Title: The Book of Wonders
Author: Jasmine Richards
Zardi is a dreamer, dreaming of adventure and magic in a kingdom that does its best to stifle both. The sultan of Arribitha hates magic, and his subjects live in fear of his cruelty. But when Zardi’s sister is taken to be the sultan’s prisoner (which always ends in execution for the maiden in question), Zardi is determined to save her. Together with Rhidan, a strange orphan who has grown up with her family, she sets off to find something or someone strong enough to topple the sultan and save her sister.
I’m on the fence about this one. The parts I liked I tended to like a lot, but the rest of the book left me feeling rather meh. Rhidan’s arc interested me more than Zardi’s. He’s always looked extremely different from everyone around him (white hair and purple eyes being your first clue he’s not going to be normal), and he’s desperate to find out where he came from and what it means that he was abandoned with nothing more than an amulet and his name. And as the mystery unfolds, he’s still got more questions than answers. He appears to be a sorcerer, but in the end he’s got to rely more on his own wits and his friendship with Zardi to get anything important done.
Zardi’s side is more straightforward: her sister has been taken to be the sultan’s prisoner, and will be executed after she has fulfilled her 90-day term. She sets off to find something that can help her free her sister (and depose the sultan too, if she can manage it). Despite her name being Scheherazade, this isn’t a retelling of the storyteller. This is actually a retelling of one of the voyages of Sinbad, although in a somewhat condensed and altered form. Zardi’s interruptions at the beginning put me off her character for a long ways into the book, but by the end I liked her better.
The story reads like an odd blend of Arabic and Greek mythos mashed together. Perhaps because Sinbad borrows a lot from some Greek tales anyway. The Cyclops, as best I can tell, seems to be a Greek addition. I do like the Rocs. More gigantic intelligent birds, please (and there are hints Zardi hasn’t seen the last of them). But some things were just far too obvious, even if they were likely part of the original (eg, the password to open the door). And the jinni near the end made everything rather cheap, because despite her warning that her magic has limits, she grants an awful lot of wishes for not much reason. I would have preferred her to set a hard limit on what she was willing to do, in exchange for setting her free (three wishes, one wish apiece, something like that).
This leaves off resolving a few things (mostly for Zardi) and opening up for the next adventure. It took me a while to get into things, but once I did I enjoyed the ride. I rate this book Recommended.