, they are very different and it is in how careful & methodic amastan is when it comes to planning, when it comes to observing every piece of the puzzle before jumping into action. as a result, his story translated into what ultimately felt like a slow-burn murder mystery with splices of action in between--and i loved it a lot. with thana on the other hand, she's much more impulsive and filled with a burning passion that makes her fumble at times but doesn't tire her out, instead pushing her even further to her goals. for that, this story--her story--burned really fast and moved at a lightening pace filled with incredible marvels that were just as exciting as they were very terrifying.

this journey thana goes through is intense in all the best ways--with characters like mo & heru who get swept up in the sands and use their individual talents to add just as much splendor to this story as thana does. there's so much that goes on in this book, it's difficult to unpack just about everything but for one, there is necromancy, which is what primarily puts the "impossible" into this contract that throws thana into this mess of a quest. there's dust storms, ravaged cities, and death-defying actions made that put all these characters into quite a tumble and i was absolutely gobsmacked at how well-written all of it was. if i may be honest, the plot itself felt much more complex and ambitious than the first book and so could just as easily have twisted upon itself and yet it was actually impressively done. while there were a couple details that fell through the cracks, a character with as fierce a spirit as thana made this story as sweepingly genius as it is.

we meet her in amastan's story as what i believed to be a meek young girl with an incredible amount of weight that was soon to be (if not already) weighed on her shoulders as the Serpent's daugher. here, thana is much older, and much more passionate when it came to fulfilling that weight of expectations she's placed on herself in her family. the role of the assassin was something so intriguing to me from amastan's eyes, and here with thana, it felt much more razor-sharp and unpredictable because that is exactly what's part of the job. we see that alluded to at the beginning of this book, and even in a bittersweet reveal in the last book, and so it only made the evolving events of this story make sense. what was tricky, however, was seeing how thana was going to navigate what should've been a calculative kill that only just ended up to become a race across the sands into the heart of the Empire; all in the quest for information that is bound to unveil an incredible darkness well beyond her original mark.

within all that danger & mystery, the root of the story lied in the characters--and it was quite amusing thinking back to how different the dynamics were between them all. as a group--thana, mo, and heru--had their moments where it brought a lot of charm to what's otherwise a pretty grim adventure that they've found themselves caught up in. the author balancing this kind of charm with a grisly narrative was really interesting, and i enjoyed seeing how this pack worked together--just as much as i enjoyed when thana & heru broke ranks and slyly tried to best each other in death. seeing how they fail--multiple times--was what added to the charm, and even more so when thinking about how mo seemed the most level-headed of them all. adding onto that, mo became very important to thana in a way that made me smile because it was a classic kind of dynamic--the fire that bursts in thana's chest cooling as the comfortable weight of mo's connection to water comes near. i really loved this quote, just to say:

There was something about Mo's quiet yet firm demeanor, Mo's compassion for others, and Mo's delightful laugh that had wrapped around Thana and ensnared her. Like her cousin Amastan, Mo was serious enough for the both of them. But unlike him, there was a yearning for more.

this series places much more weight into the fantastical, into history, into adventure, above all else--but seeing the way that these relationships hold the seal to keep these characters tethered to their stories is a very significant thing. not just seeing how mo & thana are like with each other, but also getting to see how even off-page, amastan is seen to be a source of reason & comfort for when thana feels herself drowned in self-doubt. there's little interactions to be seen between this specific pair in the first book with amastan so caught up in this big mystery that was killing his own cousins; but here, in all the years that passed between both books, amastan & thana look to each other for support & guidance and you can't miss it.

ultimately, thana does learn how to stand on her own two feet and make her own decisions--whether or not it would seem best to her family, it's even better to see what she's capable of from making her own judgments with her own skills. yes, she's rash and still has much to learn but she's also quick on her feet and that leads her to make some unthinking calls that save mo & heru's lives at some points. i think even with how much her & heru clash in this story--heru for all that he represents (as revealed in this story) and also because he's such an academic, it would be absolutely fascinating if it wasn't for all the action & gory scenes that occur most often--they were another pair that worked well when the plot called for it, and even when they didn't, it added a depth to their characters that made them interesting to read about.

this book was very interesting to read about, and i am glad i finished it when i did because this review helped me realize that i do have some merit when it comes to talking about what i like about books--especially ones in the fantasy genre. this story was action-packed and a blend of different genres with horror and even some paranormal (?), which added an insidious tone that i was very delighted to read. i loved seeing thana shine in her own right and get pushed to her limits as she wrestled with the code her family followed with a grip and then what became such a clusterfuck of a situation it was almost laughable about quickly things mess up when they did....until there wasn't much to laugh about anymore. i'm really curious what will come next in this series that revolves around the city of Ghadid and all the cities that lie near it, and even more interested at what's at stake based on the events that occur around the last leg of this story. so only choice i have is to step forward and see for myself in the last book.

content warnings:
graphic descriptions of blood & violence, death, injury, possession, and some body horror
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