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Salt Chasers #1

Daughter of the Salt King

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As a daughter of the Salt King, Emel ought to be among the most powerful women in the desert. Instead, she and her sisters have less freedom than even her father's slaves … for the Salt King uses his own daughters to seduce visiting noblemen into becoming powerful allies by marriage.

Escape from her father's court seems impossible, and Emel dreams of a life where she can choose her fate. When members of a secret rebellion attack, Emel stumbles upon an alluring escape route: her father's best-kept secret—a wish-granting jinni, Saalim.

But in the land of the Salt King, wishes are never what they seem. Saalim's magic is volatile. Emel could lose everything with a wish for her freedom as the rebellion intensifies around her. She soon finds herself playing a dangerous game that pits dreams against responsibility and love against the promise of freedom. As she finds herself drawn to the jinni for more than his magic, captivated by both him and the world he shows her outside her desert village, she has to decide if freedom is worth the loss of her family, her home and Saalim, the only man she's ever loved.

448 pages, Hardcover

First published February 2, 2021

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About the author

A.S. Thornton

2 books206 followers
A.S. Thornton has evolved from book blogger to author with a particular fondness for writing forbidden love in ancient deserts.

She lives with her husband who deserves a trophy for the amount of gooey love scenes he’s edited. After spending time in Chicago and Colorado, they decided the snow is wholly overrated, and settled in Northern California.

When not writing, she’s taking care of dogs and cats as a veterinarian. You’ll never find animals at the center of her writing, though. Those fictional worlds don’t have veterinarians and her literal brain can’t accept that the poor critters would be without parasite prevention.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 200 reviews
Profile Image for Lucie V..
1,014 reviews2,071 followers
September 10, 2023
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley (thank you CamCat Publishing). All thoughts and opinions are my own.

✅ Atmosphere
✅ Desert / exotic setting
✅ Writing
✅ Romance
✅🆗 Plot
✅🆗 Characters

Emel is one of the 26 daughters of the salt king. She is an ahira, her only role is to sleep with any muhami (rich and powerful man) that wishes to marry a daughter of the salt king, and hope that he will like her enough to wed her and take her away from her golden prison. She has until she is 23 years old to get married, or she will be thrown out in the street. I liked that Emel is a confident woman and not a shy virgin. She endures and she is resilient, bright, and inquisitive, she fights for what she wants and does not give up on her dream of freedom and adventure even when it seems hopeless.

Saalim is a wish-granting jinni… basically a genie, but his magic comes from the goddess Masira, and he can grant as many wishes as his master asks for. After the only man to ever want to marry Emel dies, her dream of escaping her father seems far away and she befriends Saalim, enjoying his company instead of asking him to make all her trouble disappear. I liked the fact that he is not the one to decide how a wish is fulfilled, Masira decides and he has no choice on the matter. It gave him more depth as he feels remorse, sadness, and despair even sometimes, because of his position as a slave both to his master and to Masira.

I love you for now, I love you forever.

The setting of this book is a traditional desert setting, but I enjoyed it so much. The colorful clothing, the tents, the desert, and Emel’s longing to explore and discover what lies at the end of the desert. It was exotic and magical. The way Emel was seeking knowledge about the world and thought that leaves changing colors and falling, or mountains covered in iced water were invented stories, but kept asking about it, added a special touch to the story. It helped us feel how she craved freedom and adventure. The fact that the story is written in the first person allows us to feel Emel’s emotions, feel her anger at her father, or her happiness during her few stolen moments with Saalim.

The writing and the prose are also beautiful, and they helped create this magical and exotic setting. The descriptions and dialogues are well done, I was really immersed in Emel’s world and in her story. I just couldn’t put it down.

“Doing something despite what it cost you. Doing something had when you could choose something easy. That is brave.”

The romance is beautifully written, it is sweet and magical and well developed. It does not feel rushed or forced, I really enjoyed it. This story is also about being brave and strong even when you feel you have nothing left. Emel truly is an inspiring woman. She is trying to find herself and find a way to live and be happy instead of only surviving and waiting to be cast out or married to a stranger.

“Sorry, Mama. I do not care what you envision for my future. I don’t want it.

Sorry, Father. Your thoughts of my worth don’t align with mine, and I will have the final say.

Sorry, sisters. You may find the easier path the one that has the fewer turns, but that is not the path I will choose. I can’t sacrifice myself for you or for anyone.”

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Profile Image for A. S..
Author 2 books206 followers
June 10, 2020
I am so thrilled to finally share my novel with all of you on this platform. I hope that you will show it all the bookish love and add it to your to-read shelf.

If you need any more convincing, DAUGHTER OF THE SALT KING is an adult fantasy novel set in an ancient desert about young woman who finds her father’s darkest secret: his wish-granting jinni. If you like strong female protagonists, forbidden love, the comfort of friendship and the complexity of family, and volatile magic with a touch of darkness, then this novel is for you.
Profile Image for Cori.
851 reviews147 followers
February 5, 2021
Thank you, Netgalley, for the Advanced Reader Copy of this book. All views and opinions are my own.

This book is now available in the public sector.

Let me preface this review by saying this is an adult novel. NOT YA. While tastefully done for the most part, the setting for the main female character lends itself to mature readers.

Emel is one of many daughters of the Salt King. Her sole purpose in life is to be chosen as a wife by someone from a neighboring area, therefore solidifying allegiances and securing his power; in addition, anyone coming to seek a wife is allowed to taste the goods before they decide on one. And then Emel goes and falls in love with her father's jinni that no one is supposed to know exists. Very inconvenient.

I enjoyed this book quite a bit though. A.S. Thornton is a new writer for me, but I would definitely look for more of her work in the future. Because this was an ARC, I did stumble across a few spelling errors and some sticky metaphors, but I'm sure at least the errors will be fixed before print.

I'd rate this book an R for sexual content (although surprisingly not super explicit) including what could arguably be considered rape, some mild language, some violence and gore, and an uncomfortable scene that nodded towards inappropriate sexual behavior in terms of incest although nothing more than petting. If sexual trauma is in someone's history and still to any degree raw, this is probably one story to avoid.
Profile Image for Bright Star.
418 reviews126 followers
July 5, 2022
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a honest review

Daughter of the Salt King was such a pleasant surprise! I didn't know what to expect from this book but I didn't expect to love it so much! With a compelling writing style, be ready to immerse yourself in a story made of magic and forbidden love, of strenght and sacrifice, a tale where the characters will do everything in their power to change and decide their fate. Do not expect action at every turn. It's a character driven story and you'll see their growth through the entire book. The romance was beautiful and well developed, and I adored Emel and Saalim's relationship. The ending was unexpected (I was so sure it was a stand-alone) and I wish I had the sequel already in my hands. A.S. Thornton's debut book is truly a little gem.

“Doing something despite what it cost you. Doing something hard when you could choose something easy. That is brave.”

I definitely recommend Daughter of the Salt King if you love books set in Arabia/Middle East with strong characters and a touch of magic.
Profile Image for Natalie  all_books_great_and_small .
2,221 reviews77 followers
January 18, 2021
I received an advance reader copy of this book to read in exchange for an honest review via netgalley and the publishers.

Daughter of the Salt King is an amazing magical fantasy story about Emel who is one of the many daughters of her father - the Salt King.
Emel and her sisters are ahira's - their role in the Palace is to capture the attention and eye of men who come to seek them as their wives to form alliances with the King and make him more powerful with more allies to form a bigger army. The ahiras have to spend up to three nights with their suitors and then the suitor will make a decision to marry them or not (they can,if they please, take a different ahira each evening or even choose to sleep aline). Emel longs to be chosen as a wife so she can escape from the Salt King and his wicked ways, but alas no suitors ever choose her as their wife.
Emel unexpectedly has an encounter with a powerful, magical jinni called Saalim and her life spins on its axis, changing it forever.

Emel is an amazing character who I developed deep respect for. She is strong, fearless and resilient in the life and environment she lives in, and never gives up on hope for a different, better and freer life.
Saalim is such an enchanting and charismatic character who longs for his own freedom away from the life as a slave to the Salt King and many other masters before him. Emel and Saalims paths cross and nothing will be the same again.

I lived the exotic desert setting in this book and found it richly described and brought to life. I couldn't read fast enough at the end of the book, to discover what would happen and have been left with hope that there may be a sequel from how the ending happened.
Profile Image for Di Maitland.
266 reviews80 followers
November 30, 2020
‘A golden jinni bound by magic, a dark-eyed ahira shackled by a king. Dreams of joy despite our impossible love.’

4.5*s. I wished for this book on NetGalley and my wish was granted. That this book, about jinnis who grant wishes, should come to me in this way is beyond perfect. And what a read! I devoured it and can only hope that Thornton finds encouragement in the reception of her first novel and continues to write.

Emel is an ahira, one of the twenty-six daughters of the Salt King who must sleep with and woo visiting dignitaries and, with their eventual marriage, form important alliances for their father. Should they not be taken as bride by twenty-three, they are thrown into the streets with nothing and no-one. After over a dozen close but ultimately fruitless courtings, Emel has just over a year until this becomes her fate.

Saalim is a jinni, a channel through which the goddess Masira grants wishes, though not always in the way that the wisher intends. Bound to serve the Salt King, he is surprised one day to find Emel opening his vessel. Whilst Emel is wary of taking the jinni from her father, and wary of the jinni himself, a bond is formed between the two, and soon Emel must decide who’s freedom means more, hers or that of the one she loves, for both cannot get what they wish for.
“I want to see you more. If that means I must steal time from the gods, then I will. If you’ll allow it, that is.”

I admit, I do love a desert romance. Like every other genre, they suffer their tropes and this book does contain its fair share: sleazy despot, rather pathetic harem, standard desert setting with tented habitations, etc. However, I enjoyed that this book did three things rather differently. Firstly, the jinni was not all powerful and conceited, but gentle and kind, enjoying life’s small pleasures. Secondly, the King’s daughters were not all wilting virgins, but experienced bed partners with many a raunchy suggestion. And lastly, Emel does not own and control the jinni, spending her whole time wishing away the difficulties in her life. Instead, she fights her own battles and enjoys the jinni for his company and not for what he can do for her.

I liked Emel. She was brave and inquisitive, hard-working and kind. Some of her sisters considered her selfish, but only fear held back those that did not follow her. I appreciated that she didn’t demand or expect miracles. In fact, at times, I felt she was more abstemious than she should have or needed to be.
“Beware of the man in gold, for he will steal your heart.”

Saalim has my heart. He was confident, without being cocky; patient and gentle, without being wet. After hundreds of years of imprisonment, he’s resigned to his fate and yet hasn’t lost his capacity to hope for change. He may have the power of a god at his finger tips, but I found I just wanted to wrap him up in a hug and keep him safe.

The book was well paced and compelling. Towards the end, I got a little confused by Emel’s plan and the consequences of the magic wielded, but it all came clear eventually. I respect Thornton for not gushing at the end with a million and one epilogues spelling out the future of Emel and Saalim, but at the same time, I wouldn’t have complained if we’d gotten a little more. Material for the next book perhaps!

Would I recommend this? Yes! It’s a great, easy read; young-adult for sure, but not eye-rollingly so. Fans of The Wrath and the Dawn are sure to like it. Please do continue to write, Thornton. I’ll be on the look out for your next book.
Profile Image for Mike.
405 reviews103 followers
April 8, 2021
Trigger warning for nonconsensual sex.

I have a lot of problems with this book. It was a rare Did Not Finish for me - it’s been over a year since my last DNF. But it was an ARC, so I promised a fair review.

The protagonist is the daughter of a desert king, who maintains power thanks to his control of the salt trade (hence the title). She is one of many daughters (the king has a harem), and her only purpose in life is to get married off to her father’s advantage and be (one of) the wives of someone who will support dear ol’ dad. She dreams of the world outside of the palace tents, but all she really hopes for is to get a husband before she gets put out to fend for herself at the decrepit age of 23. Plot happens, and she finds out that the secret behind her father’s power is a wish-granting jinni.

My first issue with this book relates to the jinni. Wishes are risky; if your wish isn’t phrased wisely, it will get twisted. Carelessly phrased wishes can have catastrophic results. Now, that’s a perfectly solid premise for a joke involving a man with a 12-inch pianist. For a book? It’s weak. Even Homer Simpson is able to handle that kind of an issue. Although, conveniently, it’s not what the wish twisting isn’t something the jinni can actually control (because reasons) so he can still be a decent guy.

Which leads to my second big issue. Of course the princess and the jinni start to fall for each other. (I didn’t bother to spoiler tag that because it only spoils the blurb of the book). And suddenly the protagonist is prepared to push back against the unjust life she’s always endured. Not for any particular reason, but rather just because … there’s a guy she wants to be with? I’m doing a very bad job of explaining this, but let’s just say there’s a distinct lack of character motivation here as far as I’m concerned.

So far everything I’ve described has been issues with plot. Might not make for an interesting book, but it doesn’t make for an offensive one, and this book was offensive.

So the lesser of my two serious complaints is all the racist stereotyping, and hoo boy there’s a lot of it. I expected some degree of Bedouin or Taureg stereotypes to be at play, but Thornton really leans into it. And she does so uncritically, which is worse. It’s not good at all. But it’s also not the worst.

So observant readers may have noticed that I used the phrase “nonconsensual sex” with the trigger warning up top and not “rape.” I wasn’t trying to soft pedal, in the manner of news outlets talking about powerful men having “illegal relationships with underage women” instead of “raping children.” It was a very deliberate word choice.

Because there’s one twist to the stereotyping that I haven’t seen before. As I mentioned earlier, the protagonist and her sisters are kept cloistered until they’re married off. But before marriage has to come courtship, or at least a proposal. So how does a prospective suitor choose his bride? He goes to the salt king, and if the salt king thinks he’d make a decent son-in-law, he is granted the opportunity to review all the eligible daughters. And he gets to take one that catches his eye and try her out for a few nights. A “try before you buy” kind of deal. Oh, you didn’t like your first choice? She didn’t do it for you for whatever reason? No problem, just pick another and take her for a spin!

It’s hard to express just how offensive this is.

I can handle offensive. The Handmaid’s Tale has an offensive premise, but there the offensiveness is the POINT. Margaret Atwood handles it respectfully and thoughtfully, 100% aware of what she is doing and why she is doing it. Here? It’s just thrown in for a little extra spice. I’ve said before how much I hate lazy authors throwing in a gratuitous rape scene to prove their grimdark bonafides, but at least that has a point, even if a cheap one. I honestly don’t know what the author was thinking with this.

Special thanks to my fellow mods who listened to me rant about this book on Discord and then convinced me to just put the thing down and DNF it. I owe you a solid.
Profile Image for kaylie!.
357 reviews72 followers
January 28, 2021
☆ advanced reader copy from edelweiss ☆

Whoa, this book surprised me by how much I loved it.

From the first chapter, I was enthralled by Thornton's writing style and my love for her writing only grew. The way she developed this world and how lyrical her writing was blew me away. The writing made me feel I was in this desert world she created. The world-building was definitely one of the highs in this novel.

I want to briefly mention character development. I say briefly because this is the first book in a duology so it's not the end of the character's arcs. That being said, Emel and Saalim's characters felt very superficial. Saalim's more so than Emel.

The romance in here was very much the centerpiece of the novel. With little plot, the romance was all the reader had to keep them engaged in the story. Despite the romance being quite insta-lovey, I still enjoyed them together and I'm eager to see where they go in book 2 ESPECIALLY after the ending.

Before about the 80% mark, this was a three star read for me but the ending blew me away. Albeit, a bit predictable but still thrilling nonetheless. Beware: the cliffhanger is rather brutal.

I cannot wait to see where this story goes in book 2.

It's gonna be a long wait...
Profile Image for D.B. Woodling.
Author 12 books186 followers
February 4, 2021
The author of Daughter of the Salt King adventurously unravels her main character’s—Emel—desperate longing for freedom from a world in which her father not only considers her nothing more than prized property but graciously treats her suitors to a humiliating test drive, all in his attempt to beguile the highest bidder.

Stumbling upon her father’s most prized possession, a tarnished bejeweled vessel, Emel discovers jinni do exist outside of myths and fairy tales and that this particular jinn is the explanation behind her otherwise drunken and gluttonous father’s extraordinary power. Tempted by this promising solution to her problem, Emel deliberates her success, convinced that should she not verbalize her wish succinctly that the jinn’s trickster master will gleefully and disastrously pervert her intent.

Sprinkling in descriptive verse, Thornton successfully transports her readers into an arid desert complete with sand-pelted tents beneath a scorching and unforgiving sun, skillfully communicating a foul stench of body odor borne of both oppressive heat and constant fear of a tyrannical leader’s wrath and the palpable eroticism as shared between Emel and the jinn.

Although fantasy romance is typically not my genre of choice, I enjoyed this novel and wholeheartedly recommend it to all romance, fantasy, and historical fiction fans!
Profile Image for Beatrice in Bookland.
460 reviews838 followers
March 3, 2021
"Doing something despite what it costs you.
Doing something hard when you could choose something easy. That is brave."

This is a debut novel? A. S. Thortnton already writes better than many other authors with published books. She also writes cruel endings and I want the sequel now.
Profile Image for Kilikina.
677 reviews262 followers
January 14, 2021
Thank you so much to NetGalley and CamCat Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Daughter of the Salt King was a great debut. Magic, romance, a harsh kingdom & land, and jinni. All of these things are right up my alley, and I’m happy that I enjoyed this.

Emel was a wonderful heroine. She had a very unconventional life and I loved that she wasn’t a quitter. I loved the story between Emel and her family, and with Saalim. The two storylines were great on their own and I loved when they came together. Torn between duty, love, and freedom, I loved watching Emel navigate it all.

Even though this was a standalone, the ending was perfect and wrapped everything up nicely.
Profile Image for A Mac.
813 reviews141 followers
June 12, 2022
Emel is a daughter to the Salt King, the mightiest ruler in the land thanks to his monopoly on the precious commodity. She and her sisters don’t have a life of luxury though. They are expected by the king to entertain his guests and wed the nobility that visit. Emel has yet to be married and fears that her time is running out to escape her father’s court. As rebels begin to rise against the Salt King, Emel stumbles across a wish-granting jinni – is it possible that her luck is about to change?

I felt that the setting of this work never came to life. The worldbuilding was barely adequate; it wasn’t full of rich cultural history or lore, which left me wanting more. Stereotypical tropes were used to define this Arabic-inspired world but weren’t explored in a meaningful or critical way (several of these tropes might also be considered racist). However, the author did do a good job at painting the court as a place of confinement and suffocation, which helped the reader to empathize with Emel’s struggles.

The characters were fine but not outstanding. Emel was disappointing as a protagonist overall. She defines herself throughout the work by her worth to men, which is reasonable at the beginning based on her situation. But by the middle and end, she’s still defining herself by Saalim to the point where escaping isn’t a priority anymore, just being with him is. This would have been an excellent chance for character growth. Instead, the characters are stagnant.

There were a few things that I didn’t care for. There were graphic sexual scenes throughout the work, some of it non-consensual, that didn’t forward the plot or character development at all. This work probably could have been about 100 pages less with some decent editing – there were scenes that were honestly quite repetitive and didn’t add anything meaningful to the work. Also, this work didn’t have much of a plot, which led to it slowing down drastically in several places. I disliked how after something major happened, the author wrote, “If only I’d know nothing would go as planned” – this not only spoiled the current scene but made me less interested in reading more since I know events were going to backfire.

The premise of this work was interesting but wasn’t executed well. The setting, plot, and characters were all lacking in depth and meaning. This was an okay read, but I didn’t enjoy it overall.

I received a complimentary copy of this work through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.
Profile Image for Shannon.
Author 2 books191 followers
February 24, 2021
Thank you CamCat Books for giving me an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

I enjoyed this book so much?? When I read the synopsis, I knew this would be an interesting read. An adult fantasy book set in an ancient desert with strong female lead and a wish-granting jinni? Sign me up!

I don't know where to start but I'll mention the world-building as the first thing that captivated me. I loved how the writing brought vivid images in my head on how enchanting and mesmerizing the world was. I felt like I was there at the hot and dry desert in every twists and turns. It definitely has the potential to be explored more in the sequel.

Another thing that stood out is the characters. For a moment, they were real. Their pain and joy as well as their desires and dreams filled me. I didn't read this book just for my own entertainment but also for them.

Emel was one of the daughters of the Salt King. I really adore how strong and brave she was. Her development througout this book amazed me because she learned from her mistakes and turned out to be the better version of herself. I do hope she'd get her happy ending in the sequel, Emel deserves it!

Saalim surprised me with his past and character depth. At the beginning, I thought he'd just be the jinni who would end up with the main character. But I applauded Thornton for giving him a bigger role and purpose in the story rather than just be Emel's love interest. I can't wait to know more about him!

I loved how complex the relationships in this book were. Emel's love for her sisters wasn't easy and without its challenges. She did get mad and at times chose herself over her sisters but that's what happen in real life. Sometimes, I too would done what Emel did but at the end, we'd stand by them no matter what.

I liked the friendship between Emel and Firoz because I think it was precious. They were so supportive and would do anything to protect each other. Meanwhile, Emel and Saalim's romantic relationship was too fast for my taste but they grew on me eventually. I especially loved their moments nearing the end because it showed how much they trust and love each other.

Overall, Daughter of the Salt King was a thrilling and magical adult fantasy book. It offered a unique tale with awesome world-building, lyrical writing, and interesting characters. I really liked it and cannot wait for the sequel of this promising duology! This is perfect for you who enjoy The Wrath and the Dawn or for those who are looking for a fast-paced, addicting fantasy read.
Profile Image for Charity (Booktrovert Reader).
527 reviews193 followers
August 4, 2022
This is a read that took me by surprise. This story reminds me of an Aladdin retelling but of the point of view of Jasmine. I love how imaginative it is in the story telling. You really can get engulfed in the story, romance and world of Emil, our main character.

Even though the story is unique and can be captivating, the pacing of the story was off, so I struggled to engage with the plot. There were times the dialogue lagged and kind of wanted to skip along for something that was more interesting. But were afraid to because something could happen that could be interesting.

For me, it was hard to read and get into the story because of the brainwashing our character endured. Emel was basically in a cult that her father had created. She strongly believed in her freedom only by marrying a man. That these suitors would bed one of the king's daughters to see if they would want to marry any of them. Basically, getting a sample before making a purchase.

Personally, this was a hard read even though it was beautifully written.
Profile Image for Carola.
495 reviews32 followers
April 14, 2021
Thank you CamCat Books and NetGalley for providing me an e-arc in exchange for an honest review. My review is my own and not influenced by others.

Multiple times I picked up this e-arc to read and every time I got very annoyed and irritated. The characters, the world building, and the writing style felt flat. The story made me feel uncomfortable and it made me angry because a soother gets the opportunity to ''try'' each sister to see which of them he likes in his bed. If the sister is not what he is looking for in bed, then he can decide to ''try'' another sister until he finds the sister he wants to marry. The sisters can't deny and are pushed to mary as soon as possible.

I can't understand why a writer would choose this kind of story to write, what the purpose of this could be and to be honest, I don't think I want to know it because choosing to write a story like this made me angry.

This is why I decided after many times trying to DNF this book.
Profile Image for Gabbibuu.
274 reviews9 followers
December 31, 2020
One day. It took me only one day to read Daughter of the Salt King, a book with around 450+ pages. That is crazy. So it goes without saying that it kept me thoroughly immersed throughout the whole story. I mean, a jinni romance? YES.
It tells the story of Emel, a daughter of the Salt King, the most powerful ruler in the whole desert. Like all her sisters, her obligation and end are to seduce and bed the numerous princes and powerful men that visit her father's court.
The book was mainly a character-driven story, and thankfully, Emel was such a great main character, like all the others we meet during the story. I loved everything about her, especially her ambition.
I liked the writing and the atmosphere depicted by it. Even though actions happened mainly in similar little tents, it still felt like such a magical world.
But the ending, THE ENDING! I can't believe it ended that way. My poor heart will never heal.
Definitely worth a read.

ARC provided by Netgalley and the publisher.
Profile Image for Marta Cox.
2,630 reviews194 followers
December 17, 2020
I was immediately drawn to this book because in my opinion there just are not enough books written about the Djinn or Jinni as referred to here. If you expect a palace filled with riches you will be sorely disappointed because the Salt King and his harem, children and army live in a tent city that is to my mind far from luxurious.
Emel is desperate to escape her life which is far from pleasant. She sneaks out whenever possible escaping the debauchery and twisted coercion that lies within. Whilst playing host to a would be royal suitor the King is attacked which leads Emel to discover his greatest secret, a Jinni who protects him but can this trickster Jinni also help Emel ?
I feel this book will be divisive although I personally enjoyed it. The Princesses have to be married before they hit twenty three or face being banished which whilst harsh means they can be quite competitive. The King is vile and offers whichever daughter is chosen by the possible future alliance as a plaything for three nights . Yes that is prostitution by modern standards which hits hard particularly as the story progressed. Emel and Saalim slowly begin a secret relationship of sorts as time ticks away and the secret rebellion against the King gather pace as old legends become reality leaving Emel reeling as reality changes beyond all reason .
As I have stated I really enjoyed this although at times it was a harrowing read but stay with it because it takes the reader on a journey that is intriguing and I definitely want to read the next book.
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 Kahlia.
548 reviews36 followers
February 9, 2021
2.5 stars

Daughter of the Salt King is a desert fantasy, about a girl who falls in love with a jinni with the power to grant wishes. I really enjoyed this book at the beginning, but ultimately found myself wishing for a book that actually lived up to its feminist promise.

To start with, I think Thornton is a solid writer with a knack for description: this book evokes a sense of the great, endless desert stretching far out onto the horizon, as well as the suffocating nature of the palace where the main character, Emel, resides. I really love settings of this type, so if you’re looking for something other than the typical medieval fantasy, I would typically recommend this book.

However; the actual world-building that sits under the prose felt lazy, due to a heavy reliance on tropes (that could be construed as racist, depending on how you squint). This is a fantasy novel that is Arabic-inspired and set in a desert, so of course the king is a cruel despot with a harem of wives, the daughters are routinely forced to provide sexual pleasure to sleazy old men, and the only gay couple in the books could be put to death if they’re caught. I don’t mind stories that explore sexism and homophobia through the lens of a made-up world, but this book didn’t really shed any light on these issues. Frankly, I’m tired of reading books where women’s (lack of) rights to bodily autonomy are an accepted part of the setting, without no or limited critique.

My issues in this regard extend to Emel’s character. When we first meet Emel, she is trapped in the palace with twenty-six other sisters, and her only hope of escape is to be married off to one of the rich and powerful men from the neighbouring lands who come to court them. Emel is desperate to escape the confines of the palace and see more of the outside world, but she also defines her entire self-worth in relation to men – her desire to please her father, and her terror at potentially being thrown on the scrap-heap and deemed worthless if she doesn’t secure a husband soon. The djinni, Saalim, offers her a chance at a better life, but soon all Emel’s wishes are bound up with him – another man, even if this one isn’t quite human. By the end of the book, Emel’s desire to leave the palace simply to adventure becomes almost a secondary goal. There simply isn’t a lot of character growth; Emel’s sister Sabra, and her friend Firoz have much more interesting character arcs that we barely get to see.

For what it’s worth, I did enjoy the romance – Thornton captures the sheer overwhelmingness of falling in love well, and Saalim’s backstory is slowly unfurled throughout the book, allowing him to maintain an air of tantalising mystery. Saalim’s story is also intrinsically linked to the desert setting, which helped bring the world to life. I just wish more time had been dedicated to developing Emel’s character and poking holes in the sexist world she lived in.

Note: I received an ARC from CamCat Books. Daughter of the Salt King was released on 2 February 2021.
Profile Image for Jenna.
194 reviews404 followers
January 31, 2021
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Thank you Netgalley and ComCat Books for an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve seen a bit of confusion in some other reviews, so I would like to reiterate that this is an adult fantasy novel, as stated by the author. It’s fine if you “don’t agree” with the categorization, but for reader transparency that is how it is labelled, and due to the overall premise of the story I find it fitting. Also, I was wrongfully under the impression that this was a standalone novel, it very much is not and thank goodness - this is a duology (my personal favorite!)

Alright, onto the story - I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I was scrolling on Netgalley, saw the premise and thought it looked interesting and ta-da here we are. Now, I can see how this book will not work for everyone. It is a very stationary novel, meaning that the majority of it takes place in the Salt King’s kingdom (is it actually a kingdom, idk his place of residence) and the surrounding city. Additionally, there is not an abundance of action, this is more of a story of self-discovering, sacrifice and recognizing one’s own inner strength. I found this story to be captivating from the very beginning, which is also a major plus for me as most novels take me 50-100 pages to find my reading rhythm.

I will say that Emel’s situation may be difficult for some to read, so I would definitely check the trigger warnings. Essentially, the King’s daughters are “pimped” out to elite men across the desert, in order for the Salt King to use their marriages to ensure that these men will be his allies and not rise up against him. Okay, now I know that doesn’t sound to far-fetched from a lot of history, but the thing is these men can bed his daughters for up to three days before deciding if they’ll marry the ahira (positional name for the king’s daughters), marry a different ahira, or leave altogether without accepting a bride. That made me so sick, to think a father could do that to their own children. The Salt King, is a sad, pathetic twisted man, and even if life situations have hardened him I have no sympathy for parents who take for granted their position in their children’s life - tsk tsk. I mean sure, it sucks that life could have dealt you a bad hand, but life does that to everyone and you don’t get to cope by making your children’s lives miserable. To make matters worse, if the women aren’t selected by their twenty-third birthday, they are cast out, with nothing to their name, as if their worth has suddenly diminished. I truly felt for Emel and all of her sisters and their plight leads to certain “conflict” within the book, because obviously people are going to handle their cruddy hand at life in varying manners.

To clarify, trauma sucks and can manifest itself in different ways and that’s valid and we are all human. However, we also have a responsibility to take ownership of our actions and try and heal for ourselves and for those we love. Obviously, this is not easy or something that is achieved overnight, but as a reader, I can recognize a traumatic experience and also call out the problematic behaviour a character is exhibiting and inflicting onto others because of their trauma.

There were also several complaints of this being very insta-lovey, and yes I guess it was instant in an instant, but it also wasn’t. I thought the romance was well done, beautiful, and full of pain and burdens that one would expect for a relationship between two people, slaves to the king, and seemingly unable to have any say in their future. I was very pro-Saalim, and liked the explanation of the magic and how wishes worked in this world. However, during one scene I wanted to shake some sense into him and exchange a few choice words. Personally, I have not read a lot of desert romances so I cannot say if this is uber tropey, or how it stacks up, but the book was fun for me, albeit quite a bit linear. The pace does begin to increase in the last 30% of the novel, as seems to be typical in most books, and for a beat there it felt a bit confusing, however I think the author did a good job of clearing things up.

This is not an Own Voices novel, and I cannot speak to the lore of this story. Nothing seemed overly insensitive or offensive where I was able to recognize it, but considering I am not an Own Voices reviewer for this novel, please take this with a grain of salt (hahaha I kind of made a pun). I did peruse other reviews and saw no commentary on cultural insensitivity, but like I said please listen to and respect OV reviewers if something does arise.

All in all, I had fun with this story and enjoyed meeting the various characters. I am excited to see how things conclude in the sequel, as I was left with my curiosity piqued. No, I wouldn’t say that this book ends on a cliffhanger, all major plot points from the first story are concluded, however the story clearly is not finished, so if you liked it you’ll probably want to continue on. Best of luck to A.S. Thornton on her debut, and I will keep my eye out for this author going forward.
Profile Image for Books and H2O.
55 reviews1 follower
November 30, 2020
I read this book in one fell swoop; it was wholly absorbing and dug its claws into me right from the beginning.

The story is written in the first-person style through the eyes of the female protagonist, Emel. Thanks to the prose which provides wonderfully constructed her accounts and emotions, I reacted viscerally to her experiences; there were moments I genuinely felt her rage boil inside me, her claustrophobia choke me, her stolen moments of happiness evoke a sense of ebullience, and when she was disconsolate, I, too, fell into the sadness. Through every beautifully crafted line, I was sutured into the reality and narrative of the story.

As a first-person narrative, this was character-centric and not focused on the overarching world-building, such as the characters, their interactions, and their experiences. I can imagine for those driven by narratives, this may be a challenging read, but I think it was a perfect and well-done encapsulation of the human condition. I loved that we followed one person’s experience and as such, learned and felt through them. Are there missing perspectives? Yes. However, this isn’t about that. This story is about one woman’s journey to freedom, and as such, we experience the trials and tribulations through her eyes.

Before I forget - how could I forget, I want to give an honorable mention to Saalim. I absolutely adored him and all his flaws. He was a realistic character who, although powerful, struggled with the consequences of choice. For me, his relationship with Emel was perfect and painful and, in the end, hopeful.

The ending had the conclusions necessary for the characters and enough vague hope for readers to be satisfied. However, I think there is an opening here for another installment, and I would gladly read it in a heartbeat.

If it was unclear before, I loved this book. I recommend this to anyone, anywhere. Do yourself a favor and read this, recommend this, and experience this.

Merged review:

I read this book in one fell swoop; it was wholly absorbing and dug its claws into me right from the beginning.

The story is written in the first-person style through the eyes of the female protagonist, Emel. Thanks to the prose, which wonderfully constructed Emel's accounts and emotions, I reacted viscerally to her experiences; there were moments I genuinely felt her rage boil inside me, her claustrophobia choke me, her stolen moments of happiness evoke a sense of ebullience, and when she was disconsolate, I, too, fell into the sadness. Through every beautifully crafted line, I was sutured into the reality and narrative of the story.

As a first-person narrative, this was character-centric; it was not bogged down by the inclusion of minutia necessary for larger world-building. Instead, we get a robust account of the characters, their interactions, and their experiences. I can imagine for those driven by narratives, this may be a challenging read, but I think it was a perfect and well-done encapsulation of the human condition. I loved that we followed one person’s experience and as such, learned and felt through them. Are there missing perspectives? Yes. However, this isn’t about that. This story is about one woman’s journey to freedom, and as such, we experience the trials and tribulations through her eyes.

Before I forget - how could I forget, I want to give an honorable mention to Saalim. I absolutely adored him and all his flaws. He was a realistic character who, although powerful, struggled with the consequences of choice. For me, his relationship with Emel was perfect and painful and, in the end, hopeful.

The ending had the conclusions necessary for the characters and enough vague hope for readers to be satisfied. However, I think there is an opening here for another installment, and I would gladly read it in a heartbeat.

If it was unclear before, I loved this book. I recommend this to anyone, anywhere. Do yourself a favor and read this, recommend this, and experience this.

Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Sheena ☆ Book Sheenanigans .
1,440 reviews360 followers
December 21, 2020

I didn’t hate ‘Daughter of the Salt King’ but the love was not completely there.

The author could have easily cut this down to 300+ pages. There were many scenes that were redundant and it only allowed the story to drag on. Page by page, I keep wondering, "Okay, soooo was something supposed to happen by now? Where is the excitement? Where is the built up for an epic conclusion?" Sadly, nothing really significant happened besides the fairly decent world building.

It was a fine read and a promising start for this debut author don’t get me wrong but was I the only one that felt like this was missing something? That certain flare to make this a knockout? I can't put it into words, but that spark wasn't there. I had enjoyed this for the most part though 2/4 through the excitement I once had started to fizzle—I wasn't completely wow'd. I wish the author included an unexpected twist or turn to help fully engross me. The plot was thin to say the least and there was no character development (I am looking at you Emel!). I don’t know... I just felt stuck and in my opinion, a whole lot of nothing was happening.

Now with the romantic aspect of this fantasy novel—I didn’t buy into it. The (instant) romance and chemistry between Emel and Saalim was meh. I just didn’t see the connection between them at all and honestly, I probably would have liked them better if their relationship was more platonic. They were boring. My goodness they were boring. Firoz (and his boo Rashid) and Sabra were far more interesting, and they were the side characters.

When all's said and done, was I impressed with this read? No. I thought there would be more action, more adventure, more growth with the characters (especially with the main) but it didn't entirely work for me. The premise was there and unfortunately, it was not fully executed by the author.

Profile Image for Kirsty.
273 reviews17 followers
December 13, 2020
Thank you to Net galley for the advanced reader copy ebook of Daughter of the Salt King

Emel is the daughter of the Salt King. A king who gained his power and rule by the hand of a Jinni who grants his wishes. To hold onto his power the Salt King uses Emel and the rest of his daughters to seduce visiting noblemen to gain their hand in marriage and become powerful allies to the Salt King.

Emel learns of Saalim and the magic that binds him to her father. Emel discovers that wishes arent always what the seam and fate has a terrible hand of giving you what you wished for in the most dangerous ways.

When i requested this arc i had only read the first paragraph of the synopsis and i went into reading this ebook almost blind. I wasnt disappointed and i was pleasantly surprised of how quickly i fell under its charm. I loved exploring the desert, i felt anger at the Salt King for his abuse of his daughters, i felt hope for Emel who longed to leave her fathers clutches. And i felt joy at the forbidden love that grew between Saalim and Emel.

What i would say is that i would not class this as a YA for the simple fact that the scenes of sex and seduction are not suitable for younger ya readers. I also think it would be helpful for a glossary of the middle Eastern names to be written with a pronunciation guide at the start. I spent a few chapters stumbling over the names until my mind settled on a name that sounded like it might correct. Other than these two points i found nothing to fault.

4 magical stars
Profile Image for Britney Brown.
18 reviews1 follower
January 31, 2021
The description doesn’t say this is an Aladdin retelling but it’s hard not to see the similarities. Emel is the daughter of a desert king and her main role in life is to get married to strengthen her fathers kingdom. She has until her 23rd birthday to get married or she will be cast out. By the end of the book she’s 22 so that day isn’t far off. Despite her beauty she has not been chosen by a suitor. Meanwhile her favorite past time is sneaking out of the palace to experience the joys of the village. Except in this story the man in the village prefers other men and she falls in love with the genie. Saalim is trapped in his curse and at the mercy of her father (his master) and the goddess Masira (Saalim is merely a stand in - she’s really granting the wishes). The goddess is interesting here because she is certainly painted in an unflattering light but it’s unclear yet if she’s truly a villain.

I loved this book mostly because of Emel. She’s strong and resourceful. It’s hard at times because her life is terrible and I really wanted her to make a wish because cmon honey it really can’t get much worse. But I think this is the case of preferring the devil you know so Emel does her best with the cards she’s dealt. The story is truly a mix of things getting so bad she truly stops having more to lose and Emel gaining the confidence to stand up for herself and take the necessary risks. The ending is truly perfect and I will definitely be anxiously awaiting the sequel!

This review is in exchange for an ARC through NetGalley.
Profile Image for KNBooks.
26 reviews12 followers
December 7, 2020
ARC provided by NetGalley

Daughter of the Salt King was an eloquently written romance. The style is very reminiscent of Arabian love poetry. The world building sucks you into the desert, leaving you with images of the sunset over dunes, sudden rainstorms, and kisses stolen in shadows. I look forward to seeing what other stories this author might tell.
Profile Image for Button.
45 reviews
February 22, 2021
I need the second book now. What a beautifully written book with an original premise and plot. Characters are portrayed with all the complexity of real people. The plot is fresh and well paced. Some lines so well written it felt like poetry. Not a spoiler but an example of one of my favorite lines, “I love you as a musician loves his hands, as a nomad loves his feet.” Just wonderful.
Profile Image for Moony (Captain Mischief) MeowPoff.
1,567 reviews133 followers
March 15, 2021
First of all. LOOK AT THAT COVER. it`s so beautiful, like it beholds a story unilke any other.
And, it dose. This book is so beautiful a story about a Jinni and the daughter of the salt king and their forbidden impossible love, but also freedom, dangerous magic and more. I just love the characters so, espesially the main character. But the side-characters were also written so very well, i found myself hating the salt king, i found myself disliking, but also understanding Sabra and feeling happy for Tavi. It was so many more characters ofcourse, and some were so infuriating, some were kind and did not deserve to die. I did cry, i was frustrated, i held my breath and i was so happy... i had so many emotions going through this book. Emel was my favorite character: brave, strong, fierce, wounderable and loving... and her love with the Jinni was so well written, it did not feel rushed or forced...it just magically and sometimes, slowly and aching...grew. So so beautiful.

I look forward to the next book!

I got this eARC from Netgalley in exhange for a honest review .
Profile Image for Avy ❄️.
300 reviews64 followers
June 27, 2021
Not sure how to feel about this one. The world building was very serious, and the plot kept me going, but is it up there with the greats? Sadly, not really. A good read to get me out of my slump, but not the earth shattering read I was looking for. The writing was decent albeit a bit slow at times, and the characters were intriguing enough for me to want to know what will happen. Hopefully book 2 will give me a bit more
Profile Image for KarinaLovesBooks (Karina).
298 reviews23 followers
January 10, 2021
Welcome to this book review, disclaimer : I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, but my thoughts are my own and it in no way affected my review of the book.

TW: rape (-ish but like really anything not 100% consensual should've had a trigger warning and is rape) also incest (SWEET HOME ALABAMA)

I requested this book because of the title, I will be completely honest I went into it knowing nothing, not even the blurb and it was a mistake. This is the sort of book that I HAD to go back and read the blurb before going further into it because I was confused. Not to say that you learn nothing from it as you read it, but it got confusing in the beginning and it greatly helped to have a vague idea of where I believed the storyline was going. So beware, this is not a book you can go into blindly or it will get confusing and you will be feeling lost.

Now unto the actual review, or more like what I thought of this book. I was disappointed. There are no other way to put this, I was intrigued at first and once I finally got into it it was okay but nothing that I want to pick up again and again, nothing I will be referencing or thinking about later, it did not leave a lasting mark on me. It is a jinni romance which is a nice change of pace, in terms of what fantasy/paranormal romances are usually about, I enjoyed the character driven part of it and Emel as a character. What got to me is the flowery things the author decided to put in her writing, I enjoyed it until these weird metaphors started appearing, her writing did not need that she was doing a great job before.

This is definitely an adult book, on the stand point that this is a romance in a fantasy world rather than the opposite it was a respectable book, the rape-ish scene is what got to me. BECAUSE THERE IS NO WARNING BEFORE PICKING IT UP. And while it wasn't an issue for me as nothing is descriptive enough to be, and I enjoy dark books (sad stories are sometimes my jam what can I say I like to cry) I could somewhat get past it. BUT THE INCEST, like okay just some touching, BUT STILL not okay and again my heart went to those with trauma towards it because once again a lack of TW.

Now, story wise not a bad book, but all those things I can't look over the fact that it felt like the author did not appropriately address the issues, rape and incest, that she brought up in a good way. It felt like "oh and here is this", rather than "I am addressing important issues in this book" which is never a good way to feel about a book you are reading. The plot should be fluid, and the metaphors made me lose the focus of the story, even though it was more about the characters than the world.

I would've liked a bit more plot to balance the story, it did not feel like the characters grew much within the story from where they had began and there was not a cumulation of events that propelled the plot further or action began it was sort of monotone in a weird way. The romance was un-organic, it felt forced, there was no chemistry between our main characters.

In the end this story was meh. okay, not memorable nothing REALLY happened in the book. And I just did not feel like the characters were tangible or that their love was believable.

Unfortunately a miss for me.

2/5 stars

Profile Image for Twisha Gajjar.
7 reviews1 follower
December 9, 2020
The story was very gripping. Read the book in just 2 days! The plot is very good considering it is a debut novel. But there were other problems. One being world building. There were some words and phrases that the characters simply wouldn't know as it is not set in the modern era. Other being character building. The plot twists and the ending were amazing but I just couldn't care about the characters. There were also some plot holes but I believe they might be resolved in the next book so I won't be considering it as a flaw. Overall a must read if you like desert stories!
Profile Image for Amanda.
221 reviews18 followers
January 8, 2021
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This review is of an eARC provided via NetGalley. This does not effect my opinions in any way.

This book makes me rage. I can think of no other way to start this that would encapsulate my feelings. Rage. So much rage.

What really irritates me, though, is the fact that 90% of this book was absolutely fantastic.

This story focuses on Emel, the daughter of the powerful and corrupt Salt King. In their world of sand and brutal sun, salt is the only currency that matters and the Salt King lords over them all, dictating all trade and trade routes associated in the sale of salt. But the Salt King is not a kind man. He keeps his many daughters hidden away and sells them to other men with power throughout the desert for political alliance.

What people don’t know is that the King has a jinni under his command and he cannot be defeated. Many have tried and all have been killed with the slightest wish dropping from his lips.

Now, during the first 90% of this book I was enthralled by Emel and her acts of defiance against her father and her personal growth. She is an interesting, intelligent, kind hearted woman who wants to be out from under her father’s rule to make her own choices and be in control of her own life. Watching her grow and develop as a character was a great journey and I loved watching her learn what boundaries she could push.

During her journey she learns that her father has a jinni and the pair begin to have clandestine meetings and you quickly come to love Emel and Saalim. Saalim may have the power to grant wishes but the Goddess that looms over them all decides what path those wishes take. If you have malice in your heart when you make the wish the malice will come back on you unless you are very, very cautious in your wording. So, though Emel desires to wish for her freedom, she wants to be sure it cannot come back to haunt her nor does she wish to be separated from Saalim.

Watching their relationship grow as Emel also navigated the horrors of her father’s court was wonderful. I loved that part of the story and often found myself picking this book up to read more even if there were other things I should be doing.

Until we get to the end. I won’t give any spoilers but I will say that nothing ends the way the reader is lead to believe it will. The conclusion is painful and you are left feeling completely unfulfilled. None of the promises made come to fruition and we are left with many dangling plot points and a painful, empty feeling where the conclusion should have gone. It was enough to drop my rating from my projected 4.5 to a 3. Yes, it truly was that dissatisfying and I stand by my rating.

Is this worth a read? That is up to you. As I mentioned, most of this book was wonderful and I absolutely adored it but the end just…well, it hurt. As a reader who had come to love these characters it was painful to read and not satisfying in any way. I’ll leave this one in your hands and quietly hope that perhaps some major changes were made to the ending of this book after I received my ARC.
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