Diversity in children's books is a great thing, and much needed, as it often takes the reader out of their comfort zone. I don't always enjoy books like this one. Recently, I've not been able to finish a couple of books based on similar themes. Once I'd read the first chapter, I thought that this book was destined to end in the same way. However, I'm very glad that I persevered with this story as it really challenged me, both in my learning and understanding of a different culture.
Tonight, the Islamist rebels are coming for Timbuktu.....
The plot is set in Timbuktu, a city in the West African nation, which is situated north of the River Niger on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert. The book really depicts the remoteness and the challenging landscape particularly well, in my opinion. The setting is linked to the historical events that happened in 2012; the capture of the city by the Malian military known as the Tuareg rebels.
Historically, this book chimes with a defiant beat and gives the story a feeling of authenticity. Some of this is down to the author's understanding of events and his personal time spent living amongst the Fulani herders in Burkina Faso.
The more that you read, the more that you are aware of the focus of the story on the troubled world of extremism and violence on West African Muslims. This makes you face up to the real issue of what is happening in the world - a regime of law that tears apart a peaceful world including a ban on television, football, radios and even music, everything that we take for granted and may hold dear to our lives.
This is a very topical read, but with a light-hearted centre that pushes some of the seriousness and the darkness to one side to create a balance. The two main characters are brought to life; they are full of life and feeling. Kadijia is the music-loving daughter of the guardian of the sacred manuscripts. Ali is a former shepherd boy, but is now a trained warrior for Allah. Part of the story has a romantic summer step to it and lifts the book to magical heights. The harsh regime sets the two main characters apart as Kadijia's defiance draws Ali to her. It's a modern day romance that transcends religious beliefs.
This book has everything to offer the reader; action-packed adventure, historical events and thrilling real-life danger pumped with emotions and feelings. A great infusion of religious culture will leave you thinking, even after the last page has been turned. It is fantastically plotted with many twists and turns that will keep the reader on their toes. I can see this book being a great read for GCSE students as well as readers 12 years and older. It is really enjoyable, very interesting and full of educational content - recommended 100%.
Published by Andersen Press, June 04, 2015