Book Reviews

The Balloon Thief by Aneesa Marufu // Book Review


For Khadija, the only escape from her father’s arranged betrothal is the sky. When she spots a rogue hot air balloon fighting against its ropes, she leaps at the chance for adventure.

Khadija soon finds an unlikely ally in a poor glassmaker’s apprentice, Jacob. But Jacob is a hāri, and Khadija a Ghadaean.

The hāri are oppressed and restless―their infamous terrorist group, the Hāreef, have a new fearsome leader. And the ruling Ghadaeans are brutal in their repression. Soon, a deadly revolution threatens their friendship and their world. The Hāreef use forbidden magic, summoning jinn―wicked spirits made of fire―to enact their revenge, forcing Jacob and Khadija to choose what kind of a world they want to save…



In a world where men of status travel in gilded, ornate, fantastical hot air balloons, racial tensions are still very much alive. Khadija, a higher status Ghadaean girl and Jacob, a lower status Hari boy, find themselves trapped in a brutal war between Ghadeans, Hari and Jinn, racing and running from towns to cities in hot air balloons.

Fleeing a arranged marriage and a suffocating life trapped indoors, Khadija sees a chance for escape in the very thing she’s admired for so long – a hot air balloon. Not fully understanding how to work it, she finds herself enlisting the help of Jacob, an orphan glass blower trying to find his place in the world.

This story did have some pacing issues, I felt it slowed down towards the middle but was also too rushed at the end. The characters (which even includes a trans woman!), mythology and sheer beauty of the world kept my attention right to the very end.

Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments!

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