The Balloon Thief

The Balloon Thief

By Author / Illustrator

Aneesa Marufu



Age range(s)



Chicken House Ltd




Paperback / softback




The year's must-read YA fantasy - ancient djinn, an epic adventure, and one girl's courage to seek her own destiny ... Burn the flame. Seek the night. 

For Khadija, the only escape from her father's arranged betrothal is the sky. When she spots a rogue hot air balloon fighting against its ropes, she leaps at the chance for adventure. Khadija soon finds an unlikely ally in a poor glassmaker's apprentice, Jacob. But Jacob is a hari, and Khadija a Ghadaean. The hari are oppressed and restless - their infamous terrorist group, the Hareef, have a new fearsome leader. And the ruling Ghadaeans are brutal in their repression. Soon, a deadly revolution threatens their friendship and their world. The Hareef use forbidden magic, summoning jinn - wicked spirits made of fire - to enact their revenge, forcing Jacob and Khadija to choose what kind of a world they want to save...

A commercial, thrilling and uplifting fantasy adventure following 16-year-old Khadija, who flees her home in a stolen hot air balloon to escape an arranged marriage. The debut novel from enthralling new talent, 24-year-old Aneesa Marufu, which draws on the author's South Asian heritage. Explores racism, misogyny and discrimination in a highly original fantasy universe. Perfect for fans of Noughts + Crosses, We Hunt the Flame and Rebel of the Sands.



The Balloon Thief follows the story of two unlikely friends. Khadija, a Ghadaean girl, and Jacob, a hari boy and a glassmaker's apprentice, both leading separate lives until Khadija fleas from an arranged marriage and lands in Jacob's home town. The Hareef, a terrorist group, cause the pair to flea and travel together in the hot air balloon until they go to the city occupied by the Newab, the military powers in this novel. This journey changes their lives with the arrival of the Wazeem and Hari, leading to rioting which endangers their friendship and the world that they want to fight for.

This novel portrays topics regarding racism, friendship, social action and more. This book is a great read for those who enjoy the Noughts & Crosses series (Malorie Blackman), and those who wish to read about a life-changing friendship and the dilemmas that arise from this friendship.

400 pages / Reviewed by Morgan Harkin

Suggested Reading Age 14+


The Balloon Thief is an adventure across the skies, following the friendship of two teenagers from opposing sides, the Hari and the Ghadaean. Two teenagers, Jacob and Khadija, have to navigate their way not only through the civil unrest but their unlikely friendship that began when the Hareef caused the pair to flee in a hot air balloon. Khadija, a Ghadaean, girl locked away from the outside world desperate to lead her own life and not one that is decided for her, sees a chance to escape the arranged marriage her father is trying to force upon her. Jacob, a Hari boy despised by many Ghadeaen, is glass blowers apprentice being drawn into a world of fighting and jinn that he doesn't fully understand.

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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