The Scorpions of Zahir

By Christine Brodien

From the back cover

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’s 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?

My thoughts…

A seemingly harmless trip to Morocco to return a stone turns out to be a very dangerous one for Zagora and her brother Duncan. Young readers will follow the young duo along with their father into the mysteries of the Moroccan desert while learning about Bedouin culture and Moroccan food. Parents should note, however, that the story contains magic, some mentions of omens, and a magic stone that possesses unworldly powers.

In a gist…

Extramarital Love/Relationship

Zagora meets a Moroccan boy that she gets close to but only as platonic friends. A hug between the two is portrayed but only to show gratefulness for helping her.

Violence

The characters fight giant scorpions across the dessert.
A snake wraps around one of the characters feet in preparation for attack but gets swept away before harming anyone.
A villain gets stung by scorpions to find her demise.
Hyenas attack some characters but they manage to flee without harm.

Profanity

None

Smoking/Intoxicants

None

Degradation of Family/Islamic Values

  • The kids’ mother is dead. Not much mention of her, but Zagora seems to be fond of her. The father does not remarry.
  • The father is regarded highly by the children although he seems to be too distracted by his work away from his children.
  • There are several mentions of good and bad omens.
  • Among Zagora’s description of nomads she states that they know spells that give you bad luck for the rest of your life.
  • Zagora mentions that one days she’ll get a tattoo of Arabic letters intermingled.
  • There are mentions of sorcery, magic spells, and prophecies.
  • Zagora performs some acts behind her father’s back but realizes they are wrong and apologizes to her father thereafter. Some of those acts include:
    • She takes a valuable stone and wears it without her father’s permission.
    • She hid her father’s book because she found it fascinating and wanted to read it but kept quiet when her father started searching for it.
    • She decides to strolls around Marrakech secretly on her own because she was growing too curious to wait for her father to give her a tour.
  • A mention of a “desert prophet” is portrayed a number of times. Sometimes in reference to the Azimuth King in the book – as Zagora looks through some old glyphs on a cave wall she sees a picture drawn of a man with long flowing hair and a braided beard “exactly the way she [Zagora] imagined a desert prophet” is written.
  • The magic stone has the ability of bringing extinct creatures back to life.

Positive messages

The author is obviously fascinated by the desert and Arabic culture. Zagora and her father are passionate about the desert and it’s people. I think Muslim readers would be delighted by all the positive messages sent about the desert life and Bedouins. All the Arabic characters are harmless and very helpful at times; contradictory to what we see in the mainstream media nowadays. Zagora and her father love the sound of the Arabic language and the author’s description of Arabic writing makes the reader fall in love with the language all over again.

Final Verdict

Both, Zagora and her brother Duncan have high regards for their father. The book takes the reader on an exciting journey along the Moroccan deserts on a mission of restoring peace to a long lost city. Arabic culture is portrayed in a beautiful manner along with the heroism of some of the Moroccan children present in the book. References to magic and omens are present.

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