Rebel of Fire and Flight Series: The Balloon Thief #1
Published by Scholastic Inc. on January 3, 2023
Genres: Young Adult Fiction / Fantasy / Dark Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction / Social Themes / Class Differences, Young Adult Fiction / Social Themes / Prejudice & Racism
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This is the story of sixteen-year-old Khadija, who flees her home in a stolen hot air balloon to escape life in an arranged marriage. A deeply relevant, commercial fantasy adventure by an enthralling new talent, exploring prejudice, the deep roots of hatred, and the reality of the world that this heroine hopes to save.
Khadija loves the ancient tales of jinn and renegade princesses... but real life is closing in and her destiny as a ghadæan girl is marriage and boredom. When her father arranges a match, Khadija leaps at the chance of escape - a rogue hot air balloon fighting its ropes for the sky. Soon, Khadija is flying over the desert sands, away from everything she knows.Khadija finds an unlikely ally in a poor young glassmaker's apprentice, Jacob.
But soon, a deadly revolution threatens their friendship and their world. The oppressed, pale-skinned hāri are restless - their infamous terrorist group, the Hāreef, have a new, fearsome leader. And the ruling ghadæans are brutal in their repression. As the Hāreef exploit forbidden magic - summoning jinn to aid their fight - Jacob and Khadija must choose what kind of a world they want to live in and how to make it a reality.
Do you ever dream of jumping in a hot air balloon and escaping your life? Unfortunately, racial tensions are still very much alive in a world where men of status travel in gilded, ornate, fantastical hot air balloons. Khadija, a higher-status Ghadaean girl, and Jacob, a lower-status Hari boy, find themselves trapped in a brutal war between Ghadeans, Hari, and Jinn, racing and running from town to city in hot air balloons. Khadija is escaping an arranged marriage where she will move from being trapped in her bedroom to her husband’s home. Unfortunately, Khadija has no idea how to fly a balloon, and once she is in the air finds out how reckless her escape plan will become.
Rebel of Fire & Flight is set in a world where you travel by hot air balloon, and I was amazed by how the author was able to take you up into the air with her descriptions of the balloons. As Khadija and Jacob travel, the author does not shy away from the heavier themes in this story. Khadija and Jacob’s world is full of racism, misogyny, and extremism. While these are serious topics, the tone of the story is uplifting.
Overall, Rebel of Fire & Flight is a strong debut for The Balloon Thief series, written by a Muslim British Pakistani author; you are in for a diverse treat.