Published by HarperCollins on January 17th 2012
Magic, Djinn, Ogres, and Sorcerers. Thirteen-year-old Zardi loves to hear stories about fantastical beings, long banned from the kingdom of Arribitha. But anyone caught whispering of their powers will feel the rage of the sultan—a terrifying usurper who, even with his eyes closed, can see all.
When her own beloved sister is captured by the evil ruler, Zardi knows that she must go to any lengths to rescue her. Along with her best friend, Ridhan—a silver-haired, violet-eyed boy of mysterious origins—and an unlikely crew of sailors led by the infamous Captain Sinbad, Zardi ventures forth into strange and wondrous territory with a seemingly impossible mission: to bring magic back to Arribitha and defeat the sultan once and for all.
Just reading the description of The Book of Wonders gives me a sense of adventure. When I heard the name Sinbad, it brought me to think about Aladdin and the other tales of Arabian Nights and made me more excited to read this book.
I was drawn in from the beginning. Richards sets up a rich world, full of an evil sultan, a deadly hunt, and a boy with a mysterious past. Zardi sees her own sister and father captured before her and decides to embark on a journey to find a group of people opposed to the sultan. If she can find them, she can stop her family from dying at the sultan's hands. Her adopted brother Rhidan follows her, curious about his origins and together they set off to sea. Their journey takes them far, as Rhidan discovers his magic and blows them to an unknown land filled with huge birds and snakes at war with one another, along with a Cyclops and a dijinni.
The Book of Wonders captured my attention from page one, but I found that when they weren't in the middle of an adventure or in danger, the book started to drag on a bit. The main characters were colorful, but the side characters sometimes I couldn't really remember – mostly the sailors. Even with its flaws, this book has laid a solid foundation for the next book while still resolving some of the plot by the end, which made me happy. I was hoping not to have to wait that long to see what would happen.
A solid fantasy novel, full of adventure, colorful villians and characters, and lots of magic.