ISBN 978-1-58089-790-7 $17.99
Reviewed from galleys R Gr. 8-12
It’s 2012, and the Defenders of Faith, a militant Islamic group, are eager to impose a stricter practice of sharia in the Malian city of Timbuktu. For Ali, fifteen-year-old jihadist and Defender, this is holy work; he understands that people will rebel against the new regime at first, but they will soon realize that music, unveiled women, and silly idolatry of dead scholars’ manuscripts are doing nothing but keeping them filthy with sin. Then there’s Kadija—a clever and cheeky Sufi Muslim girl, singer, and soon-to-be Guardian of the city’s priceless manuscripts. She knows that there is power in the city’s songs, culture, and written stories of ancient scholars, and she organizes resistance. Sharing nothing but their headstrong natures, Kadi and Ali fall into a love-hate relationship—that is, until Kadi’s life is at stake. This British import gives humanized voice to jihadists, and with its West African setting and young protagonist, it challenges preconceived notions of who jihadists are. While the romance turns into a disappointing cliché, Davies succeeds in the development of both Ali and Kadi’s characters, and readers will be impressed by Kadi’s strong, rebellious nature. A short glossary precedes the text, while other non-English terms are italicized and understandable from context; an insightful afterword differentiates fact from fiction.