In this middle-grade historical-adventure novel, set in 1912 Morocco, a group of misfit children are kidnapped and sold as slaves to the vicious lord of a casbah.
Tariq is a street-wise orphan from Tangier who has spent his life just trying to survive. Just as he has finally found happiness in the care of the kind Zijuan, slave traders kidnap him and sell him as a camel jockey to the ruthless Caid Ali Tamzali. Also in his company are Margaret, the daughter of a British naval captain, who was kidnapped from her hotel; Fez, a brainiac from the mountains whose entire tribe was murdered; and Aseem, who was sold by his own father when he could no longer care for him. The four become fast friends, united in their desire to escape the evil Caid before they die in his service. Plotlines involve Margaret’s father tangling with pirates, Zijuan negotiating with Moroccan crime lords and a group of rebel fighters plotting to overthrow Caid’s casbah. The complex story, like its main characters, rarely stops to take a breath, hopping around in time to reveal the various back stories of its diverse ensemble. This provides tremendous insight into everyone’s motivations, but it can also grow dizzying. Some of the dialogue falls flat, but the action is so intense that many readers will hardly notice the words being said. Debut author O’Neill incorporates a great deal of cultural and historical context into his story; detailed descriptions of clothes, meals, weather and more will make readers feel as though they have traveled back in time and fallen into that world. The cliffhanger ending all but demands that readers jump to the next installment in the series.
An exciting, exotic tale that occasionally overwhelms with its intricacy.