In the second volume of the action-packed Red Hand Adventures series (Rebels of the Kasbah, 2012), a trio of boys in early-20th-century Morocco team up with heroic rebel fighters to stop a bloodthirsty villain.
Teenage boys Tariq, Fez, and Aseem, as well as English tourist Margaret Owen, have been kidnapped to serve as slaves to the power-hungry Caid Ali Tamzali, but rebel leaders Malik and Sanaa storm the Caid’s casbah and free them. The Caid wants revenge, so he hires the most feared assassin in Morocco, the Black Mamba, to track the rebels down. He also hopes to build an alliance with France that will help him destroy the rebellion and become the next sultan. Tariq, Fez, and Aseem decide to spy on behalf of the rebels, but along the way, they encounter various obstacles. Back in England, Margaret finds it hard to readjust to the rigid rules of her country’s stuffy social hierarchy, particularly after witnessing horrible things during her brief time as a slave. Meanwhile, Margaret’s missing father lives a secret life as a Robin Hood–esque pirate alongside the good-hearted Capt. Basil, but both are unaware that there may be a traitor in their midst. It’s fortunate that O’Neill includes a character list at the start of the story; the already large cast keeps expanding, and it can be hard to keep track of who’s who. The author also doesn’t skimp on details, packing every page with vividly drawn scenes that take readers to a mysterious circus in the Australian Outback (“Two clowns juggled knives back and forth, and a really short little man practiced every manner of somersault”), an island inhabited by French anarchists who worship Napoleon, an uptight English girls’ school, and the dangerous, bustling streets of Tangier. Young readers will enjoy reading about exotic cultures that they may not have heard about in history class, although they will need strong stomachs to handle some of the graphic violence that liberally, albeit realistically, peppers the story.
A strong second installment in a YA historical series that should please inquisitive and imaginative readers.