Wednesday, May 29, 2024

City of Stolen Magic by Nazneen Ahmed Pathak

City of Stolen Magic by Nazneen Ahmed Pathak
Publisher:  Puffin
Format:   E-ARC 
Number of pages:  384
First Published:  June 29th, 2023, and in U.S.  May 28th, 2024
Source:  Edelweiss+

Opening Line:  "Chompa wrinkled her nose as her mother ran the wooden comb firmly through her ever-knotted mass of hair and dipped her toes into the river to distract herself." 

Chompa has always known that she possesses powers, as both she and her mother, Ammi are witches.  She has the ability to move and transform small objects, yet her mother has forbidden her from utilizing her powers.  Instead, encouraging her to concentrate on learning her Farsi letters and assisting in writing the charms that her mother sells.

Ammi has been desperately hiding Chompa's abilities, claiming she has no powers, to protect her from the British rulers who are searching for individuals to capture and ship off to England to use their talents. Eager to prove herself to her mother, Chompa uses her powers and ignites a flame that spirals out of control, compelling her mother to extinguish it with her finger magic.  Unfortunately, Chompa's display catches the attention of the British, leading to Ammi's capture.

Shortly afterward Mohsin arrives.  He's an old friend of her mother's, who offers to assist Chompa in rescuing her mother.  Together they travel to London, where they become intertwined with Sir Clive Devaynes, a British man who plans to exploit Chompa's powers for his own schemes.

City of Stolen Magic draws inspiration from Nazneen Ahmed Pathak's work as a historian, researching the history of Muslim communities in the East End.  The character of Sir Clive Devaynes is the combination of two of the East India Trading Company directors, Clive and Devayne who were responsible for the stealing of about thirty-six trillion dollars' worth of goods from India.  The author also relates in her author's note that she drew upon stories that were told to her by her family and her meticulous research into the historical events of the forcefully removal of people from India and the indentureship of its children.  Further themes include colonialism, imperialism, and resistance.

Chompa is an excellent heroine; she's feisty and determined in her quest to save her mother.  Children may resonate with the idea of a protective mother and Chompa's sense of being restrained.  The story's premise is captivating, filled with unexpected twists.  Observing Chompa's first encounter with London was entertaining, while also illustrative of how people attempt to blend in by conforming to various styles of dress, in her case by wearing a frock.  

I enjoyed the magic system which incorporated both finger magic, written charms and djinn speakers (Tipu and Laurie, who aid her in her quest).  A type of magic which admittedly I'm less familiar with but was eager to learn more about.  The illustrations by Sandhya Prabhat at the beginning of each part of the book and chapter were very nicely done and I also found the map illustrations for Bengal and London by Lisa Visirin to be very helpful.  

Overall, I thought the story was fast paced, has interesting characters and settings, while providing meaningful perspectives on this historical time period.  My only caution is that there is a death which could be distressing to certain children and therefore should be taken into consideration when picking out the right reader.  

1 comment:

  1. https://www.lindabrowne.caJune 4, 2024 at 9:19 AM

    Thanks for the intriguing review, Brenda! This one sounds interesting.