Review: The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards


 

Title: The Book of Wonders

Author: Jasmine Richards

Publisher: HarperCollins

ISBN: 978-0062010070

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sorcerers, Cyclops, Djinnis . . . Magic.

Thirteen-year-old Zardi loves to hear stories about fantastical beings long banned from the kingdom of Arribitha. But anyone who is caught whispering of their powers will feel the rage of the sultan—a terrifying tyrant 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 risk everything to rescue her. Along with Rhidan, who is her best friend, 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.

Review:

I spent most of my holiday vacation reading.  I am amazed by all  of the great stories I was able to enjoy during my time away from work.  The Book of Wonders is one of the titles that I devoured, and I literally spent most of a day flipping the pages of this fun middle-grade adventure.  An exciting spin on the 1001 Nights, there is plenty of action, adventure, and death-defying feats to keep readers entertained.  I liked the characters, especially the spunky Scheherazade (nicknamed Zardi).  She managed to get herself into, and back out of, an alarming amount of trouble over the course of the book.  With her best friend’s help, she remained surprising unscathed even during the most trying of circumstances.

Zardi lives with her family and her best friend, Rhidan, in the city of Taraket.  Her country is ruled by the evil sultan, Shahryar, who has outlawed all magic from his kingdom.  He is a cruel and vicious ruler, and he delights in the discomfort and pain of others.  When Zardi’s older sister, Zubeyda, is chosen to be the sultan’s next praisemaker, Zardi knows only fear.  The career of each praisemaker is terrifyingly short, and each ends with a hunt.  Zubeyda will be tracked down and killed!  Zardi is determined save her gentle sister from this cruel fate, and she will risk her life to save her!

This is a fast-paced read, with one frantic adventure following another.  With the help of Rhidan, Zardi leaps into the adventure of a lifetime.  She thinks that the key to saving her sister is finding the Varish, a group of rebels threatening to overthrow the sultan and return Aladdin, the rightful ruler, to the throne.  Rhidan, who was abandoned by his family and raised  by Zardi’s family, believes that the sorcerers of the Black Isle will hold the key to his true identity, as well as help save Zubeyda.  And so the two sneak away in the middle of night, and soon find themselves working on Sinbad’s ship.

I thought Zardi was a fun character.  She refused to allow anything to get in the way of saving her sister.  Not even being a shipwreck,  the Cyclops, or the queen of snakes could deter her from her goal.  Each new challenge was met with the grim knowledge that she could not fail, or her sister would die.  This thought kept Zardi and Rhidan’s trials even more exciting, because if they took too much time to get out of each new scrape, there wouldn’t be enough time left to save Zubeyda.  This really cranked up the tension!  I didn’t want Zubeyda to die any more than Zardi did!  Her frustration with delays rang true, as did her desperation to do anything to save her sister.  I couldn’t have been as brave, but failure wasn’t an option for Zardi, so she firmly stifled all of her fears and charged head first into each new challenge.

If there is one element to the story that I did not enjoy, if was the sultan’s one-dimensional character.  I wish that he had been just a little more fleshed out, instead of just being a convenient catalyst to jump-start Zardi and Rhidan’s journey.  He needed a backstory, or something to make him just a tiny bit sympathetic; instead, he is just evil, evil, evil, and that made him a little boring.

I think that with the strong adventure elements, The Book of Wonders will appeal to both boys and girls.  It’s hard to resist the pull of a good adventure story, and this one keeps galloping along, never allowing the reader to catch their breath.  While the story is satisfactorily wrapped up, there are enough open story threads that I am curious to follow Zardi and Rhidan on future outings.  There’s that Aladdin guy they never found, and Rhidan still has to learn more about who he truly is.  And how to control his powers.  I am looking forward reading more about both Rhidan and Zardi.

Grade: B

Review copy provided by {Teen} Book Scene

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