The Scorpions of Zahir

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3.3 (2)
 
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The Scorpions of Zahir
Co-Authors / Illustrators
Genre(s)
Age Range
10+
Release Date
July 10, 2012
ISBN
978-0385739337
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A middle-grade adventure for the brave of heart! Zagora Pym has always wanted to be a desert explorer, and when her father — a "real" desert explorer — receives a mysterious letter, she gets her chance. But Morocco is full of dangers 12-year-old girls should never face, and this might be Zagora's first and last adventure ever.

Zagora Pym has always wanted to be a desert explorer. Her father, Charlie Pym, is exactly that, and she's always loved to look over his maps of far-away exotic places. One day she'd be trekking through the deserts of Africa and China, discovering hidden treasures from lost tribes. But Zagora would never have guessed that her chance to prove herself would come so soon. Like most adventures, it starts with a mysterious letter. The question is, how will this adventure end?

Zagora's dreams of desert exploration are about to come true, but are she and her father and brother being followed? And will they ever make it back to civilization?

Editor reviews

2 reviews

Lost in the desert
(Updated: July 07, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
3.5
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
3.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
4.0
THE SCORPIONS OF ZAHIR has just about everything I love in a middle-grade adventure: a strong-minded heroine; a fascinating location; a magical artifact; mysterious signs and portents; a happy ending. Yet somehow, these elements did not cohere into a satisfying whole.

In the end I decided this story needed fewer words, that it was meant to be a shorter, sharper, faster book. Like the scorpions of the title, it needed to dart and stab! As it is, it's more of a camel: useful, weirdly beautiful in the right light, but generally plodding. It gets there in the end, but the ride is uneven.

I think I may have already milked the camel metaphor desert-dry, but forgive me as I indulge one more time. Like a well-saddled camel, draped with beautifully dyed and embroidered blankets, THE SCORPIONS OF ZAHIR has splendid trappings. The book design, the font, the chapter headings, the illustrations are all wonderful. This is a beautiful book to look at, and such evident thought and care are to be applauded. Yet underneath the blankets, it's still a camel, and it still plods.

It's a shame really, because THE SCORPIONS OF ZAHIR had so much potential. Take the scorpions, which in the book range from miniscule to six-feet long (shudder). Scorpions are just plain terrifying, so they are an excellent, unusual choice of monstrous adversary, one well suited to the locale. They're also a superb, subtle symbol of the journey the main characters take, the conflict between moving forwards, and looking backwards. Uncovering history is risky business. The past sometimes ought to remain hidden.
Good Points
Beautifully produced book
Interesting setting(s)
Imaginative adventure
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Travel to Morocco
(Updated: July 07, 2012)
Overall rating 
 
2.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
2.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Zagora’s father is an archaeologist who had a friend, Pitblade Yegen, who went missing when they were investigating a site but who has reappeared. Zagora, along with her father and “chubby computer geek brother Duncan take off to Marrakech to reunite with him. Zagora is thrilled because she has the journal of Yegen’s grandfather, and knows about the mystery of the Oryx stone, which her father has in his possession. Many other people want it, including Olivia Romanescu, who sent for them, and Mina, who claims that the stone is the property of her people and has magical qualities. The group take off across the desert on rented camels with a young boy, Razziq, as a guide. When their father goes missing, the children have many dangers to confront, including plagues of scorpions, sand storms, and all manner of people who want the Oryx stone for their own.
Good Points
I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody books, as well as R.L. LaFever’s Theodosia stories, and the details of archaeology and the desert in this book are very good.
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