Chadda (the Ash Mistry series) crafts an entertaining exploration of New York City through the eyes of an irreverent Iraqi American Muslim teen. Ever since Sikander Aziz’s older brother died in a motorcycle accident two years ago, the now-13-year-old’s responsibilities have been piling up. Forgoing usual games nights with friends, Sik spends his evenings helping out at his parents’ Brooklyn deli, serving delicious Arab and Medi-terranean food to passersby. One night, though, his routine goes badly wrong when a pair of demons from Babylonian mythology launch a vicious attack on him, assisted by disease-ridden rodents. As servants of Nergal, the Mesopotamian god of plagues, their false belief that Sik holds the secret to eternal life puts him in the god’s crosshairs. Together with Belet, daughter of the war goddess Ishtar, and Daoud, a vain would-be actor and friend, Sik must find the ancient flower of immortality and save his city from Nergal’s devastation. Combining fast-paced action and heavy doses of humor, this Gilgamesh-inspired novel benefits from a well-developed secondary cast. The touching exploration of adolescent grief, and the strong connections between Sik and his parents, provide additional nuance and depth. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary. (Jan.)
"This is a lush read with high appeal, full of apocalyptic drama, fight scenes, and stomach-turning descriptions of Neural and his band of demons, balanced with Sik's dry humor and a cast of quirky, vivid characters."School Library Journal
"An epic adventure worthy of Gilgamesh. Chadda brings attention to the less well-recognized mythology of ancient Mesopotamia with engaging humor and wit."Kirkus Reviews
PRAISE FOR SHADOW MAGIC
*"Short chapters filled with action, appealing characters, and cliff-hanger endings make this fantasy the kind of book readers will find hard to put down."School Library Journal (starred review)
PRAISE FOR SHADOW MAGIC
*"Shadow Magic is a fast-paced read full of mystery, magic, misdirection, giant bats, and zombies. The characters are compelling, and the world is imaginative and well-crafted. Middle grade fantasy readers will find this book riveting and look for a sequel."School Library Connection (starred review)
Gr 5–7—Thirteen-year-old Sikander Aziz's parents are the patients zero of a plague attacking New York City. Before they were isolated in a hospital ward, Sik's parents, who are Iraqi refugees, owned a successful deli in Manhattan, which thrived even as the family grieved the recent loss of Sik's older brother Mo. When Sik finds out that Nergal, a Mesopotamian plague god, is behind the pandemic, he teams up with new friend Belet and her adoptive mother, the goddess Ishtar, before bringing Gilgamesh out of retirement. This is a lush read with high appeal, full of apocalyptic drama, fight scenes, and stomach-churning descriptions of Nergal and his band of demons, balanced with Sik's dry humor and a cast of quirky, vivid characters. Belet is a brilliant fighter and is best friends with Kasasu, her sarcastic, talking sword; Gilgamesh is a pacifist and vegan baker; and Mo's friend Daoud (and, readers eventually learn, his great love) is a vain actor in denial that he is being typecast as a terrorist. There are other instances of Islamophobia in the story, and Muslim identity is an essential theme. The dialogue includes Arabic phrases and terms relating to Islam, all listed in a glossary, and there is even a reconciliation between Sik's Muslim faith and the existence of multiple gods and goddesses. VERDICT Featuring gods and goddesses and, importantly, Muslim heroes, this #OwnVoices tale eerily echoes our pandemic present; but readers will find escape in the entertaining balance of an apocalyptic setting with irreverent humor.—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn P.L.
Thirteen-year-old Iraqi American Sikander Aziz must stop the ancient Mesopotamian plague god Nergal from raining destruction and pestilence on New York City.
After the death of his older brother, Mo, who died during a trip to Iraq, Sik has been working in his refugee parents’ New York deli nonstop, trying to stymie his grief. But when Nergal and his minions trash the deli while seeking a stolen treasure, they start a plague that infects Sik’s parents and threatens all of New York. Teaming up with the goddess Ishtar; her sword-wielding adoptive daughter, Belet; and Mo’s frequently typecast aspiring actor best friend, Daoud, they must find a way to stop Nergal and cure New York’s residents in an epic adventure worthy of Gilgamesh. Chadda brings attention to the less well-recognized mythology of ancient Mesopotamia with engaging humor and wit. Dialogue between characters, most of whom are Iraqi and Iraqi American, allows exploration of heavier topics of Islamophobia, anti-Arabism, and terrorist and Orientalist tropes to be inserted with ease. The Aziz family and Daoud are Muslims; Chadda navigates the difficult line of reconciling the depiction of characters interacting with multiple gods with the fundamental Muslim belief in one God both in the text and the backmatter. Daoud and Mo are alluded to being gay and having been in love.
Well paced and witty. (author's note, glossary) (Fantasy. 10-14)