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The Magician of Samarkand by Alan Temperley
Published by Macmillan Children’s Books, 2003

Reviewed by Shannon Children’s Book Club – June 2004

Anahita is the beautiful daughter of the poor shoemaker Kashgar, but along with her mother Fatima and her older brother Farraj, they all live very happily in the beautiful city of Samarkand. Anahita’s beauty is noticed not only by the the handsome and kind prince Sohrab, but also by a new arrival to the city, the evil magician Zohak Ali, who has come with the aim of bringing the city and its riches under his control. Soon anyone who dares speak out against him finds themselves transformed into a flea bitten donkey or dog. Anahita falls foul of the magician when she refuses to marry him and as a punishment Zohak Ali changes her into a bent old woman. She is forced to flee the city when Zohak Ali spreads vicious lies about her and seeks refuge in the distant Pamir mountains, where she befriends a hawk who later plays an important part in the story.

After two years she returns to a very different Samarkard to the one she left. Now its citizens live in fear and poverty and her brother, father and prince Sohrab have disappeared. Poor and alone, her luck suddenly changes when a yellow lizard begins to bring her golden coins. Her plan to rid the city of Zohak Ali suffers a set back when he casts a shrinking spell on her, but with the help of her friends, lizard and rat, she breaks into the magician’s magnificent Blue Palace and this is the beginning of the end for the evil Zohak Ali.

The bookclub enjoyed this magical adventure and warmed to the heroine Anahita as she changes from a meek girl to a brave, resourceful and clever woman. Some of the group likened her to a female Aladdin. The story races along to what the group found to be a predictable, but nonetheless, satisfying ending.

Rating: 8/10