Cover Image: The Battle Drum

The Battle Drum

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group! 
Throughly enjoyed reading the second book in this series! I have been waiting for the next book and am so happy to say it is just as good as the first. The world continues to be engaging and creative! The culture and mythology that saturates the text gives amazing depth and enjoyment to the reading experience. I can’t wait to read the last book!
Was this review helpful?
I loved this so much, it’s the second book that began with The Final Strife and if  you enjoyed The Final Strife then you’re going to want to read this too and will love it as much as I have , it’s full of surprises, so many twists and turns , full of representation. revelations and I now can't wait for the next one, but unfortunately I have to. If you want a fantastic read look no further (but get the final strife first)

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Was this review helpful?
how do i share my love for this book without spoiling absolutely everything…

the battle drum is the sequel to one of my favorite reads of 2022, the final strife. so of course i’m going to try to stay a bit vague in terms of the plot when discussing my absolute love for this series. clearly, i personally really enjoyed the second installment in this trilogy.

it’s not a fast moving book, but neither was the final strife. it picks up a ton near the end, but i personally felt that it was so appropriate for the story. we’re following a lot of individuals, all moving pieces in a much grander scheme. we get a new pov in this book too, so finding a way to battle sharing five peoples’ thoughts, making them unique, it’s difficult. and i’ve found that el-arifi has done an absolutely incredible job. again.

we had our four povs from the first book, each of which we have already become familiar with their thoughts, with their motivations. and this fifth person, they were such a strong character in terms of ideals. it wasn’t difficult to add them to the arsenal. we follow sylah, anoor, and jond (hassa too, but to a lesser extent) essentially experiencing their entire world-views flipped upside down time and time again. it was fascinating to see where they each landed. and i worry to see where they’ll go.

so much new information was given to us, but it was never overwhelming. with each tidbit, my mind would reel with the implications but we’d move to another perspective. essentially, if you want to scheme and try and figure it out first, you’d have to put the book down and think. and that’s exactly what i did. many times. and i love that about this series. reveals were never too late, never too early. and personally, i’d make the connection and then in the next chapter, so would our main characters. it was just crafted so exceedingly well, in my opinion.

of course there’s still so many questions i have. but i have to just trust that these characters will get themselves put together in the final book and win. otherwise, i’m not sure i’ll survive tbh…

ps. if you’ve read the book, my theory for book three’s cover is nayeli with a yellow background (on both the us and uk editions). it’ll converge and it makes sense given where we end, yk?
Was this review helpful?
In some ways, this book was better than the first book, but it was a slower burn for me, in part because it was much more complex. While the first book introduced us to this world and there were many characters, it was much more focused because it had the competition to tie everything together. This one added so much more to this world and you get to know not just the Warden's Empire, but the greater world (as they discovered at the end of the first book). As such, you were introduced to many more groups, and sometimes I got a bit lost about how they all connected. Anoor and Sylah were in different countries, and I missed their interactions, although they each often thought of the other. I did feel that Sylah's story developed her more as a character than Anoor, in part because Anoor seemed like she was reacting much of the time (and not often in a good way).

Hassa also had her own thread, although she interacted with Anoor a few times throughout. We find out much more about her people and how everything came to be. She is the main detective in this story, but there were many moments when my heart broke for her. I have no idea what is in store for her in the third book, but I really want her to find some bit of happiness or at least peace.

One other thing I love is how normalized gender identity and sexuality are in this world. Yes, there are gay or lesbian relationships, as well as male and female, but it's not a big deal how someone identifies. It just happens and is accepted. It's refreshing to read a book where the world is not automatically prejudiced or hung up on labels.

I continue to be fascinated by this world and can't wait for the finale! I love both books so much that I will probably reread books 1 and 2 when the third one finally comes out!

I received an advance review copy for free from the publisher and NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
Was this review helpful?
When we last saw these characters, Anoor had just been named the Disciple of Strength. Realizing there was a whole world outside The Wardens’ Empire – which had been kept secret from most people – she sent Sylah to go find out what was out there, and hopefully come back with a solution to the Empire’s climate problems.

So, these two characters both remain main characters in this book – but spend the entire thing apart. We are following stories in two (very) different locations.

This book offers an expanded world geographically, with new peoples, cultures, and lore. But it also offers an expanded world from a storytelling standpoint, as chapters are told from different points of view. We have Anoor, Sylah, and Hassa, who were all POVs that were used in the previous book. But we also see a good portion of the story from Jond’s perspective. This begins because Sylah is incapacitated for a while, but his chapters continue after she wakes up. And we have a completely new character, Nayeli, who lives in an area we have not explored before. I wasn’t sure exactly when Nayeli’s story took place, since it’s so removed from the others, but I felt from early on that it was before the time of the other characters. We do find this out near the end of the book.

Overall, the peoples of these other lands are also dealing with climate issues. They can also do what our main characters call “bloodwerk,” although each land has a different name for it. They theorize that there is too much magic being done, and it has created an imbalance in how the world works (causing all the weather disasters).

And the peoples of these other lands are also gearing up to go to war. Initially, our characters visiting these lands – Sylah, Jond, and a team of Ghostings – are unfamiliar with their legends, powers, and history. As they are learning about all these things, some of our characters in The Warden’s Empire are starting to learn them, too – albeit more slowly.

Anoor’s team had hidden her, against her will, so she could not be tried for murder. It is only from her hiding place that she starts learning of some of the things going on. She doesn’t know most of the story until the very last pages – and even then, she is hearing a very different version than our other characters have put together.

Which brings me to the most interesting aspect, I think. At the very end of the book, all lands are posed for war – The Warden’s Empire among them – and our main characters are posed to be on opposite sides. Anoor and Sylah have yet to speak, or compare notes on all they’ve learned. Hassa’s perspective is somewhat different from both the others, but her knowledge is a little more in line with Sylah’s. So that should make for an explosive kick-off to the final book in this trilogy!
Was this review helpful?
The Battle Drum is the sequel to El-Arifi’s jaw dropping debut, The Final Strife, and takes place almost immediately after the first book ends. And OH MY GOODNESS - what a ride! There’s no doubt in my mind that Saara El-Arifi is a master at her craft. While the first book gently unfolds like a flower in bloom, The Battle Drum hits the ground running. 

El-Arifi has a way of making every small detail count, without heavy handed foreshadowing. This talent of hers allows for such an intense reading experience as you flip between POVs, longing for more of what’s happening in the character you left behind yet are instantly immersed the events of the new chapter. I absolutely loved Hassa’s vulnerability, Anoor’s naivety, and Sylah’s growth. The dimension of Sylah’s character, and her growth, was really so beautiful to read. 

We also see more of Jond and an astounding new character!

From the two books that she has written so far, it is undeniable that while she is one of my favorite Fantasy authors. I cannot stop thinking about how original of a work this is, how layered the themes, how rich the setting, and just how beautiful and unique these women are.  There were moments where I had to scream out loud, toss my kindle aside, and take a break because of all the emotions Saara El-Arifi evoked in me. I was so immersed in the reading experience.

I love the lore, the richness in culture and in spite of how there’s so much magic and many things that are so fantastical, this book never ever challenges my suspension of disbelief. It’s a series I can very much imagine visually

One thing I do wish a little bit more for is exposition on the personalities of her secondary characters, especially the ones that play more significant roles. I may be a little biased, since I lean heavily and favor secondary characters to really showcase the depth of world built.

Overall, I urgently long for the next book in the series. Such an exquisite book and I enjoyed every moment spent with the series thus far. My heart feels like it was trampled upon and all I can say is thank you. 

Thank you to Netgalley, Random House, and Ballantine books for the eARC. I cannot wait for the next book.
Was this review helpful?
At the beginning of The Battle Drum, we get a very helpful recap of what happened in the first book. 

In this sequel, we get a lot more world-building and learning about the other tribes. We see Sylah and Jond traveling across the sea and making enemies as well as new friends, Anoor is trying to solve her mother's murder and figure out why she was framed for it. The side characters from the first book take a bigger part, especially Hassa and Jond who are definitely new favorites as well as the sand cat who is super adorable. Sylah and Anoor spend a lot of time pining for each other, to the point where sometimes their missions took a back seat, so Im hoping that once they are reunited Sylah becomes the kick-butte girl from the first book. 

It seems like it took forever for anything to really happen but once it did, which was towards the end, the pace and action really beginto pick up, and I was left wanting to read the final book in the trilogy to see how it's all going to play out.
Was this review helpful?
The three women find their answers, but not the answers they wanted. The drumbeat of change thrums throughout the world.

And it sings a song of war.

Ready we will be, when the Ending Fire comes,
When the Child of Fire brings the Battle Drum,
The Battle Drum,
The Battle Drum.
Ready we will be, for war will come

This time there is no denying that there is a whole new world on the other side of the vast sea, For the elders have known of it all while and Sylah has been tasked to find how to stop the deadly sand storms from happening each night. But while she is on the boat with the elders she encounters the very thing that causes part of the disruption back at home.
Sylah also learns that there are other colors of blood, yellow, purple, blue, green, white etc and that they had been separated.

How they were now on search of a special child, the child of fire to bring an end everything.
If Sylah ever wants to see Anoor again, she has got to get to the mad queen or they are all doomed.

Once again Saara El-Arifi has done herself. I could kick myself for not writing this review when I first finished the book. Ugh!

For book 3, which I cannot wait to read, as soon as I finish, I'm writing the review.

Congratulations El-Arifi, for your sophomore book being as wonderful as your first book!!



Thank you, NetGalley,/Saara El-Arifi/Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Del Rey/ For this "INCREDIBLE" eARC in advance for my honest opinion.  All opinions given are of my own volition.
Was this review helpful?
Thank You NetGalley for sending me an EARC of this book. I just want to start by saying that I appreciate the author putting a recap of book 1 at the start of the this book and in a way that keeps the storytelling aspect!!! Love love love, I wish every fantasy series would do this lol. I enjoyed this second installment soo much!! Saara is such a talented author and I have never seen fantasy portrayed as unique and inclusive as she creates it. I have such a strong connection to these characters and my jaw never left the floor for the last 50 pages. I am super hooked on this series and I cannot wait for the next Installment.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely adored this book. This sequel managed to expand the already captivating world-building to a remarkable extent. The vastness of the world was revealed in all its grandeur, allowing readers to explore uncharted territories and uncover hidden (and often heartbreaking) secrets. It was an immersive experience, where every piece of the narrative puzzle fell into place with precision. The attention to detail in the world-building was truly wonderful, transporting readers to a realm brimming with both horrors and intrigue.

Moreover, the magic system introduced in this installment proved to be a source of endless fascination. The author's ingenuity and creativity shone through, as they crafted a system that was both intricate and awe-inspiring. The rules and limitations of the magic were carefully delineated, lending a sense of realism and grounding to the fantastical elements of the story. It was a joy to witness the characters wield their magical abilities and explore the depths of their powers.

Speaking of the characters, they underwent some transformations and grew even more complex in this installment. Their individual arcs were well-crafted and delved deep and I found myself deeply invested in their journeys. However, Anoor was previously portrayed as selfless and capable of seeing the best in everyone, but she took a surprising turn in this book. Her misplaced trust in unfamiliar faces and her willingness to believe falsehoods about some friends made her far less sympathetic. I trust the author to continue her arc, though.

While this book did not bring me to tears, it had a profound impact on me nonetheless. The unexpected twists and turns in the later pages left me in shock. I feel a genuine need to mourn the events that unfolded. I cannot emphasize enough how eagerly I await the next book.

Amazing novel.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Del Rey for the ARC!

First of all, watching how Sylah and Anoor (and Hassa) grew and changed in The Final Strife was so impressive, and I was excited to see how their character development would translate into the sequel. El-Arifi did an incredible job picking up the momentum and running with it. The way that these women have adapted and continue to progress along their journeys was so perfectly done, and I loved the directions that El-Arifi took their characters in with each challenge. In particular, I was impressed with how she handled Anoor’s evolution… no spoilers, though!!! The complications within the web of relationships between these characters is real and raw, and I particularly love seeing Hassa and Sylah’s inner dialogues in how they assess people and themselves. 
My concern with the premise of this series was that the idea of blood colors is a bit gimmicky and reminded me of bad YA dystopian series I read as a teen. Not only did El-Arifi continue to grow the world as it related to blood colors in a completely non-gimmicky way, but the way that she expanded the magic system and the history of this world was absolutely stunning and very well-paced. She introduced so many twists and turns that were incredibly woven together in unexpected ways. When I tell you that my jaw literally dropped and I whispered “no WAY” to myself at 11pm while reading the final chapters… I mean it. While I sometimes got a little overwhelmed with everything going on, I never hit my limit of “too much information” or “too many plot lines” etc. 
Also in terms of world building, I do want to shoutout and appreciate how El-Arifi weaves queer identity into this world. ❤️‍🔥
I haven’t been this in love with a fantasy series since the Daevabad trilogy! I cannot wait for the next book. Hurry pls 


Justice for Kwame and Gorn :(
Was this review helpful?
this was such a fantastic installment in this trilogy! i definitely enjoyed it more than I did The Final Strife, which I wasn’t 100% invested in until the last 10-15%. The Battle Drum more than made up for it though. it's always a pleasure when a sequel really expands on the world in the previous book and the new settings and characters in The Battle Drum provide just that. we’re introduced to really interesting new communities, cultures, religions, histories, and POVs, though I still enjoyed our 3 leading ladies’ storylines the most (Sylah, Hassa, and Anoor).

we also get to learn so much more about the magic of this world! i particularly enjoyed that Sylah's journey to new places showed us how different circumstances shaped each cultures' approach to what is ultimately the same source of magic.

i’m not usually a fan of separating the love interests, in this case Sylah and Anoor, for an entire book but I quite enjoyed the separate missions that they were on. Their storylines along with Hassa’s each have something for everyone—from adventuring to espionage to a murder mystery and political intrigue. the breadcrumbs in each of these storylines kept me guessing the whole time (there are so many well-timed twists and revelations!!) and by the end, it was so satisfying to see the puzzle pieces start to come together. 

i highly recommend this one, especially for fantasy lovers. can’t wait for book 3!
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing this eARC.

The Battle Drum is the second installment in Saara El-Arifi's The Ending Fire Trilogy. It follows Sylah, Anoor, and Hassa as they embark on journeys to save their world and themselves.

This is turning out to be a solid fantasy series. Though I thought that this book was also kind of slow in the middle -- something I struggled with in book 1 -- there was a  lot of solid character and world development happening here that I thoroughly enjoyed. I think anyone who read book 1 will love this installment, and I definitely cannot wait for the final book!
Was this review helpful?
Layers upon layers upon ... 

The Battle Drum is Saara El-Arifi's follow-up to last year's The Final Strife. It does its job as the middle book of The Ending Fire Trilogy, building upon the mythology set up in  The Final Strife while not answering all the questions and mysteries it creates. Of course, being a book leading up to a trilogy's conclusion, The Battle Drum ends on several cliffhangers. 

This book series is inspired by the Ghanaian and Arabic folklore of El-Arifi's heritage, which reflects in the pacing and inevitability of some of the reveals. This is a strength. Propelling forward with a novel, instead of feeling tricked by it, is a nice change of pace from so many modern works that seem to want to outsmart their audiences.

The Battle Drum is always about a half pace ahead of the reader, allowing us to catch up while it takes a break. Then it starts sprinting again. 

And then there is the way El-Arifi uses this alternate-world story to talk about colonialism and privilege. The arbitrary trait the world of The Ending Fire trilogy has chosen as a means to segregate and oppress is blood color. Skin color, gender and sexuality don't matter at all in this world. But the color you bleed does.

At first thought, it may seem that there's something more insidious about cutting someone open to find out whether you should hate them. Until you think about it and correct yourself that it's all bad, all discrimination is equally ridiculous.  

Dystopian goodness

Allegory and excellent writing aside, The Battle Drum does contain standard dystopian trilogy elements. I'm not quite sure The Ending Fire trilogy is quite YA because the characters skew a bit older, but the features are there.

I hesitate to compare this series to The Hunger Games (again) because it's so much better, but it's good shorthand to discuss the kind of world and mood we're in here. Plus, the gore and pain. Also, love triangle. There is a lot to take in here. It's worth it. 

Should you read it?

As always, when I recommend a sequel, I'm really recommending its predecessors first. If you haven't read The Final Strife, that's where you need to start. If you're a fan of the first book who's worried about middle-book syndrome, there's nothing to fear here. Except maybe the year or so we'll have to wait for the conclusion.

The Battle Drum is out today, May 23, 2023. Pick up a copy at your local indie bookstore or library. 📚🥁👭🏾
Was this review helpful?
Myth: 4/5

Sylah and Anoor have gone on separate journeys, Hassa, always has her own missions, though she still finds herself in the Warden’s Tower. I was intrigued with Sylah’s exploration of the new continent. Anoor, gets a detective side, but I have to say, she’s really bad at it, which is kind of hard to watch. 

A new perspective is woven in, giving more depth and breadth to the continents and empires being built.

Magic: 4/5

It was definitely interesting to see the magic of other continents and the impacts of the use. This was interwoven both through Anoor’s research and Sylah’s exploration, so you get information on both sides. 

Overall: 4/5

Nations move to war, natural disasters rage and Sylah, Anoor and Hassa try and find ways to fight for what they believe in.
Was this review helpful?
I received an EARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for this opportunity.

I absolutely adored this sequel, even more than The Final Strife. I loved the further exploration into this world that Saara built. There was so much new information as the history becomes even more explained in depth. Any questions lingering from the first book were answered fully. I am in awe at the direction that this book took. I loved the different point of views from old and new characters. I found the way everything connected to be just astonishing.

I loved all the characters so much. Hassa and the rest of the ghostlings have my heart. I absolutely loved reading anything that had to do with their journey. 

I love Sylah and Anoor and while their story did not take place with each other , the love they have for the other is so heartwarming to see. I can’t wait for the next book.

I loved this sequel and cannot wait for the next installment.
Was this review helpful?
This is a really good series.  I thought with reading book one that the author really did a great job with making the characters and setting interesting and she hasn’t faltered with book two.  This is an ARC I’m happy to have read!  Good series.  You should try it if you like let’s go save the world type fantasy.  My one complaint is I can see an evil society cutting out the tongues of slaves to prevent them talking but cutting off both hands would keep someone from working as much as they could with two hands…That’s not the most logical and functional of evils.  But hey, evil.  So I rolled with it.
Was this review helpful?
I was SO excited to read The Battle Drum, the outstanding sequel to The Final Strife, and it truly delivered. It picks up right where we left off: with Sylah, Anoor, and Hassa all attempting to find their place in the empire. Sylah is chosen to investigate the secrets of the tidewind and journeys far from home. In her absence, Anoor is accused of murder and thrown in jail. Fortunately Hassa remains the spy master she’s always been- this time with a new deadly mystery to solve. The epic tale that began in The Final Strife continues...

The Battle Drum is a fierce and well-paced addition to The Ending Fire trilogy. Sylah’s journey across the sea was heart-pounding and I was fascinated with what she discovered. I really enjoyed getting to know Hassa more and see how she uses her status as a Ghosting to spy. Anoor goes through some excellent character growth, after being framed for a murder she did not commit. New secrets and information were artfully revealed. I loved the queer-norm worldbuilding and acceptance that the LGBTQ+ characters experience. 

The Battle Drum is a rich fantasy filled with poignant themes and compelling characters. The plot is creative, with a multi-layered feel as different perspectives are explored. Saara El-Arifi’s dialogue is witty and engaging. I love how she weaves in subtle clues for the readers to uncover as the plot progresses! I can’t wait to read the final book in this trilogy! I would highly recommend this book/series to anyone. In particular, readers who enjoy Sabaa Tahir, Samantha Shannon, and Andrea Stewart should check out this series. 

Thank you so much to Saara El-Arifi, Del Rey, and Netgalley for a free ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

For publisher: My review will be posted on Instagram, Goodreads, Amazon, Storygraph, and Barnes & Noble etc
Was this review helpful?
I was so, so excited to read this one after reading The Final Strife earlier this year and absolutely loving it, and boy, this did NOT disappoint. Everything you think you know by the end of The Final Strife completely turns on its head and you realize, you actually don't know shit. This book kept me guessing the whole time and despite it being over 500 pages, I couldn't put it down (I finished it in less than 24 hours, lol). There are some spoiler-y things that have me anxiously waiting with both excitement and worry for book 3 of the Ending Fire (all I'll say is Anoor, Sylah, and Hassa take some pretty big Ls in this book so prepare yourselves. Everyone is having a rough time, me included).

If you loved The Final Strife, you're gonna love this book. And if you haven't read The Final Strife, this is your sign to go read it. Like, now, cause The Battle Drum comes out tomorrow.

Now I just gotta wait for my preordered hard copy to come in the mail 😊
Was this review helpful?
A MAJOR thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing for an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
The Battle Drum is the sequel to The Final Strife, one of my favorite books of 2022. This fantasy series is based on African and Arabian mythology and begins with a desert-like setting where one's class is determined by the color of their blood. It's a high-stakes series where the characters are all fighting for what they believe is the greater good, while the world around them is growing more deadly.
After how book one left off, I was already on the edge of my seat for book two before ever picking it up. At no point did I feel like I was not on the edge of my seat as we discovered more about the world, its lore and history, the magic, the characters, and the part they all play in the grand scheme of things. It has been a few hours since I finished, and I'm still stuck on the twists and reveals El-Arifi packed into this novel. 
I was immediately happy to see that a recap for book one was offered, but Saara El-Arifi tells it through a griot, and it made it infinitely better. The world was already amazing in The Final Strife, but it is expanded upon so deeply in The Battle Drum that I completely lost myself in the world. Just like before, we get snippets of the world both in the past and present preceding all the chapters. Little additions like this make me very happy in fantasies.
This book hit on themes of colonization, the victors rewriting and twisting history, inequality, and religion. All these themes as well as the characters were explored thoroughly. There wasn't a moment I felt bored, and this 500+ page book read so quickly because I was devouring everything El-Arifi had to offer.
The Battle Drum felt like EL-Arifi took the feedback from book one and truly grew and learned from it, making The Battle Drum all the better. With the exaggeration only a bookworm can have- I literally don't know how I am going to survive waiting for book three (especially since I don't know the release date either). The Final Strife was 5 stars for me, but The Battle Drum is a 6 star read. It is, without a doubt, an all time favorite book for me. I rarely like book twos better than book one, but Saara El-Arifi outdid herself with this one.
Was this review helpful?