Review posted January 12, 2024.
Simon & Schuster Audio, 2023. 8 hours, 7 minutes.
2023 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#4 Children's Speculative Fiction
This book begins in England after the death of 12-year-old Yara’s mother. Before she’s due to go with the social worker to a foster home, she reads instructions her mother has left for her. She’s told to go to the sea and follow particular instructions to get safe passage to a place called Zehaira. And once there, she’s given directions to find a certain sorceress who will look after her.
Yara is amazed by the magic that brings her over the sea to Zehaira. But once there, she learns that the sorceresses have been thrown out of the city, persecuted, and killed. Her next quest is to find the person her mother sent her to. Once she does, is there a place for Yara among the sorceresses? And she overhears the alchemists plotting further schemes against them. Can Yara help?
This fantasy tale won my heart. Yara’s bravery, setting off alone to a magical kingdom, had me rooting for her, and the characters she meets and the tales she uncovers made me love her and her new community. I was especially fond of the way activist Yara dealt with a jinn she met, and that jinn’s choice to take the form of a goat.
This book is only the beginning. Although they triumph over one major challenge, there is more to come. I will want to travel further with Yara and her community. This delightful fantasy tale will pull middle grade readers over the sea into the kingdom of Zehaira.