Monday 25 February 2013

Zal and Zara and the Champion’s Race

Zal and Zara and the Champion’s Race by Kit Downes (Walker Books)
PB RRP $ 14.95
ISBN 9781406309201
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

The Champion’s Race is the sequel to Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed.

Zal, Zara and Rip the dog are in Shirazar to take part in the Champion’s Race, the greatest of all magic flying contests. They will again use their enchanted seven-colour rainbow carpet which won them the Great Race. The race track has been marked out in readiness, the judges chosen and the rules confirmed.

Valuable ancient magic items have been stolen from the Shirazar museum and the thief has not yet been caught, although Sari Stormstrong is known as the greatest thief in the Seventeen Kingdoms; ‘a mercenary thief that steals for others’. She is clever and deceitful, always playing two sides; able to conceal her whereabouts and not get caught. What are these things needed for and who needs them?

Miles Nocturne is Zal’s best friend from fencing school. His father Paradin, known as the Red Squirrel, is entering the race for the twentieth and last time before he retires.

These people and the other participants of the Champion’s Race have the Shadow Society to fear without knowing it, although Zal and Zara believed that the Society had been dismantled.

But during this competition, friend becomes foe, and foe becomes ally. As magic is utilized for selfish, dangerous and destructive purposes, Zal, Zara and Rip find themselves locked in an ancient genie bottle which produces more adventures than the Arabian Nights. All the rainbow carpets are destroyed except theirs (due to a problem with octopus dye), by the Knife Demon, one of the items stolen from the museum. The other items are put to similar use after an incredible betrayal takes place.

The two children’s lives are filled with dangerous but thrilling adventures that flow into one another like night into day. As always, the resourceful pair find solutions to theirs and others’ problems, and still win the race. They are also strengthened by their disarming of the treachery that surrounds the races and the people of Shirazar.

This exciting magical fantasy novel is full of incredible adventures through imaginary places, within situations full of battles between good and evil, and played out by courageous, resourceful and optimistic characters. It is suitable for the 8+ age group.

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