Book Review: Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas – A Brilliant Interrogation of Heroism, Imperialism and Power, Set in an Alternate History Middle-East

Squire by Sara Alfageeh and Nadia Shammas.

Aiza has always dreamt of becoming a Knight. It’s the highest military honor in the once-great Bayt-Sajji Empire, and as a member of the subjugated Ornu people, Knighthood is her only path to full citizenship. Ravaged by famine and mounting tensions, Bayt-Sajji finds itself on the brink of war once again, so Aiza can finally enlist in the competitive Squire training program.

It’s not how she imagined it, though. Aiza must navigate new friendships, rivalries, and rigorous training under the unyielding General Hende, all while hiding her Ornu background. As the pressure mounts, Aiza realizes that the “greater good” that Bayt-Sajji’s military promises might not include her, and that the recruits might be in greater danger than she ever imagined.

Aiza will have to choose, once and for all: loyalty to her heart and heritage, or loyalty to the Empire. 

I received a digital advanced readers copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I read Squire thinking it would be a story about knighthood and heroism. In a way, Squire is about those two things, but it was also, unexpectedly yet to my delight, so much more. Set in alternate history Middle East, Squire follows Aiza, a young girl of the fictional Ornu people who dreams of becoming a Knight for the Bayt-Sajji Empire – not only for the glory of it, but also because it will offer a path to full citizenship. Hiding her Ornu background, Aiza enlists to become a Squire, but discovers that the ‘greater good’ promised by military is not at all what she initially believed.

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