Release Date: January 17, 2012
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
Magic, Djinn, Ogres, and Sorcerers. Thirteen-year-old Zardi loves to hear stories about fantastical beings, long banned from the kingdom of Arribitha. But anyone caught whispering of their powers will feel the rage of the sultan—a terrifying usurper who, even with his eyes closed, can see all.
When her own beloved sister is captured by the evil ruler, Zardi knows that she must go to any lengths to rescue her. Along with her best friend, Ridhan—a silver-haired, violet-eyed boy of mysterious origins—and an unlikely crew of sailors led by the infamous Captain Sinbad, Zardi ventures forth into strange and wondrous territory with a seemingly impossible mission: to bring magic back to Arribitha and defeat the sultan once and for all.
I don't read a lot of middle grade books because more often that not the characters and the plot do not grab me and I loose interest very quickly. Not so with The Book of Wonders.
I like that the story was based on Middle Eastern fairy and folk tales. It adds a different and unique flavor to the story. As soon as I started reading, I couldn't stop. A lot of things happened very quickly, one after the other, and the story's fast pacing doesn't let up until the very end. The world building was well-done. I really enjoyed all the different exotic places the author took the reader to where we met strange creatures and magical beings. I especially enjoyed the rocs--massive and deadly birds that Zardi befriended.
Zardi was a wonderful main character. She was clever, determined and likable. Readers will root for her to succeed in her quest and save her sister from the evil sultan. Ridhan was very likable too. He was abandoned as a baby and was taken in by Zardi's family but no one knows where he came from. The whole time I was reading, I wanted to know of Rhidan's mysterious origins. I also enjoyed the secondary characters, especially Sinbad and his crew.
I did have a couple of issues with the novel. One was that it felt like the obstacles Zardi came across were resolved too easily, no matter how complicated they were. And this also goes with my other issue in that I felt that the rescue of Zubeyda (Zardi's sister) and the final fight with the evil sultan was over too quickly. I thought, with the whole book mostly about finding a way to rescue Zub and defeat the sultan, it would be more exciting but it felt more like an afterthought after the epic fight with the Queen of the serpents and her snakes before the rescue.
However, I realize I am not the target reader for this novel and a middle grade reader won't be thinking about the issues I mentioned. They would be too busy flipping the pages. The story was like a roller coaster ride: fast-paced, action-packed and very imaginative. I think even the most reluctant young reader will enjoy The Book of Wonders.