• Sara Bond

Pairings Project: SOUL TO STEAL by M.A. Guglielmo

TLDR; sexy, dangerous, and—underneath it all—a soft soul, Zahara is the urban fantasy heroine I’ve been looking for.



I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for hot disaster bisexuals. And Zahara is one of the hottest, and definitely the most disastrous. Bless her poor demonic heart, she can’t catch a break. With a more complicated family life than most human royalty, and a far more lascivious sex life, Zahara, demonic a magnet for drama.

I guess that’s why she’s such a fun character.

I was lucky enough to read both of M.A. Guglielmo’s Smokeless Fire books before they came out. SUMMONED is the first book in the series, and features Zahara, a sex-crazed, sweets-craving, troublemaking jinn. She dives in head first into whatever she’s doing at the moment, and can be easily diverted by sparkling jewels, sugary desserts, or the hottest Manolo Blahniks she can get her hands on. She’s Carrie Bradshaw with a tendency to kill her target as sleep with them.

Zahara gets paired up with a human who doesn’t know what he’s doing. Brilliant scenes follow as the human, Daniel, a video-game programmer, wades into the world of the supernatural, and Zahara either complicates matters or makes them far far worse by the nature of what she is. And what she is, is a brilliant, untested, naive, but over-eager young jinn, who has more family baggage than a Kardashian on a drunken world tour. She’s messy, she’s genuine, and she’d rather go find her next bottle of champagne or plate of desserts than deal with apocalyptic summonings or wars that threaten to destroy everything she holds dear. (Now whether that means she values her bottles of bubbly and designer shoe collection more or her family and the chance to prove herself, she hasn’t even decided yet.)

In SUMMONED, we see Zahara dive into the deep end of doing good for the sake of it, as she is introduced to Harut, an angel who was cast from Heaven and now desperately wants to prove himself worthy of redemption. As gorgeous as Harut is (and if Zahara is to be trusted, he is everything a male of the species should be, dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with pure sex), he doesn’t exactly make himself available. That’s a problem for Zahara, who has yet to meet a man who could resist her for more than a few seconds. She instead finds her priorities shifting as she partners with him to save her human summoner and maybe the world, too.

In SOUL TO STEAL, Zahara’s desires are more refined. She’s matured. The demonic jinn has reached her majority (a young 125 years) and is tasked by her mother to hunt down a wayward cousins. It seems someone or something is sending gifts to humans with jinn pedigrees. The problem with these gifts are, they unlock magical potential in their recipients. That means a lot of chaos and a big mess for Zahara.

She quickly finds her cousin Jo, a mechanic in Massachusetts, but the problem comes when Jo’s girlfriend disappears under too familiar circumstances. Zahara guesses that Jo’s girlfriend is also a jinn-cousin, and that her easy job of collecting a wayward cousin is going to get far more complicated. Within only a few scenes Zahara and Jo are pulled into a plot that involves all of the most dangerous characters of SUMMONED (at least all of those who survived the first book). And even if Zahara has matured and developed her own magic and abilities, blindspots about who she is and what she is capable of threaten both her and her mission to keep Jo safe.

SOUL TO STEAL is a worthy successor to SUMMONED. Both books are pure delights to read. They’re fast-paced, funny, and yet touch on deeper themes of what it means to love, to be human, and to be good. Zahara is a fun, headstrong character that you can’t help but to root for, even as she puts her questionable morals front and center. She insists that she’s dangerous and pure demonic evil, but every time she is forced to make a decision, she reveals that she is as complex and human as any woman.

It’s clear that Zahara has more secrets to uncover, and author Guglielmo is just champing at the bit to share them all. With two promising novels in this series, I have no doubt she’ll give us all a chance to unravel the mystery that is Zahara. She’s complex and relatable enough to carry a series for many more books; I can’t wait to read them all.

TLDR; sexy, dangerous, and—underneath it all—a soft soul, Zahara is the urban fantasy heroine I’ve been looking for.


COCKTAIL PAIRING:

CHAMPAGNE COSMOPOLITAN


Zahara is a force to be reckoned with. She’s fiery, short-tempered, lascivious, and a hell of a lot of fun. She loves all things sweet, bubbly, and dangerous. So I needed to find a cocktail that complemented this incredible woman/not-woman. Also, the first time we meet Zahara she demands expensive champagne, so a champagne cocktail seemed up her alley.


I don’t necessarily recommend making cocktails with your most expensive champagne, as the other ingredients will often overwhelm the delicate flavors of a really good sparkling wine. I did find an appropriately named Prosecco that was suitably dry and suggestive enough that I’m sure Zahara would approve. (Did I mention she was rather lascivious? Promiscuous? Ready to throw down in the bedroom anytime, anywhere as long as it has a high enough thread count.)

To go with the bubbles, I thought the classic uptown girl cocktail would work well, so here you have a Champagne Cosmo!

Champagne Cosmopolitan 1oz vodka 0.5oz Cointreau 0.5oz cranberry juice 0.5oz lime juice Dash of simple syrup 3oz chilled prosecco Mix all ingredients with ice except simple and prosecco. Taste and add simple as needed. Shake until it’s as sweet as Zahara would like it. Strain into cocktail glass. Top with prosecco. Garnish with lime twist.






Photos from NASA Image Collection and use of these images does not imply endorsement or recognition of my work by NASA or anyone associated with NASA.

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