Review: The Theft of Sunlight

Title: The Theft of Sunlight
Author: Intisar Khanani
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery
Pages: 528
Publisher: HarperTeen
Review Copy: ARC received from author
Availability: Available now

Summary: I did not choose this fate. But I will not walk away from it.

Children have been disappearing from across Menaiya for longer than Amraeya ni Ansarim can remember. When her friend’s sister is snatched, Rae knows she can’t look away any longer – even if that means seeking answers from the royal court, where her country upbringing and clubfoot will only invite ridicule.

Yet the court holds its share of surprises. There she discovers an ally in the foreign princess, who recruits her as an attendant. Armed with the princess’s support, Rae seeks answers in the dark city streets, finding unexpected help in a rough-around-the-edges street thief with secrets of his own. But treachery runs deep, and the more Rae uncovers, the more she endangers the kingdom itself.

Review: [This book contains violence against women, human trafficking, physical and emotional abuse, and ableism.]

I came into THE THEFT OF SUNLIGHT without having read the earlier companion book, THORN. (Technically, THEFT is the first part of a companion duology, and thank goodness, because THEFT ends on a magnificent cliffhanger.) And while I occasionally realized that I was missing a deeper undercurrent to some of the subplots in THEFT because of it, THEFT still stood on its own as a compelling story.

Our heroine, Rae, is clever, brave, and driven in her hunt to uncover the truth behind the “snatchers” plaguing the kingdom and stealing children. She also has to navigate the various intrigues and tests of character going on at court—starting before she’s even officially hired. One of the things I love most about Rae is her willingness to examine her own thoughts and feelings. There is a scene later in the book, which I won’t spoil, that centers on her questioning an action she took and deciding that she does not want to be the kind of person who would do that again. I love characters who spend the time to think about what they’ve done, what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it.

As noted at the top of the review, THEFT deals with some difficult subjects. The driving plot with the snatchers revolves around human trafficking, and several important subplots include violence against women and physical/emotional abuse. Rae also encounters ableism throughout the book because of her clubfoot. This comes on an individual level where characters assume she is incapable of X physical activity without asking what she is able to do, but it also extends to a societal level where she is aware of how unlikely it is that she’ll ever get married. I felt that these topics were handled respectfully, but I am not an expert in any of them. Readers should be aware of these topics going into THEFT if they are interested in reading the book.

Author Intisar Khanani has populated the rest of Rae’s world with a fantastic cast. I especially liked Princess Alyrra, Prince Kestrin, and Bren. Alyrra and Kestrin’s interactions with Rae were fascinating—even the times when I was incredibly frustrated at them on Rae’s behalf. Bren and Rae’s start toward a possible romance plot was also fun, if a tad unsurprising. I hope that Khanani will dive more into Bren’s past (and I’m assuming the many not-good things he did in that past) in the next book before a romance can go any further.

Recommendation: Get it soon, especially if you like mysteries in fantasy settings. Author Intisar Khanani has creating a fascinating mystery and a delightful heroine who is determined to get to the bottom of it all, no matter how high the conspiracy goes. THE THEFT OF SUNLIGHT is part of a rich world and populated with interesting characters. If you’re looking for a long fantasy read this summer, this would be an excellent choice.

Extras: The Theft of Sunlight Sneak Peek at Epic Reads (first three chapters)

In Conversation with Intisar Khanani – The Theft of Sunlight Tour with Qamar Blog Tours