Hearts at War came out of a small spark. For a while, I had talked to people close to me about writing a book for Jabari, what sort of circumstances would finally force him into a relationship and give him growth at the time time. Like… possibly a year+ ago. I think it came into my head when I was thinking about Zuri/writing Zuri’s story. (and I already have ideas for a couple of the other siblings that are not Hisao)
There’s a long, detailed thing I could post about not wanting to write Jacky last July. Royal Pawn had just released, I needed to be writing Rogue Alpha. I did not want to, and there’s a bunch of reasons for that. I started at the beginning of that manuscript and wanted to scream. In the end, I wrote Hearts at War real quick, then went back to Jacky, feeling so much better. Hearts at War, on the timeline, went after Rogue Alpha, but I needed the change of pace. I could get away with writing it, have both in editing at the same to check details… so I did. I wrote Hearts at War first and I was so much better for it.
Writing this book was smooth. It flowed out of my brain and onto the page. I had such a connection to the idea of this book that writing it was “easy”. Writing is never easy. I wrote 10-12 hours a day on this book. Even if it came easily, that still takes a toll on the body in secret ways. Emotionally, though? I connected to this book and to these characters and their stories. So the spoilers… will be a little personal. Let’s get into it. I’m going to ramble, a lot. There’s a lot we can break down, things I just want to say to say them.
At the base concept, starting to think of Jabari getting a book, I knew there was a teenager involved. The idea that he’s not just finding love but something he’s never had, this idea of fatherhood that fits him really well… on paper. He’s so much more damaged than we know. Even without his past, he just isn’t in a place where he can explore who he is. He’s trapped in the position of eldest son, being strong for everyone, the General. It’s his identity.
It would be so easy to make this entire book seem like “oh yay, we got to have a Jabari book.” It would be easy to say it’s only his book, and only think everyone else is just there to make him grow. He wasn’t my favorite character in the book. He wasn’t the character who really told me the story. I adore Makalo, but he wasn’t either.
Aisha walked into my head and asked to tell me a story. In the end, this mother, this powerful woman, was the person who guided me through this book. She showed me how she healed, and showed me what she had to heal from. I was following her, trying to keep up, just like Jabari was.
She’s wonderfully complex. It would be so easy to say: This can’t be a romance. She’s made an awful mistake and she shouldn’t have done that. She doesn’t deserve forgiveness until she apologizes. But I write these books, so I got to write the mother I wished had. The woman who could put what she believed her children needed first. Jabari realizes this over the course of the book, because Aisha refuses to be anything or do anything but what she feels is best for Makalo. She’s just as traumatized as Jabari, but she was strong enough to begin healing long before this book started. Someone who showered their child in unconditional love, sheltered and protected this little life in her care. She didn’t give him expectations, or a life of potential fear and conflict. She didn’t burden him with the mistakes she or his father made. She only gave him love and acceptance, a place where he could find himself. She didn’t have any of that, not at all. Her mother is her deepest trauma.
In her most heart broken moment, she was in charge of someone precious, someone she knew was vulnerable and powerless. Instead of repeating the mistakes done to her, or letting another give him a different type of pain. She would try to be the mother she wished she had.
Writing her, even now in review, honestly brings tears to my eyes. (And I will fight for her. You’ve been warned.)
As for the book’s plot itself… I’ll jump straight to Subira. I hinted Subira was up to something at the beginning, and I adored having three generations of this family on the same page. I enjoyed presenting the juxtaposition of Hasan’s reaction to Subira’s reaction to this situation. Hasan was immediately blaming Aisha. Subira got real with Jabari. Subira doesn’t put her children on pedestals, that’s for sure. Readers will have to make their own decisions about which was the better parent reaction.
Also, when witches are involved, Subira will eventually get involved. It might not always be quickly, but she’ll make her way there… sooner or later. Sometimes, she needs lots of time to figure out what she needs to do, but in this case, even if it hadn’t been her family, she would have intervened.
(Some of you will have questions about Levi from Snared: KS2. The Tribunal got him before anyone in their family could, and the Tribunal witches stuffed him into a prison before anything could be done. Not every person can be in every place at every time for these sorts of situations. So yeah, the family kills witches that know this sort of magic, to steal power from others, but they can’t handle literally every case of it. Let’s be realistic.)
It was her family, though, and she remained calm. I have a feeling she was shaken by the scene she found, but she’s the matriarch and she had to remain calm. Her son was falling apart. Her family was watching this unfold while they were powerless. They all hope she can be the one to fix it and she recognizes that too.
Makalo having to find some power, but also I wanted to have a boy who is just a boy. He’s a hero, absolutely. He fought and protected himself, because his mother taught him enough and his father told him the score, but he’s still just a boy. This was a big moment for him, and he reacted to it as best as he could then didn’t know what to do. However, I love him. Through the whole book, I adore him. Real MVP, Makalo.
And we could get into the nuance of the family call if we wanted, the siblings and their behavior. Or maybe how well Zuri knows Jabari. It’s sad how much she knows about her brother… and yet was missing this one crucial part of his life.
I really can’t type essays on my own books, though. I mean, I could, but I’m here to express the biggest pieces of the book to me and then let y’all talk to me about your favorite parts so…
Let’s get talking!
Aisha was a big surprise and I can’t wait to see her interact with the family more! Calling Hasan on his parenting style was my favorite part!
Mine too! It will be interesting to see the changes in Hasan. Between him being wrong about Heath and having to face that the werewolf became a rogue for his daughter and now this? Can a thousands year old Werecat learn some new tricks?!! I hope we get something new between him and Subira just so we can get a story with a growth arc for him!!
I absolutely thought Aisha was the star of this book in my eyes. I loved every single minute of this book. I literally neglected my life for an entire day so I didn’t have to stop reading. So honestlyy favorite scene was the zoom call with them all. I feel like so many of the things she said I have thought and felt and noticed over the course of Jacky’s books and I felt vindicated or justified I guess. They all needed a kick in the pants for sure and Jabari needed someone to fight for him and man Aisha stepped up to the plate WOW. As for Subira I didn’t see her coming, yes in hindsight I should have but I was to busy crying for Aisha and Jabari to wonder how the hell can we fix this mess, but that was pretty freaking epic how that played out. Also Hasan Holy shit he has needed that tongue lashing for centuries, he isn’t a bad father per se and I know he loves them but everything Aisha said was spot on. I think this will ultimately make him an exceptional father. Makalo was written so beautiful as a boy, a teen and a Werecat growing with magic. His protectiveness for his mother, madey heart smile and cheer 💜
I’m the end I loved every minute of this ride and I am so glad you up felt the need to tell Aisha and Jabari and Makalo story it was a joy to read for sure 💜
I would be very careful about expecting too much from Hasan.
Not many people like when practical strangers call them out about their children.
Yeah, I don’t see this going well or Hasan changing because one person stood up to him. Maybe if it had been Subira, but not Aisha.
Concur except Hasan DOES love his children and he is not oblivious. I figured THEIR reactions on the call might have been a “wake up call” for him. Especially with things like Heath going rogue and other things he hasn’t expected. I’d like to see something rock his world and peek into a “new beginnings” type story for him and Subira where that old cat has to do some serious growth.
Aisha is amazing. I absolutely loved her and she is my new hero. She proved that the love of a mother can overcome any pain and heartbreak. She raised a wonderful young man and made all the right decisions. I understand Jabari’s initial anger and I am so glad he was able to truly listen (thank you Zuri)
I was captured by every word and I felt I was accompanying them all as they navigated all their emotions until they found each other and became a family.
Subira and Kashim saving the day was unexpected but so appreciated.
I feel there are big changes for the warecat ruling family. I was left with a sort of “civil war is coming “ feeling. And I am kind of excited about that (insert evil laughter)
Now, to the important question. Am I the only one wondering how Carey will receive the news her supernatural crush has a mate and a kid her age? How I wish I could have a glimpse to that scene.
I really liked this book! Besides the great story telling (that is ever on point) it was really interesting to get to know new characters and see the old ones with a new perspective. Reading Aisha’s view of the world makes clear how Jack’s family is viewed outside of her buble and how other werecats react to them. I mean, we know that they are ruthless and powerfully (they literally have one assassin dedicated to kill their enemies) but the writhing always showed then in a more … i don’t know, protective than reactive way? We don’t need to worry about how bad they can be, so we focus on the day to day troubles and positive points. I could understand Aisha worries, and could see how there were a real possibility that they would kill her or / and take her son away from her. She was badass in a different way of the other heroines of the tribunal, and I also liked that. It’s cool to read about the fights and adventures of Kaliya, Jack and Zuri, but smarts and a different kind of strength are refreshing and Aisha and Everly give me that. On final thoughts, I want to see how Hasan will react at what was said to him and how it will influence the future books. I imagine that being an immortal means a lot of time to learn and change, and also to keep habits that aren’t really good. We fight to change bad things about ourselves and we live in this world for some decades. Someone who supposedly been around for millenniums won’t change fast and easy. And the hate (and bad temper, the know it all attitude, the family structure…) is real deep. Really loved your book. Wish that you will keep writing about side characters, is interesting and I would like to know their stories. Anyway, thanks for the book!! Waiting for the next, here from Brazil!!
I enjoyed the book and the new characters. I believe that Jacky and Aisha will become good friends I also hope Cary and Makalo become friends if not more. An interesting fact about Aisha’s name – it comes from Arabic and mean half-moon which is an interesting name for one of the moon cursed ( it was my Turkish sister-in-law’s name). I loved Aisha, but my favorite character was Subria and I hope that we see more of her. I read the book 3 times before posting to make sure I got everything. There a several important things that come out of this novel that have a bearing on future stories. First, it is clear that most of her family supports Jacky’s decision to marry Heath. Second. Hassan has suffered several serious challenges to his leadership in a very short period of time:
I really wonder how he is going to deal with this. Finally, a thought for future novels. There is an open female werecat seat on the Tribunal. Neither Zuri nor Subria can fill it because they are witches. By hosting a meeting of North American werecats Jacky is becoming political. Could she possibly fill the seat in the future?
Please Please Please add a “Timeline” and “Books in XYZ World” page. I just finished Jacky Leon only to discover Kaliya. So I’m reading backwards in worlds. Is Kaliya the first set of books?
There is a timeline, but I try not to stress. It’s not a requirement to understand Jacky to read Kaliya or vice versa. Or Everly Abbott, a third series in the world.
As for books in the world? Everything I write as K.N. Banet is, and you can find that in the book on the Also By K.N. Banet page.
I loved Aisha! My favorite part of the book was her telling off Hasan.
Speaking of this world… is Sorcha REALLY gone? I feel like with Oberon and Titania taking her body that Cassius and she might have a story in the works?
Sorcha is dead. Titania and Oberon don’t have the power to reverse that.
They were there to take her for a proper fae burial.
I can’t wait to see what happens after Aisha handed them all their asses. That scene was POWERFUL.
I bought this book when it came out, but I just finished reading it today. I really enjoyed it! Let me say that I HATE the hidden baby trope with a passion (because who are you to keep a child from their father, barring horrific extenuating circumstances), BUT this one was so well done. Aisha did a great job with Makalo and I’m glad that Jabari understood why- especially after the family video call. I loved when Aisha pointed out how unhappy they were as a family, and I hope they all take heed to her words. I’m glad Makalo got to meet some of them, and that Davor and Niko were having fun on the beach with him, along with Jacky and the rest. I also enjoyed Subira and Kushim (still have to read Zuri’s and his story- bought the anthology, but haven’t read it yet).
Also, I have a question about Makalo’s memory. Did he remember what the witches did because the deed was already done or because his magic is so powerful that it finally broke through their spell?