Saara El-Arifi's debut The Final Strife, the first novel in an African-inspired epic fantasy trilogy, has been snapped up in a six-figure auction in the UK and in a six-figure pre-empt in the US.
Natasha Bardon, publishing director at HarperVoyager, acquired UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada) rights in The Final Strife from Juliet Mushens at Mushens Entertainment in a six-figure deal after a five-way auction. Tricia Narwani at Del Rey US pre-empted North American rights in a "major" six-figure deal from Ginger Clark at Curtis Brown US, on behalf of Mushens.
Both will publish simultaneously in 2022. According to Mushens, El-Arifi originally submitted to her via the slushpile and "a passionate beauty contest" to sign her followed.
Set in "a cruelly divided Empire" and featuring "a spiky heroine with a heart of gold", The Final Strife is described as reading like "N K Jemisin meets Patrick Rothfuss" and is the first in a planned trilogy.
The synopisis reads: "Stolen from her noble crib as a child, Sylah was one of ‘the Sandstorm’: 12 Ember children raised by rebels to one day bring down the empire—until a massacre left her the lone survivor. Years later she spends her days numb from addiction, fighting (and winning) in the ring to fund her habit. But when her long-lost stepbrother returns, determined to fulfil the purpose they were trained for, Sylah is caught between her blood, and her loyalties. Forced to confront everything she has run from, and the truth of her past, can Sylah achieve the destiny she was trained for?"
El-Arifi's heritage–raised by a Christian Ghanaian/British mother and a Muslim Sudanese/Arab father–is said to be "intrinsically linked to the themes of her stories". She spent her childhood in the Middle East and, on reaching her formative years, moved to a village outside Sheffield. She initially specialised in theatre directing but now works at Pinewood Film Studios as global senior manager for comms and social media.
El-Arifi said: "I couldn’t be happier that The Final Strife has found a home at HarperVoyager. Being published alongside some of greats of the fantasy genre is a dream fully realised, and I can’t wait to collaborate with them throughout the trilogy. Their passion and dedication to sharing Sylah’s story with readers really resonated with me throughout the auction process and I look forward to working with them every step of the way."
Bardon said: "Saara is a remarkable, fresh and brilliant new talent. She has created characters to love and invest in – the perfect start to what I believe will be a fantastic series. I absolutely loved The Final Strife and think readers will too."
Mushens said: "Friends to lovers! A chosen one who failed to save the world! A spiky heroine with a heart of gold! This novel takes in all my favourite fantasy tropes and subverts them to produce a novel which feels at once both perfect for any fantasy lover, whilst wholly original too. She's a star."