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Book Review: Compelling tales of adventure and mystery

25th Dec 2020
Book Review: Compelling tales of adventure and mystery

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Moon of Masarrah, Sign of the Scorpion & Hour of the Oryx (Series) by Farah Zaman. 2018. Zeenatul Zaman/Book Power Publishing. 2020.

Farah Zaman’s Moon of Massarah’s Series – a collection of three books so far – are a Muslims answer to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.

The books are filled with plenty of thrilling chases, dark spooky nights, and mysterious intruders to keep one on edge until the last page. Her ability to effortlessly seam together the storyline with aspects of the characters Muslim’ness such as Jumu’ah prayers or choosing the right hijab to go with the dress is a joy to behold, and best of all it does not take away from the intriguing plotline. Zaman is an excellent storyteller.

As Zamans’ books are geared towards a younger audience, I roped my 10-year-old to review this set of books with me. Her take is below in italics:

Before I read the series of these books, I was reluctant to read them because it would be as boring as some of the other books my parents have chosen for me. However, when I started to read it, I was surprised as to how much I enjoyed them. These have graduated to my favourite book list, right next to Harry Potter of course.

The Moon of Massarah is about four young teenagers (Adam, Layla, Zahra and Zaid) two of whom are descendants of a pirate called Captain Red Rafiq of an imaginary land of Midan who was brutally murdered. Many years later, the teenagers are determined to solve the murder and are also on a quest to find a diamond that Rafiq had acquired before his death. As we dive into its pages, we discover the arrogant Ambreen’s, a mysterious marked dagger and even some sliding panels.

The second book in the series, the Sign of the Scorpion is a lot more dramatic as it features scorpions, murder and even betrayal within a family. It is very difficult to keep track of all the characters as there are many cousins, sons, grandsons, half-brothers /sisters, and nieces. As well as, maids, nurses, servants, tutors, and PAs. This book contains hidden cyphers and a mysterious man who stalks them on an exciting trip to Ghassan city.

The third book, the Hour of the Oryx is the scariest and weirdest of the set. It is all about murders and raising jinn. A new friend of the four teenagers, Heba, confides to them that her uncle (Mr Issa) was murdered, and they are determined to find out who did it. Alongside the murder, a kidnapping has taken place. Unfortunately, the boy who is kidnapped looks exactly like Adam, which puts him on the crosshairs of some very dangerous people.

I would rate this book 10 out of 10 because it has all the qualities of a tantalising tale. It is absorbing, slightly scary, funny and highly engaging. I can’t wait for her fourth book, The Crimson Circle, to come out!

Although the wealth and the opulence in these books are far-fetched, the four teenagers and their mannerisms feel very familiar. They have names that we might have come across in our families, and it is easy to imagine yourself inside the book. I have said this before, and I will say it again. Our salvation lies in our ability to write fiction well. It enables our ability to connect with others outside of our faith, demystifying aspects of our lives.

The fact that my 10-year-old rated the books close to Harry Potter has left me a bit stunned. She has loved the twists and turns the books have offered, and above all, she could find herself in these books, without having to change the nature of her name or race and for that I am thankful.

Aasiya and Nabeelah I Versi

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