Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed by Kit Downes
|Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed by Kit Downes|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: Two children need to find magical secrets to rush through their entry to the annual magic carpet race. The rollicking quest adventure they face is great fun for the 8-13s.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 240||Date: September 2008|
The Caliph is happy. Practically the whole city is happy in fact, as within days it will be host to its annual magic carpet race. But that doesn't mean that everybody is happy. The race this year will be down to two carpets. One has been woven by wanna-be swordsmaster Zal, and brought to life by magician Zara, the girl he loves to hate but indeed is already his young fiancé.
The other side is coming from literally the other side – the boo hiss baddies of the Shadow Society. Their rider knows just how this guild of crooks will judge anyone who lets them down, and as he has previous with Zara he will go to any length to win.
The first of those lengths is to break in, shred the carpet and demolish the family workshop. Zal and Zara then have just hours to go on a quest that will take them to wondrous places in the effort to reveal lost secrets and give themselves any chance of entering the race.
The quest that results might be too wondrous and fantastical at times, but as this is from the reader who happily sat through copious references to flying carpets you might as well take it with a pinch of salt. Anyway, the whole thing is brought to us with a brilliant exuberance, and with all the colours, flavours and sights the Arabian-styled setting might suggest.
It's nice to report the antagonistic children have a very low level of bickering (one of my personal bugbears), and Zal's dog fits into the story well. Indeed nowhere is there a contrivance such as might be expected. None is needed in a linear plot such as this that briskly takes us along to the final, kinetic action scene.
The colours are a particular feature of this fantasy world, but the whole theme is worn lightly enough. Throughout the plotting is tight, the level of magic high, the swordplay reasonable, and there is a noticeable levity provided by the character clashes and more. In fact, if only I could work out how so much of the subterranean action was lit without the fireflies I might be happy to give it top marks.
I'm not sure the hints at sequels we get actually sound like anything I would rush to read, but this book itself was fine – bright, probably unchallenging for the 8-to-teen audience, and a breezy fun adventure with a nicely wide scope.
The Bookbaggers are grateful for our review copy, and can recommend both this and the publisher's other hit colourful fantasy, The Bloodstone Bird by Inbali Iserles.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed by Kit Downes at Amazon.com.
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