The Kingdom Over the Sea – Zohra Nabi

Published By: Simon and Schuster Kids
Pages: 352
Released On: 25/05/2023

My own Yara, if you are reading this, then something terrible has happened, and you are on your own. To return to the city of Zehaira, you must read out the words on the back of this letter . . . Good luck, my brave girl.

When Yara’s mother passes away, she leaves behind a letter and a strange set of instructions. Yara must travel from the home she has always known to a place that is not on any map – Zehaira, a world of sorcerers, alchemists and simmering magic. But Zehaira is not the land it used to be. The practice of magic has been outlawed, the Sultan’s alchemists are plotting a sinister scheme – and the answers Yara is searching for seem to be out of reach.

Yara must summon all of her courage to discover the truth about her mother’s past and her own identity . . . and to find her place in this magical new world.


Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Kids for the advanced copy of this title in return for an honest review.

According to Amazon, this is aimed at children over the age of 8. Well, I suppose, being 29 is technically over the age of 8, so this book is definitely for me.

Firstly, the cover is great. I know it’s a kid’s book, and kids books often need a catchy cover, but as an adult, I can still appreciate it. It’s beautiful. The cover was designed by a Sean Williams but I know the book itself contains illustrations by Tom Clohosy Cole. Unfortunately, my early digital version didn’t contain any of the finished illustrations and so I cannot comment on them, but I will be keeping an eye out for the finished article.

I appreciate the position I’m in where publishers and/or authors gift me advanced copies of books, either in digital or physical form, and because of that I end up reading books I would never have chosen. And this includes children and young adult books. If I’m honest, some of the best books I’ve read recently are ones aimed at an audience 20 years younger than me. It’s proof that you don’t have to talk down to a child reader, you don’t have to make it all wishy-washy. They will understand a serious story, and that’s why it appeals so much to adults. You get a complex story with interesting characters, but with a sense of magic that is sometimes missing from grown-up books.

Every word in this book is beautiful. You really feel that Zohra has thought about how to describe even the most mundane things to match the magical theme of this story. The world she has created, whilst dangerous, is magical in every single way. Colourful, bright and shining shimmering splendid (to borrow an Aladdin phrase).

There were stories it reminded me of but I could never fully grasp what ones. It’s never fully something else, but it suggests things such as magic carpets, jinns, potions and spells. It’s a recognizable, familiar story, but completely of its own.

It’s a fun book, exciting and fast paced, but cosy and warming and comforting. There’s this real sense of community and belonging and family. And it shows that family isn’t always who we are related to. Family is what we make of it. It can be friends, acquaintances, and even strangers.

The group of characters were marvellous. There’s too many to name here, but the main two pillars I would say are Yara and Leyla. They have their own past and their own future, but they work so well against each other. And then there’s Meri and Mehnoor and Rafi, who all have their own reasons for helping Yara and they instantly feel like this community.

I started reading this a couple of hours before going to bed, which was a mistake. I wanted an early night but it was just so magically fabulous that I couldn’t pout it down until I’d finished it.

It really shows how just one person can make change if they stand up for what they believe in. Yes it mentions things like protests, but it’s not preachy in that sense, it just shows the power of the individual amongst the many.

I’m really hopeful that there’s a sequel! It had me gripped from the first page to the last and the world she has created won’t be leaving me any time soon.

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