10 July 2012, Delacorte Books for Young Readers
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.
Strengths: 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.
Weaknesses: I didn’t like Zagora, and there were a lot of improbably plot elements. If Zagora travels with one backpack, I think it somewhat unlikely that she would pack a purple blouse and flowered harem pants. Tiny details like that bothered me because I love this type of book so much.
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