Loosely based on Persian legends, this illustrated children’s book relates how two heroes save their people from a Dark Queen.
In ancient Persia, the capital city of Shiraz is bustling even more than usual because the king’s firstborn son, Prince Ardashir, is about to marry. But enchantress Nisibis, queen of the Dark Angels, wants to rule the land and wed Prince Ardashir herself. When he refuses, she lays waste to the city and casts a spell that encases its people in crystal. Many years later in the small town of Fars, two young men, Daruosh and Rostam, have to leave town after Rostam unwisely attacks the provincial governor’s brother. Rostam, “built like a boulder,” acts without thinking, while his friend Daruosh is leaner, politer, smarter. It’s Daruosh’s idea to head north through the Land of Legend; since the forest is said to be cursed, few will follow. The two friends separate at a fork in the path, where a mysterious old man tells them they have different destinies to follow: Rostam must learn to use his head and control himself, while Daruosh must learn “to wrestle with monsters.” Each friend faces challenges, goes on adventures, and receives help from magical and human companions while learning more about himself, growing, and changing. The two reunite to make a last stand that could save the Land of Legend. Ghodrati (The Patriarch’s Family: A Novel of Heartbreak, Love and Redemption, 2012) grew up in Iran hearing Persian tales from his parents and grandparents that inspired this book. The result is a pleasing mix: enchanted creatures and people, including an animate shadow, among wise men and scary villains; a coming-of-age story against rousing battles and romance; and fairy-tale motifs like animal helpers and a prophesied hero. Ghodrati’s emphasis on his heroes’ needs to learn and grow is handled with humor and good psychological insight, and even the Dark Queen gets a generous final accounting. Page’s illustrations are richly colorful, like Persian miniatures, and contribute wonderfully to the storytelling.
Broad appeal for readers who love exciting adventure, character development, and an exotic setting.