Wednesday 5 August 2020

Moonchild by Aisha Bushby and Rachael Dean

Publisher: Egmont, August 6th 2020

A hypnotic sea-faring adventure!

I've read a lot of middle grade books over the last couple of years and can only aspire to phenomenal talent that they showcase. When it comes to choosing a book to read, 8 to 12 year olds are spoilt for choice. 

My only gripe, as an avid reader, is having to plough through a couple of tedious, initial chapters to get into the story. Not so with Moonchild by Aisha Bushby. This story intoxicated me from the first page to the very last.

Amira and her cat jinn, Namur, have been raised at sea by Amira's sea-witch mothers. But an unsettling storm threatens the Sahar Penisula and Namur is acting strangely. When Amira unexpectedly meets Leo and his fish jinn, Samek, the two put their heads together to work out how the storm is connected to not only the hushed tales of mermaids, stormbirds and islands of brass but also to their own stories. 
Then Namur disappears and Amira and Leo embark on a breath-taking journey towards the horizon where they may have to sacrifice all they hold dear. 

This story is drenched in magic and contains all the elements that make a story great: fantastical places, sensory descriptions and stories within stories. Inspired by 1001 Arabian nights, it whisks you right to the edge of your imagination where sea-witches and mermaids dwell amongst sailing souks and moving islands. But no image is more powerful than the terrible beast which sits on the horizon.

The language is as hypnotising and encapsulating as the lull of a boat, which is where most of the story takes place. The imagery is stunning and the sounds and smells come alive on the page. Aisha Bushby brilliantly conjures a brooding mood and tone which manifests itself in Amira, the main character. 
Amira is angry and knows it! Yet she is written in a relatable way, with the anger simmering at the edges of her being. I loved that her awareness of emotions meant she had self-awareness of her own and rather than denying them, she learnt to manage them in the same way Leo learns to manage his anxiety. 

In fact, the suppression of emotion is a huge theme in Moonchild and unpins the plot in a way which will encourage readers to examine how their own feelings should be treated...after all, emotions are what makes us human, right? Then there are the themes of belonging, friendship and sacrifice...

If that wasn't enough, Aisha also delves into the fascinating legends of jinn. After recently reading Michelle Lovric's The Water's Daughter, which contains a prominent jinn (or djinn) character, I was interested in reading more portrayals of them and this doesn't disappoint. Namur, Semek and Layla are as beautifully mysterious as they are loyal and adorable in their animal form and their power creates a potent current which crackles through the plot.

The novel is beautifully presented with gorgeous illustrations by Rachael Dean. It's an all round exquisite treat and I am so happy it's only the first in the series. 

Moonchild is released tomorrow - August 6th 2020. 
Many thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read and review. 

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