Thursday, July 21, 2022

Nura and the Immortal Palace

Khan, M. T. Nura and the Immortal Palace
July 5th 2022 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
E ARc provided by Edelweiss Plus

Nura works in the mica mines in India, where she spends long days picking up the glittering substance that is used in paint and cosmetics. Her income is needed to support her family after the death of her father. Along with her friend, Faisal, she tries to do her best work. When her mother says that she will be going to school, Nura takes a chance on her last day, trying to find the fabled treasure of the Demon's Tongue, and digs too deep, causing problems in  the mine. Faisal is one of the children that doesn't make it out, so nshe goes back to look for him. In doing so, she gets sucked into an alternate world where she meets her qareen, Dura, adn is taken to the luxurious Sijj Palace. There, she finds Faisal and is given a tantalizing look at what life would be like with lots of money. She just wants to go home, but Faisal talks her in to staying a bit. The two win an eating contest, and start to enjoy the luxuries being offered. When Nura accidentally cuts off one of the horns of the Painted Boy, however, there is a price to pay. The Painted Boy, Mirza, is the son of the hotel's owner, and the hotel rules sentence Nura and Faisal to endless labor. There are some loopholes, but qareens are tricksters, and it's hard to get the best of them. Nura befriends the Craftsman, who takes care of the many children who work at the hotel because they are bound to it. Gathering as much information as she can, Nura decides she needs to find the Demiurge to find a way to break loose of the hotel's grasp. Help comes from an unexpected source, and Nura and Faisal realize that the only way that they can be free is to destroy the hotel. It's not an easy task, but if they don't manage this destruction in three days, they will be unable to return home, and their memories of their other life will quickly fade. Will they be able to figure out a way to destroy the evil, magical place?
Strengths: There aren't a lot of books that address the issue of child labor in other parts of the world; Sullivan's Treasure of the World does, but this fantasy twist is very interesting. This is an interesting mix of real life details of what it is like to live in an economically disadvantaged neighborhood and work in a mine and fantasy elements that draw on India folklore. It felt a bit like Durst's Even and Odd in that respect; the fantasy world mirrored the real world in the same way. Nura is a good daughter and a good friend, and works hard even though she has no hope that her life will ever improve. The fantasy world is well developed and fresh; this is a quest story, but the quest is fairly localized. I liked that Nura got a glimpse of what kind of life money could buy, but realized that there were more important things than new clothes and all the food she wanted. The story moved quickly and made sense; if I can understand a fantasy book and write a review without taking notes, I know that it is something my students will be able to navigate without problems. 
Weaknesses: I wish that there had been more information about where Nura and Faisal lived and about what tradition qareens and the other characters come from. I felt like I was missing something. I did enjoy the notes at the end about child labor, but my readers especially might need more scaffolding in order to understand the setting. 
What I really think: Readers who enjoyed Doshi's Rea and the Blood of the Nectar, Cordova's The Way to Rio Luna, or Barron's Maya and the Rising Dark will enjoy this.

Ms. Yingling

1 comment:

  1. I've heard lots of good things about this book. I hope I can get to it soon. Thanks for the great review.