Please be aware that we discuss some fairly heavy topics in this episode, including addiction, violence against children, and racially motivated violence.

Also, less serious in nature but full disclosure: I reference Star Trek really early in this episode. I was proud of myself.

Towards the end of this episode, we discuss some important issues around diversity in book publishing. Given the recent conversations doing the rounds on social media, we think it is important to stress the need for diverse books. We always hope to promote equality and respect on this podcast, though finding some kind of parity in representation with guests has always proven difficult. But we do hope that in our small way we have been able to increase awareness of some marginalised authors during our journey.

The Final Strife book covers – US and UK editions

Martin Luther King Jr purportedly said ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.’ It is a sentiment I recalled when reading The Final Strife, the emotionally charged debut from Saara El-Arifi.

Grappling with ideas of colonialism, endemic prejudice, and a revolution that seems doomed to fail, El-Arifi uses classic fantasy tropes and turns many of them on their head. We wanted to ask her about creating a fictional society based on physical discrimination that isn’t immediately visible, centring black female experiences, and finding the lightness in blood magic.

We cannot reclaim what is ours without the help from those who oppress us.

Saara El-Arifi, The Final Strife

Texts mentioned in this episode include:

  • Star Trek (!!!)
  • Dragon Age
  • Draigon Weather by Paige L Christie

The Final Strife is out now in both the UK and the US.

Saara El-Arifi - photo credit Mustafa Raee, Lightning Rod Films

Saara El-Arifi was raised in the Middle East until her formative years, when her family swapped the Abu Dhabi desert for the English Peak District hills. This change of climate had a significant impact on her growth – not physically, she’s nearly 6ft – and she learned what it was to be Black in a white world.

Saara knew she was a storyteller from the moment she told her first lie. Though her stories have developed beyond the ramblings of a child, she still appreciates the thrill of a well-told tale.

The Final Strife is Saara El-Arifi’s debut novel, the first part of a trilogy inspired by Ghanaian folklore and Arabian myths.