Morocco, 1912. Four children are kidnapped and cruelly sold into slavery. Tariq, an orphan abducted off the streets of Tangier, Aseem, handed over by his impoverished father, Margaret Owen, an English girl kidnapped from her hotel, and Fez, the captured son of a tribal leader, find themselves part of a caravan traveling through bandit territory. Their destination is the kasbah (castle) of their new owner, Caid Ali Tamzali. Exposed to brutal treatment at the hand of Zahir, the head guard who shepherds them on their journey, the four children are forced to become friends in order to survive their ordeal.
Arriving at the kasbah, the boys are trained to be camel racers and Margaret is put to work in the harem. But the brutal treatment continues unrelenting, and the boys, as they begin their training, learn that the cost for coming in last in the camel race is death. Fortunately, a friend of Tariq’s from the outside gets a message through and a daring escape plan is undertaken with the help of Sanaa, a harem girl who becomes Margaret’s guardian angel. But in order for the plan to succeed, all five must call on all the bravery they can muster.
The author has written a period novel filled with old-fashioned plot elements, but with a contemporary streamlined narrative. The book reads like a Boy’s Own adventure and is filled with action involving bandits, pirates and rebels, reminding the reader of such grand entertainments as Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road and John Milius’ The Wind and the Lion. What the novel lacks in literary polish (imprecise word useage, anachronistic dialogue), it more than makes up for in enthusiastic storytelling. Whether intended for a YA or adult audience, this is a book the entire family can enjoy reading. And in true thirties pulp fashion, the novel ends with a cliffhanger.
An old-fashioned adventure novel written with contemporary verve about a group of kidnapped children trying to escape their captivity in Morocco in 1912.
Reviewed by Kenneth Salikof for IndieReader.