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The Scorpions of Zahir Hardcover – July 10, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4-6-Eleven-year-old Zagora Pym is the feisty heroine of this colorful, fast-paced adventure set in Morocco. She and her brother, Duncan, accompany their archaeologist father out into the desert to reconnect with Pitblade Yegen, Dr. Pym's partner who was thought to have died in an expedition 11 years earlier. Plans change when Dr. Pym is kidnapped and the siblings set off to save him, along with Mina, a young Azimuth, and Razziq, their desert guide. At the heart of the story lies the mysterious "Oryx Stone," which is said to be made of meteorite pieces of the planet Nar Azrak. Zagora learns that she is in fact a sentinel of the stone, and ancient glyphs reveal that the children comprise the Circle of Four who will in fact save the Ancient City of Zahir if they can return the stone to the Pyramid of Xuloc before the lunar eclipse. Throughout this journey, they encounter human enemies, venomous snakes, hyenas, and mutant scorpions that have taken over the city of Zahir since the disappearance of the Oryx Stone. Brodien-Jones does a beautiful job of weaving an engaging story of intrigue, myth, and adventure. Her characters seem to jump off the pages and stay with readers long after the story ends, as their transformative journey becomes ours. The crosshatched sketches perfectly capture the ambiance and setting of this exotic thriller. A must-have read.-Mary Beth Rassulo, Ridgefield Library, CTα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review, Booklist, August, 2012:
Brodien-Jones mixes fantasy and adventure in a way that would make Indiana Jones feel right at home. Plucky Zagora, her absentminded father, and her often lazy brother are all changed by their journey, each finding out something unexpected about one another, the people they meet, and themselves.
Review, Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2012:
Combine a… premise involving the link between a mysterious planet and a half-buried desert city, giant scorpions with the power to communicate, and an eccentric cast of characters, and you’ve got a wild ride indeed. [For] readers who enjoy immersing themselves in adventures featuring creepiness of both the historical and otherworldly varieties.
Top customer reviews
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My main gripe with the book were the missing journal entries, and because of that I felt semi-lost any time the journal was mentioned. Also, the conversations felt unfinished, almost as if characters were about to say something else but were cut off and the action moved on to the next thing.
Other than that, I loved everything else in the book! I especially admired the clever use of the vocabulary. While the storytelling could be considered on the "slow" side, instead it was almost like I was reclining on the low pillows, slowly sipping tea and not hurrying anywhere. I think Christine Brodien-Jones captured the Arabian world very well, at least based on my limited knowledge.
I loved how Zagora and Duncan were just normal kids, faced with the extraordinary circumstances. Yes, she had some powers, but Zagora felt very real to me, like an 11 year old girl who still needs (and realizes that she does) adults in her life. Her dad was her hero, and no matter what happened she did not loose her faith in him. I loved her progressing relationship with her brother Duncan, which by the end of the book made me very proud of both of them.
The story was engaging and kept me turning page after page. I only wish there was more of Mina, because she was my favorite.
Overall, I loved this book and I will recommend it to anyone who would like to read about realistic characters in a (semi)realistic situations. Yes, The Scorpions of Zahir has several fantasy elements, but I don't think they were the focus of this book. Instead, the fantasy took a back step, while the children and their actions took the front stage.
Disclosure: An ARC of this book was provided to me by Random House Children's Books via NetGalley. This rating, review, and all included thoughts and comments are my own.