Daughter of Nomads by Rosanne Hawke, illustrated by DM Cornish (University of Queensland Press)
PB RRP $16.95
Reviewed by Joanne Pummer
Fourteen year old, Jahani lives happily with her mother, Hafeezah, in the village of Sherwan. A trip to the market with her friend Sameela comes to a tragic end when Sameela is killed by a knife wielding assassin. Jahani's life is thrown into turmoil when she learns the knife was meant for her.
Jahani is further confused when Hafeezah tearfully confesses she is not Jahani's birth mother and her real parents live a 'moon's journey' away in the Kingdom of Kaghan, on the way to the Qurraqoram Mountains where she was born.
'You were in danger then and now you are again,' Hafeesah says.
Still in mourning, but excited by the thought of finding her parents Jahani sets out with Hafeezah and their body guard, Azah, to begin a new life in the north.
Despite the hazards of the journey and another attempt on her life, Jahani feels drawn to the north. She realizes her frequent dreams and thoughts of a magical land were really memories of her childhood. Her meeting with her parents isn't how she'd imagined. Her mother is kind, but Jahani is shocked when her father tells her she is to be married, soon, to Muzahid, a War Lord. She accepts that she must obey her father's wishes, until an overheard conversation between her parents reveals she is a daughter of nomads - a child they had rescued during a war.
'Who am I, and who can I trust when on one is who they appear to be?' she asks Azah.
Azah knows the secret. 'But it isn't mine to tell,' he tells her.
On the night before the wedding Jahani and Azah escape and flee further north to the land of the nomads. Jahani is determined to learn the truth and fulfil her destiny.
Rosanne Hawke builds a rich and mesmerizing world. Readers won't easily forget the images of Jahani flying with the handsome Azah on his magic carpet, or riding over the plains on her enchanted horse or playing with her charmed snow leopard.
The novel is set in the Moghul Empire, at a time and in a culture with which many readers will be unfamiliar. The publishers, sensibly, include a map of the Moghul Empire tracing Jahina's journey, a list of characters and a glossary.