The Scorpions of ZahirFeatured
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?
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.