The Kingdom Over the Sea (Hardcover)
July/August 2023 Kids Indie Next List
“Yara seeks answers concerning her late mother, which leads her to Zehaira and a magical quest for the truth. Fantastical and steeped in cultural folklore, this adventure story of marvel and wonderment will appeal to middle graders.”
— Gerard Villegas, Auntie's Bookstore, Spokane, WA
My own Yara, if you are reading this, then something terrible has happened, and you are on your own. To return to the city of Zehaira, you must read out the words on the back of this letter… Good luck, my brave girl.
When twelve-year-old Yara’s mother passes away, she leaves behind a letter and a strange set of instructions. Yara must travel from the home she has always known to a place that is not on any map—Zehaira, a world of sorcerers, alchemists, and simmering magic. But Zehaira is not the land it used to be. The practice of magic has been outlawed, the Sultan’s alchemists are plotting a sinister scheme—and the answers Yara is searching for seem to be out of reach.
Yara must summon all her courage to discover the truth about her mother’s past and her own identity…and to find her place in this magical new world.
Cryptic directions from her mother lead Yara Sulimayah from England to a magical world.
Upon her death, Yara’s mother leaves her instructions for reaching another world—the city of Zehaira, where she’ll find the sorceress Leyla Khatoun. Although skeptical, Yara’s also desperate to learn more about her and her mother’s past (on paper, they’re from Iraq). She finds an alternate world where the Sultan has sided with the alchemists, banning magic and forcing the sorcerers into hiding through a brutal Inquisition. On her journey to find Leyla, Yara overhears evidence of a dangerous plot to wipe out sorcerers for good. But Leyla, rather than helping her as her mother promised, is busy keeping a secret sorcerer settlement running and is uninterested in the city sorcerers’ woes. Yara must crack through Leyla’s self-protective mechanisms and convince her of the existential threat coming their way, all the while trying to get Leyla to spill the secrets Yara’s mother kept. That Yara ends up having (unconventional) magic of her own might be expected, but by then readers will have already formed an attachment to the determined, bighearted hero. The setting—an Arab-coded world that simmers with magic—is richly described and populated by complex people and jinn. The ending wraps the action up a bit abruptly but looks forward to more dangers and adventures in the sequel.
A debut that marks the author as an exciting storyteller to watch. (Fantasy. 8-14)
"Enchanting, immersive and beautifully imagined. Once I’d finished, I couldn’t stop dreaming of this magnificent magical world."
— A.F. Steadman, author of the New York Times bestselling Skandar and the Unicorn Thief