Review: Daughter of the Salt King by A.S. Thornton

Goodreads Synopsis: As a daughter of the Salt King, Emel ought to be among the most powerful women in the desert. Instead, she and her sisters have less freedom than even her father’s slaves … for the Salt King uses his own daughters to seduce visiting noblemen into becoming powerful allies by marriage. Escape from her father’s court seems impossible, and Emel dreams of a life where she can choose her fate. When members of a secret rebellion attack, Emel stumbles upon an alluring escape route: her father’s best-kept secret—a wish-granting jinni, Saalim. But in the land of the Salt King, wishes are never what they seem. Saalim’s magic is volatile. Emel could lose everything with a wish for her freedom as the rebellion intensifies around her. She soon finds herself playing a dangerous game that pits dreams against responsibility and love against the promise of freedom. As she finds herself drawn to the jinni for more than his magic, captivated by both him and the world he shows her outside her desert village, she has to decide if freedom is worth the loss of her family, her home and Saalim, the only man she’s ever loved.

Genre: Romance, Fantasy, Adult Fiction

Date of Publication: February 2nd, 2021

Publisher: CamCat Books

My Rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the author, CamCat Books and Netgalley for the digital ARC of this book!

Emel’s life is less than ideal, as an ahira her only role is to use her wiles to provide a useful alliance for her father the Salt King. Her only hope of freedom is to be chosen as a visiting noblemen’s wife. One day, a surprise attack on the Salt King allows Emel to uncover the secret to his success, a jinni. Now, as one of the jinni’s masters, Emel has the power to wish for anything she wants. Jinni magic is tricky and volatile, and as she learns more about Saalim, she’s no longer certain what she wants. With a violent rebellion growing in the village, Emel must choose between her own freedom and something she’d never before considered, love. 

Freedom is a multi-layered concept, which Daughter of the Salt King explores at length. This story is an interesting take on the mythos of the Jinn. Instead of the vehicle with which to find love, the jinni Saalim is himself the love interest. The setting of this novel is mainly the Salt King’s village and his palace, found in the middle of an unforgiving desert. A.S. Thornton creates an intriguing and harsh environment for her characters. The main character, Emel, is part of the ahira, which is essentially a harem of the Kings daughters who get outsourced to visiting noblemen. These men get up to three nights with the daughter of their choosing, and if they like them they can marry them, providing the Salt King with a new ally. Daughters are given until their 23rd birthday to find a husband, after which they are banished from the palace and forced to live in exiled squalor. The lives of Emel and her sisters are essentially a mix of slavery and prostitution, so it’s really no wonder that Emel wants out. 

I appreciated how dangerous the magic of the Jinni is depicted, it stays true to the mythos of how unpredictable the jinn can be. Saalim however is not an unstable god, but instead comes across as a slave in his own right, forced to grant wishes for whoever controls him, whether he wants to or not. Saalim’s background is very interesting, and I would’ve liked to learn more about his past and where he came from. The length of the book is quite daunting for a romance, and at times I felt it got a bit repetitive. I would’ve liked to see more growth in Emel’s character, and more depth to her and Saalim’s romance. The rebellion plot was more to the forefront for me, and the romance felt almost secondary at times. 

For a debut romance novel, I think A.S. Thornton did well. Potentially, the length of the book could be shortened, and more time could be spent developing the characters, but overall it was an enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to romance lovers who are looking to try a new author. I think it would also serve for people who like fantasy novels and are looking for a lighter read. Daughter of the Salt King is available for purchase on February 2nd, 2021. 

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