In this fourth volume of an adventure series, a resourceful Moroccan orphan named Tariq and his loyal friends set out to return an ancient diary to its rightful home.
It’s 1914. Readers last saw intrepid cohorts Tariq, Fez, and Aseem stranded in the ocean after their hot air balloon crashed. Their friend Melbourne Jack died in the accident, but not before making Tariq promise to return a valuable artifact—Alexander the Great’s diary—to a circus in India led by Jack’s mentor, Foster Crowe. Fortunately, the boys are rescued by a band of sea Gypsies, led by the charming Capt. Scopas. Scopas desires revenge against Abdullah Ozek, an evil gangster in Constantinople, and asks the trio to help him. Along the way, the boys befriend a young woman named Pakize, a talented thief who steals to help her struggling neighborhood make ends meet, and discover that Ozek runs an illegal exotic animal trade. Meanwhile, English schoolgirl Margaret Owens sets out to rescue her classmate Inez from the German soldiers who captured her. Together, the girls must race through the Black Forest to France before the determined Maj. Lars Hostetler can catch them. And Foster follows the sinister Wu Chiang to Europe to stop him from using the power of the Red Hand Scrolls to start a world war. O’Neill (Legends of the Rif, 2015, etc.), an Ian Fleming for the middle-grade set, manages to smoothly jump among his groups of characters and their various escapades around the world—from Constantinople to Kathmandu, Bremen to Sarajevo—without leaving the reader confused about where each storyline left off. The narrative delivers rich cultural details, including vivid descriptions of delicious food and exotic locales (“Constantinople presented herself in full glory to the three boys. Her buildings were cast in a golden hue….On the hillside of the city, seven humongous and beautiful mosques, each with long and narrow towers called minarets, glowed in the morning sunshine”). Readers should feel as though they too are traversing the globe every time they fall back into this fast-paced tale. The pages will likely fly by far too quickly for the series’ loyal fans, who will be left waiting eagerly for the next installment. A warning: several moments of graphic violence might be too much for more squeamish young readers.
A satisfying, action-packed return to the world of the Red Hand and a daring trio.