The Book of Wonders by Jasmine Richards
13 yr old Zardi lives and her best friend Rhidan do everything together. The two live in Arribitha where magic is forbidden by the sultan. Anyone got using magic of any kind risk imprisonment or death. The sultan is cruel and vicious to his people, Zardi's father is the sultan's vizier, a kind of aid. This is position Zardi father hoped to keep some of the sultan's hideous acts to a minimum. However the sultan feels betrayed, and he takes Zubeyda, Zardi's older sister prisoner as his new praisemaker. All unwed girls risked being placed in a tower for a season. Once there time is up the sultan will hunt and kill them for sport. Zardi has 90 days to find a way to save her sister. Rhidan was left in Arribitha as a baby, he sets off with Zardi, in hopes of finding out where he's from. The one thing I would've changed was less references to Rhidan's hair and eye color. Though they were the reasons why he stood out, I felt they got refered too much. Zardi and Rhidan have a great friendship and work very well together. The two soon find themselves very far from Arribitha, unsure of who to trust, being hunted by the sultan with more questions than answers.
Once I started reading I couldn't stop. What I loved best about The Book of Wonders is the author never tries to do too much,simply lets the story unfold. The author has written a wonderful story that is inspired by Middle Eastern folk tales. The dialogue throughout is sharp, and all the action scenes are visually fun. Richard's is a senior editor at Oxford University Press Children's Books, I believe this helped her debut . It's as if The Book of Wonders was scrutinized by two pairs of editorial eyes. I am usually apprehensive about middle grade novels that are 400 pages long but this was not one of those times. There was no excess here, every scene served a purpose. This is an excellent debut, Richard's knows how to tell a good story.
Kirkus review and Publisher's Weekly review via author's site.
Read the first 7 chapters via HarpersCollins.