Book review time again! This time a little less realistic and a little more adventurous!
Summary: Zagora Pym is an 11 year old girl, longing for adventures the like of which her Father, Charles Pym, has lived. She pours over his old maps, travel journals, and whatever adventures stories she can get her hands on. Zagora’s chance at adventure arrives in the form of a mysterious letter from her father’s presumed-to-be-dead friend, Pitblade Yegen. Soon, Zagora, her father, and her brother Duncan, are off to Morocco to investigate. With a rogue planet moving into position, an ancient prophecy being fulfilled, an evil villain surfacing, giant scorpions roaming a buried city, and a lost people trying to reclaim their buried homeland, will Zagora be able to prove her explorer worth? Or will she get trapped in the ever-shifting sand and plots?
What I liked: Zagora is a likeable character, as are Duncan, Charles, and Razziq. The setting is wonderful: I have an extremely strong desire to go to the dessert, just like Zagora, so I connected with her on that level. And she gets to ride a camel!
I could feel the heat from the sand, smell the dry wind and sun-baked buildings, taste the mint tea. Zagora’s excitement for all things desert really carried through the text. The premise was interesting and fun, and, though it had supernatural elements, it didn’t feel overly like a far-off fantasy; it was more like an adventure story. There were also some sci-fi elements in the way of an evil scientist working with poisonous desert animals—which was a bit predictable.
What I didn’t like: The language and phrasing. It was sometimes cringe-worthy, and date, despite being written in 2012. I almost felt like Brodien-Jones was trying a little too hard to be cool. There were a few instances of “well, like, what do you, like, mean”s thrown in there, which were not in character for Zagora, and don’t even get me started on the hoard of OBVIOUS conclusions spelled out for the reader. I also disliked that Zagora had so many mini breakdowns throughout the text—crying, crying, crying, so much emotion and nowhere to put it—when those were out of character, too.
However, these issues weren’t consistent, which is what makes them stand out all the more. The story would be cruising along, I would be fully, and wonderfully, immersed in the story and then BAM—Zagora fell out of character, there was an all-to-obvious observation, or a cringe-worthy instance of slang. It was like being smacked in the face.
Despite these jarring, occasional issues, I did enjoy this book. It was fun and had a wonderful setting. I would recommend it for younger readers, probably about 4th to 6th grade. While older kids would enjoy the story, I think they might get overly annoyed by the things that bothered me, too.