Book Review: Spice Bringer

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A deadly disease. A vanishing remedy. A breathless journey.

All her life, Niya’s known she will die young from the fatal rasp. She survives only with the aid of vitrisar spice and a magical, curmudgeonly fire salamander named Alk. Then an ambitious princess burns down the vitrisar grove in an effort to steal Alk so she can claim her rightful throne. Joined by Jayesh, a disgraced monk, Niya and Alk must flee to the faraway Hidden Temple with the last vitrisar plant, or all who suffer from the rasp will perish.

But even as Niya’s frustration and banter with Jayesh deepen to affection, the rasp is stealing away her breath and life.

For a girl with limited time and a crippling quest, love may be more painful than death.

Goodreads Link: Spice Bringer
Author: H. L. Burke
Genre: YA Fantasy Romance
Rating: 5/5 stars

Burke is back with another great young adult fantasy, this time a stand-alone story in another new world. This time, the snarky sidekick is a fire salamander named Alk, who is probably related to a dragon in some way, but also unique and cool in his own way. If someone wants to make me an Alk plushie, please let me know, because I’d love to cuddle this little guy!

Anyway, Spice Bringer is set in a fantasy culture that is definitely not your cookie-cutter Generic Western-European Kingdom. Niya’s world sounds a lot like India, with its delicious spices and colorful silk clothing. But there are fantasy twists that make it special, like the magical spice vitrisar–the only treatment for a deadly disease called the rasp. Niya has the rasp, and she also becomes the guardian of the last surviving vitrisar plant along with the only thing that can keep it alive–the fire salamander, Alk. She doesn’t get along with Alk at first, but since her life depends on him, they form a grudging bond.

I loved every part of this story, even though I cried in multiple places. The magic is totally new, the characters are so easy to love (even the villain is sympathetic, not the mustache-twirling type), and I felt so strongly for every step of their journey. Niya’s illness feels so real because of the limitations it places on her, and I thought it was a good depiction of a person with a terminal illness. I don’t have a terminal illness, but I do have breathing problems from asthma and allergies, and I winced every time Niya started coughing.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but I will say that this was a really touching story about love, courage, faith, and living your life despite the obstacles. This is an incredible book that I read practically in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend it to fans of fantasy romance and anyone who wants to read about non-western fantasy settings.


I'm an author, a blogger, and a nerd. I read and write fantasy.