This is such a lovely, important book.
And it’s quite different from my usual reads. It’s not YA, for example (although I can confidently say that there are many aspects that could appeal to a YA audience, so kudos on the crossover appeal), and feels like a memoir even though it isn’t one.
THE MAP OF SALT AND STARS is a novel that alternated between events in 2011 Syria, told through 11/12 year old Nour, and historical, fantastical events narrated by the ancient-monster-fighting mapmaker apprentice Rawaiya, who’s 16 at the start of the novel.
(Hence, the YA appeal).
One of this book’s greatest strengths, by far, is the writing. It’s lovely and lyrical and musical and descriptive and straddles the line between purple prose and not (which is the perfect position, if you ask me). Each part even begins with a county-shaped poem, keeping up with the recurrent “map” theme that this novel centers around.
Heads up: this is a heavy book. it’s not a novel to read lightly or even quickly, and it takes time to get through. The writing is, again, heavy and full of feeing. This isn’t a bad thing, by any means, just a heads up. You’ll want to take your time with this one.
The characters are a delightful cast. They are fully fleshed out and REAL, and you cannot help but feel for their story, and feel (and fear) deeply. They go through hell and back, and not one of them emerges unscathed.
The reading experience was a stressful one, if only because you’re terrified for everyone’s safety.
Nour is a perfect lead. Her voice feels authentic and genuine and the fact that this is headed by a young girl that isn’t even a teenager yet adds a goosebump-raising element to the events that unfold, if only because the harrowing journey that Nour undergoes should never be experienced by one so young; but unfortunately, her story is a real and common one.
But all in all? A superbly-written and moving novel that explores the hellish conditions that Syrian refugees experience at the hands of a cruel, unpredictable fate.
Thanks to the author for the ARC!