Source: Netgalley, thank you to the publisher!
TL; DR : An portal fantasy with a strong moral lesson set in the world of jinn.
Nura and the Immortal Palace is a portal fantasy with an incredibly strong moral message to it. Nura, an admittedly greedy girl, is a mica miner who accidently causes a cave-in seeking the ultimate prize. The cave-in takes with it her best friend and three others. Determined to find them she ventures back into the caves and finds herself lost in another world, that of the Jinn.
It’s not often I find myself scratching my head at a middle grade. Typically they are fun, they’re easy to digest and I think the target audience would love them. The best are perfect for adults and kids. Sadly this one I don’t think would work well for either group. While the spunk and spark of the main character would probably go over well with some younger readers, I did not enjoy it. She felt thin, 2 dimensional, and by the end of the book she seemed not to have grown at all. She simply got away with what she did and still managed to come out a hero.
The moral message and philosophy in this book will probably also feel very heavy handed to adults and I’m almost certain most kids will find it wordy and off-putting. A great deal of it just felt like it came from no where, first we were following Nura as she sought money to buy food for her family for Eid but then in the last 2/3rds we’re being told the importance of education (in an aggressive way, with flower philosophic writing). While I think both things are important – the telling of the story of a child in these circumstances and the story of the importance of education – I don’t think the two were blended well. There was also the references to her father, which seemed at first to tease a bit of a mystery or a return, but were dropped quickly and never brought up again.
Overall this was fun in parts for me, but I don’t think I would recommend this to any children I know or have taught. Adults may possible get something out of this with the early emphasis on the mica mines and drawing attention there, but otherwise it felt like both too much and too little.
2 riotous immortal palaces out of 5 from me.
Bookshop.org – Nura and the Immortal Palace(Hardback)
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