Any book coming from Rick Riordan Presents needs little help to make it appealing, and this one is no exception. Sikander Aziz is a very believable kid. He loves his parents and feels obliged to help them run their deli, especially since the loss of his older brother. He's a little less tolerant of his brother's friend Daoud, who helps at the deli but dreams of making it big in Hollywood. Then everyday life goes out the window as ancient deities come to town.
There are encounters with Ishtar, Gilgamesh, ancient swords, rhyming demons, and even beings in the underworld as Sik tries to save his parents from the plague devastating New York. Along the way he discovers some surprising facts about himself, his brother, and Daoud. He also makes a new friend, Betel, who has been trained in warfare and is not afraid to use her skills.
Within the adventure there are also some real-life truths. For instance, Daoud's desire to become a movie star has so far resulted in only a couple of TV appearances as "Head Terrorist Henchman." When Sik asks him when he will be playing a hero, Daoud answers, "Guys like us don't get to be heroes. You know that." Readers will have to see whether Sik is able to defy that expectation.
As the author explains in his note, "Growing up Muslim in Great Britain, I knew I couldn't be the good guy. It was more than just not finding heroes like me...I was actively presented with the belief that...people like me are...the villains." The invitation to join Rick Riordan Presents gave him the opportunity to "bring kids the type of heroes still sorely lacking in children's fiction."
I think readers will have a grand time with Sik's story and end it while hoping to have another of his adventures soon. Insha'Allah.
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