Following The Gauntlet (2017), Riazi once again offers a fast-paced story in a changing game world with floating skyscrapers, flying cars, flavorful food and sweets, and a giant talking mouse.
It’s been a few years since Pakistani American Ahmad Mirza, now 12, entered Paheli. After his sister, Farah, now at Princeton, sends a mysterious package to his school instead of home, Ahmad finds himself in Paheli again with classmate Winnie Williamson, who’s black. He does not remember the time spent in Paheli, but everything seems familiar somehow: “Something about the Minaret…reached inside and scratched its nails over old scars in his heart in the worst kind of way. It brought up memories of pain and panic without him even being able to identify what those memories were.” The evil Architect has a new partner, the MasterMind; Madame Nasirah, the Gamekeeper, is back to guide the players, providing them with spinach pies, desserts, and tools. T.T., a 6-foot-tall talking mouse, provides additional support. Ahmad and Winnie must stick together and trust each other if they are to defeat the Architect and MasterMind in the requisite three rounds, solving a puzzle in each timed challenge. Ahmad, who has ADHD, struggles with making friends and discovers more about himself through his game adventure. Through the tight third-person narration, Ahmad comes into his own, but Winnie’s character is not as fully developed.
An exciting return. (Fantasy. 8-12)