From Aisha Bushby comes a thrilling fantasy adventure which is the first in a new series.
Amira has only ever known a life at sea, raised by her two sea witch mothers aboard their dhow, the Tigerheart. The dhow is their home and aboard it her mothers mix tonics and remedies and weave tapestries that they sell to the folk at the markets of the islands that they visit. When their ship is damaged in a great storm, Amira is thrilled to experience land for the first time although finding her ‘land-legs’ is going to take while. Magic is normal to Amira but many others fear it and she is somewhat shocked when she is warned to keep it hidden from the mainlanders. Whilst on her first market outing Amira meets a boy, Leo, who has a jinni of his own and the two bond over this rare similarity.
Their jinni’s have a connection to the storm that almost drowned her at sea. The storm is getting worse by the day and appears to be created by a powerful bird that lives on the horizon. When Namur gets lost at sea, Amira must go to extraordinary lengths to get him back.
This is a spell-binding read set in the most magical and wondrous of worlds. It is a voyage of self-discovery, uncovering your past and learning what it is to be a moonchild. Magic, myths, secrets, mermaids, cursed cities, floating markets, magical birds, floating islands, spirit animals and lots of adventure are all woven into story.
Bushby brings places alive with a glorious assault on all of the senses of the reader. I love the setting for this story, it sounds so near but at the same time impossibly far away. The Sahar Peninsula is a place that can easily be seen but is impossible to reach. There are no maps to show the way and no amount of skill in reading the stars and navigating by the light of the moon can guide you there, not even a compass will find the way. It is this magical and mysterious place that is the setting for Amira’s adventure.
There are stories within stories that reveal the pasts of the characters and these are woven seamlessly into the main narrative. Some of these backstories were some of my favourite parts and they helped fill in the gaps and wonderings that I had. As truths are revealed and secrets are shared, the tension builds and the air is alive with a hum. Amira’s anger is simmering to almost boiling point and the storm clouds are darkening overhead. You are just waiting for things to come to a head and they do in an ending that will not please all readers or is perhaps not suitable for those sensitive little souls.
There are strong themes of family, friendship, emotions and feelings throughout. The main narrative itself is driven by the suppression of emotions. The inclusion of same-sex parents is wonderful as this is a family dynamic that is under-represented in children’s fiction. Rachel Dean provides the gorgeous black and white illustrations and I adore the double page spreads - more of these in the future books in the series please.
Full of magic of that of the Arabian Night tales; Moonchild: Voyage of the Lost and Found is both wonderful and full of wonder.
Recommended for 9+.
With thanks to Netgalley and Egmont Books for the review copy.