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An Andalus Adventure

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Her childhood was spent in Wales, and after graduating, having travelled widely in the Muslim world, she lives in London with her husband and three children. The year is 711 CE, 92 years after the Hijra of the Prophetﷺ and seventy-nine years since hisﷺ death. Jacob, captured in Julian's raid on Iberia, is tied up and thrust upon a galley boat bound for North Africa.

The climax is nice but ultimately rather lackluster, and the beauty of characters taking shahada, Jews being freed, Solomon’s table, an old lady with a premonition, and a character dying are just not enough to keep the story in reader’s hands, unfortunately. Leaving his sleepy village of Tlemcen, a young Berber, Qasim joins Tariq's men and is swept away on an amazing quest. Similarly, I love that it mentioned Abbas Ibn Firnas, but I don’t know that most kids know enough about him to know what is being hinted at and what the outcome was of his flight at the end.

I love that the book is clean, although, I do wonder if more information about Lady Florinda would have helped the reader understand her father’s desperation, I do understand the vagueness, but it is a glaring omission that keeps the reader curious. The book opens with two young siblings Ben and Bella, overlooking the coast, dreading their lives under Visigoth oppression, and hiding their Jewish culture and faith. Jacob, captured in Julian’s raid on Iberia, is tied up and thrust upon a galley boat bound for North Africa. In a middle school, or upper elementary the book would be a great crossover between History, English, and Islam classes.

Leaving his sleepy village of Tlemcen, a young Berber, Qasim, joins Tariq's men, and is swept away on an amazing quest.This author’s style is a bit more slow, but I think in the House of Ibn Kathir series, the setting of being in school and having friend problems is relatable to readers; boarding horses on to a boat, deciding to wage war, and going in to battle are not familiar concepts, and without the emotional connection it loses momentum. It is extremely well written and I loved the way the author integrates perspectives from three different viewpoints, following their adventures with different timelines that come together in an incredible finale. I love historical fiction, visiting Spain is on my bucket list, this book has a map, details about what is historical what is fiction, has Islam woven in to the heart and soul of the story and characters, and yet it was a hard read. Siblings Ben and Bella live under constant Visigoth scrutiny, forced to live a double life of secrets and deception.

Siblings Ben and Bella live under constant Visigoth scrutiny, forced to lead a double life of secrets and deception. I don’t know that I could get middle school students to read the book for a book club, it would have to be motivated by a grade to get through it in a classroom setting I’m afraid.The book would naturally lend itself to the students keeping character journals, the supplements and backmatter would allow for references and insight in to real history, and I think the book would do really well in this set up to connect with the audience. The summary might make the book seem fast paced, and while it does constantly move forward to a clear destination, it isn’t a “buckle your seatbelt and hang on” type of story. You could read a chapter Monday, and then pick it back up on Thursday and not worry that no one remembers anything because it is focusing on new characters anyway.

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