The Balloon Thief
The Balloon Thief is filled with stunning world building. I especially loved the balloon flights and the descriptions of the balloons, which were so vivid and beautiful.
It's a story about escape, freedom and the power to control your own life, and explores gender and racial inequalities through the eyes of its two protagonists, Khadija, a Ghadaean girl who has spent her life trapped in her bedroom, desperately trying to avoid her father's attempts to marry her off, and Jacob, a hari boy who works as an apprentice for a Ghadaean glass maker. When Khadija steals a balloon from the market and takes off into the sky, she is thrown into a world of rebellion, magic and difficult choices.
Both main characters are really well developed. Khadija is immediately easy to root for. She's not perfect, and as a result is able to grow over the course of the novel in a realistic and relatable way. Jacob makes a lot of mistakes, but his motivation is always clear (even when, as a reader, you want to shout at him to stop!) Anam was another favourite character.
There's lots of action and fantasy too. The Balloon Thief has plenty of epic, cinematic fight scenes and drama that kept me turning the page, as well as a sweet romantic sub-plot and dangerous, dark magic.
Marufu also explores the bond between parents and their children through Khadija and her Abba, and Vera and Caleb. Vera made a great antagonist, as I was never quite sure what she was going to do next, but her motivation was always clear.
Thank you Nina Douglas and Chicken House for sending me an advanced copy for review.