Cover Image: The Battle Drum

The Battle Drum

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Member Reviews

CWs include: domestic abuse, rape, miscarriage, self harm, and mentions of parental abuse.

This was certainly a book I am endlessly grateful for the chance to read. Thank you,Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Del Rey, and NetGalley!

As with all second books, though this one expanded the world, it came in great leaps I was taken aback by. We knew that there would be others, we knew of the lands, and yet the depth poured into the voyage, into the people-- it came so much deeper. The Final Strife was only the beginning, a starting flex, and The Battle Drum is the dive in. It was incredible, and the voyages within and without-- Sylah, Anoor, Hassa, Nayeli, and *Jond* deepened the world greatly.

Twists, turns, and deepenings enhanced the world of the Ending Fire, and truly showed meanings behind the names.  This was absolutely a gift to read. Thank you so much!
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An interesting story full of twists, turns, fun characters and overall a book I would consider reading time and time again.
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I support women's rights, but more importantly, I support women's wrongs. So here I am, once again, ready to defend every single thing my girls have done. (My girls doesn't include Nayeli, though. I only support one of her wrongs). I don't know how to scream my feelings about this book without spoiling everything about it, so just let me just stick with screaming about how much I love that these three women of color get to be so messy, so stubborn, so flawed, and still own my whole heart because you know what? Their world sucks and whatever they do to it, they're right!

Nobody tell me how long I'll have to wait for the last book or I'll start crying.
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Thank you to Random House Publishing-Ballantine for this opportunity to read,rate and review this arc before its release in May 23,2023.

I have three words to describe this book. Powerful. Beautiful. Girl Empowering. Yes technically that is four but let’s pretend it’s three. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a beautiful mental image feast. Heartbreaking in place but overall powerful. Highly recommend this series to be read.
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The Battle Drum is book two in a wonderfully immersive series by Saara El-Arifi. Fantasy and world building is not nearly so easily accomplished as it might seem, and El-Arifi is masterful in crafting this world, with its conflicts and centering of powerful female identity. A strong follow-up and a linking story to the final entry in the trilogy, and well worth reading for young adult and adult audiences. El-Arifi is a major talent whose pages are worth the time and investment.
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The Final Strife was my favorite fantasy book I read in 2022 and I have been eagerly awaiting The Battle Drum. From the moment I saw Anoor in the cover, I knew this book would be special to me, and it certainly did not disappoint. 

Having this many POVs spread across such a large area, with unique plots and conflicts for each character, is ambitious. Sprawling, epic fantasy like this is uncommon lately, and while The Battle Drum was at times a bit exhausting to read, overall, the payoff was worth it. Saara El-Arife is a master storyteller who writes a world that is unique, captivating, and immersive. I feel connected to all of her characters and places. 

This does feel very slow in the middle. I found myself skimming large sections and not paying attention to dialogue because it felt redundant. Luckily, there are plenty of action scenes to keep the pace up, but although the prose is beautiful, it just felt like it was dragging. El-Arife seems to have a habit of describing something wonderfully, then having characters talk about it. It’s repetitive. I think that in fantasy especially, great stories are delivered either mostly through internal monologue and exposition or dialogue. It’s really hard to find a perfect medium, and I wish El-Arife had focused on the narrator’s description of things. This series has such a strong, lyrical, and authoritative narrative voice that we don’t need to be retold everything by the characters. But I do appreciate how each POV character has a distinct voice, but the narrator’s voice stays the same. 

I really expect great things for this series. More people are reading and talking about The Final Strife, and I know they’ll be eager for The Battle Drum. I’m glad this book doesn’t end on such a cliffhanger as the the first book, I feel much more confident recommending The Final Strife to people. 

Detailed review will be posted on Goodreads, StoryGraph, and TikTok closer to publication. Thank you so much for the eARC.
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The reader will likely find that this book feels disjointed (which in this case, is not a bad thing in the end).  The author introduces new lands, new characters, new caste systems, new belief systems, etc.  She alternates between the familiar characters (Anoor, Sylah, Hassa, the Ghostings, etc.), and the new characters and lands.  The new lands and characters, etc. provide answers to some of the questions the reader might have had after the first book, but also raise new questions.  The story does eventually tie together the disparate parts and does so quite effectively. Sylah, Jond, and some of the Ghostings will cross the Marion Sea to seek assistance to stop the Tidewind and reclaim the land for the Ghostings, but the salvation they are hoping for will not be found, as what they find is vastly different from what they expected.  The story contains some rather good surprises, and the complexity added to the story is quite impressive.  I look forward to the final book in the trilogy.
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This sequel to The Final Strife blew me away. While the first book only provides us with a look into Nar-Ruta society, The Battle Drum expands everything we thought we knew about Sylah, Anoor, and Hassa's world. The Final Strife was a 4/5 star read for me, perilously close to a 3.5/5. But The Battle Drum is a solid 5/5. 
Sylah and Anoor are apart for the entire book, which was unfortunate but I understand why it had to happen. This book also brings us the addition of Jond's POV, as well as another character, Nayeli. I'm not a Jond fan, but as soon as he found the sand kitten I started warming to him a bit. I also liked Nayeli's perspective, although the way information is revealed, you don't really understand where Nayeli is living or what time period she's in for most of the book. 
I am continually amazed at how brutal literally everyone in this series is. But rather than coming across as shock value, it feels more like an incredibly deep look into what human beings are capable of. In this book especially, there's so much information being thrown at you, but it always feels like you're uncovering clues rather than being overwhelming. 
I loved how all of the three main characters developed over the course of this book. I will admit Hassa was super judgy in this one, and I kind of get it. I think she was a little bit harder on Anoor than she needed to be, but she was under a lot of pressure. I also loved the complicated depiction of grief from Anoor. I think it was very true to how you react after the death of someone you have mixed feelings for. 
I'm so excited for the third book! Although since this one doesn't even come out until May, I'll probably be waiting awhile.
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I always feel the need to clarify that for me, personally, two stars is a good rating. It means the book was okay, and that's sort of where I had to settle after spending most of the day reflecting on the work that El-Arifi did in the sequel.

What it ultimately boiled down to for me was the middle part of the book dragged more than I cared for, and the character seemed to bob and weave around serious ramifications that the narrative was throwing at them for seemingly no reason. I'm also simply not a patient person, and while the slow reveal about the connective tissue of the trilogy was eventually worth the wait, so much of the book feels aimless as you wait for all the pieces to click into place. So much so that the book just reads as a somewhat interesting list of things that could happen in the narrative, or things that are happening that are intriguing to read and push you along, but because you have no idea how these pieces are going to fit together the mini cliffhangers that were sprinkled in at the point where one perspective would shift to someone else it started to feel more like a gimmick than anything. 

The same issue was happening with the world building. I did think that the world felt like it was all connected, that the magic being utilized differently by the different factions while retaining a common bond really worked for me. It lent the world a feeling of authenticity, like serious thought had gone into the way that the world would operate on this level that was so important and I liked seeing the characters using their knowledge to piece together what that would mean for how they used the magic. 

The book also ends in a really strong place. For a lot of the runtime of the narrative it really felt like Anoor was the perspective that was getting the least amount of love, that things happening there weren't insignificant exactly, but they were what I was the least invested in and the most willing to forgo in order to see something more interesting happening with Jond or Sylah or the new people that we were being introduced to. The stuff with Anoor really made the book feel like it was having a full circle moment and it was nice to see the things that I'd speculated about being addressed and seeing how close my guesses had been. It also made some of the content that I hadn't cared for feel like maybe I could give it a second look and maybe I would enjoy it more.

Just like with the first book, the ending of the second book has certainly left me curious enough to see what the conclusion looks like and what is going to happen to this group of characters I've been following. At this point I'm too far gone to not know how their stories end and how the threads left open ended at the conclusion of this book are going to be tied up in time for the finale. Whatever happens I know it'll be solid because endings are definitely Saara's strong suit.
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The Battle Drum Review

Before getting into the actual review of the book, I would like to thank Random House Publishing Group and Saara El-Arifi for the advanced copy of The Battle Drum visa NetGalley in exchange for an honest review of this book. I would also like to get some trigger warnings out of the way. This book does have instances of domestic abuse, rape, and self harm. While these are graphic events, they aren’t happening constantly or consistently throughout the book and are relatively isolated, so they could be easily skipped, but are a significant part of a characters development. 

I get nervous going into sequels of books sometimes, especially with trilogies. Firstly, depending on how long it has been since the last book came out, I often find myself struggling to remember certain events. While this was not the case with the events of The Final Strife as I started The Battle Drum, it wouldn’t have even mattered because El-Arifi starts The Battle Drum out perfectly by giving us a retelling of the events of The Final Strife in the form of a story being told. All of the major characters of the previous book get reintroduced as well as all major events being retold so that we know exactly what is happening as we start the second book in this trilogy. 

That brings me the topic of trilogies, which do have a tendency to make me nervous when it comes to the second book. Much like with middle child syndrome, middle book syndrome will often leave readers wanting for more and feeling like the author neglected the book as a whole, leaving the majority of events to either happen in the first book or the final book of a trilogy, but El-Arifi did not do that here. The Battle Drum is just as, if not more, eventful than The Final Strife and left me needing the final book now. I found it hard for me to put down my kindle the whole time I was reading this book and was finding it way to easy to neglect sleep and customers while working to be able to read more and more. 

El-Arifi, throughout the book, finds “abstract” ways of addressing issues of race (much like in the first book), but also adding the issues of religion (especially highly organized) and colonialism and how they can, have, and continue to be used as systems of oppression for people. Now, I say abstract here because, to my knowledge, El-Arifi has not come forward and explicitly said that religion and colonialism are being talked about in this series (oppression and race have been mentioned) and book in particular, but if you read between the lines a little bit you can find some pretty strong critiques of these systems throughout The Battle Drum. El-Arifi also finds ways to make you think about the true motives of people. Not everyone will be what or who you think they are (as we saw in the ending to The Final Strife), but not just physically. Throughout the book you will question motives and loyalties of different players, leaving you on edge until the very and (and don’t expect that feeling to stop there)

The Final Strife left readers with a lot of questions, and don’t worry because most, if not all, of them will get answered in The Battle Drum, but you will be left with twice as many new ones. The anticipation that this book builds for the final book in the trilogy leaves me needing the final book now while simultaneously never wanting the series to end.

While The Final Strife did a fantastic job at providing readers with rich lore and a magic system, The Battle Drum really took it to the next level. You will have things that seemed to be fact proven otherwise and find out the real origins of much of the world. You will find out that everything can truly be stolen and made to be whatever you want it to (and we’re not just talking about physical objects or people here). People will abuse systems that they truly do not understand and there will be unseen and unknown consequences to these actions.

The Battle Drum was easily a 5 out of 5 read of me. About one third of the way through the book I realized that El-Arifi would have to just give up with the last two thirds for me to change my mind on that, and I never expected for a second that that would happen. The Battle Drum will easily be in my top 5 for books to come out in 2023, if not taking first place. In case I haven’t made it clear enough, I need the sequel to come out ASAP because I have many questions and Need Answers. Thank you Saara El-Arifi for creating this beautiful world that The Ending Fire Trilogy takes place in and I am excited to see how you wrap it all up. 

I'll be posting the book to goodreads and storygraph immediately and will post to instagram at a later date before release (will come back and attach link to the review on instagram at that time)
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Saara El-Arifi is one of the best epic fantasy writers that I have ever read. Big words, I know, and I fully mean them. Her worldbuilding is exquisite, her characters are vibrant and pop off the page, the imagery is outstanding, the plots twist like nobody's business, and it all works together in a beautiful symphony that makes my heart sing. It twines together brutality and love, grit and determination, a horrific past, a bleak outlook, but a hope for the future. Everything gets bigger here, the magic, the world, the blood spilled, and the utterly nefarious plots that seem to be shaking everything down to its core.

Damn, what a brilliant, stunning, book.
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I had enjoyed the first book in the series The Final Strife a lot, it was one of the best that I read in a while. This felt like it took the first book and improved on it. It had a great story going on and I enjoyed getting back to this universe. The characters felt like they belonged and I enjoyed how they were written. I'm excited to see where Saara El-Arifi goes with this.

"The guard signed over Sylah’s shoulder to their comrade. She will guide you. The guard jutted their chin to their lean-looking partner. She was young, perhaps nineteen or twenty, with tufts of golden curls that grew wildly upward. Unlike her comrade she wore her uniform short around her thighs, revealing a patterned skirt of patchwork fabric that was dizzying to look at."
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5/5 stars! Sequel to the phenomenal "The Final Strife," "The Battle Drum" picks up where the first installment left off. This book did such a wonderful job of not falling into the second book curse of feeling like a filler. The pacing was amazing and I couldn't put this book down. There are definitely some heavy topics handled in this book but the author does such a good job of handling sensitive topics with respect and in a way that the reader can grow from them. I am eagerly awaiting the final book in this trilogy.

I received an advance review copy for free through NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily
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5 ⭐️ good lord was this a wild ride. If you liked the final strife at all just BUCKLE UP. This is one of those stories where the lore is doled out at a phenomenal pace making it a fun time to theory craft as you go. I cannot WAIT for more people to get their hands in it because it is phenomenal. There are some strong trigger warnings for this one, so if you are sensitive to those definitely look them up. I’m still just shook, Saara El-Arifi is a master at foreshadowing, all the pieces are there and whether you guess things or not, the reveals are just so good. I have literally no idea what could happen in the sequel and that is so exciting.

Thank you to the publisher for an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I absolutely LOVED this sequel! I was on the edge of my seat, trying to put together all of the puzzle pieces -- and there were MANY! 

This got very dark a few times -- the body horror left me shouting out loud and getting shivers all over. 

I love the world-building in this series, particularly the history and lore. I am FASCINATED with all of it and cannot wait to find out more in the next book!
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As marvelous and hard to put down as the first book! I hope there will be more to this universe even after this story line ends! I feel there are so many stories to be told about the people of the different colored blood.
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The Battle Drum by Saara El-Arifi is a great science fiction and fantasy novel that is the second book in the amazing trilogy: Ending Fire. 

I really enjoyed last year’s novel that was the first book in this trilogy, The Final Strife, so I was obviously excited to pick up where it left off for the follow up. 

This second book did not disappoint. Excellent, strong, resilient, intelligent, imperfect yet relatable main female characters continued to draw me in. Action, suspense, drama, unveilings, mysteries, and emotions and passion are all present.

Sylah, Hassa, and Anoor are all excellent characters that are vividly drawn and are all going through many trials and tribulations within themselves, each other, and all around them. In this second book, we get to delve more into the depths of the original characters through alternative POVs, and the author also adds a few new characters as well. It will be interesting to see how these new additions will add to the richness and the complexity of the narrative. The internal and external struggles continue to be present and develop along with the intricate and addictive plot. 

I love how the author continues to draw this alternative world and the characters, culture, customs, and history within it. It feels as if there is a universe steeped in history, yet feels futuristic at the same time. 

I really like how things are picking up speed and am really looking forward to the final book to see how it all turns out. 

5/5 stars 

Thank you NG and Del Rey/ Random House Publishing for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 5/23/23.
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