The Shadow Prince

Tu Bks. Sept. 2021. 400p. Tr $21.95. ISBN 9781643794280.
Gr 3-7–This entertaining fantasy, set in an alternate solar-powered ancient Egypt features Ash, a poor orphan boy of unknown parentage, whose skin tone is described as “the same red-brown as Egypt’s.” Picked on by other village boys, Ash is secretly being taught demons’ traits and fighting skills by his mentor Yazen—for what, Ash doesn’t know. On Ash’s 12th birthday, Yazen confesses he’s been mentoring Ash because he is one of the children born on the same day as the prince. Ash is destined to become one of the candidates in a multiday contest where the winner becomes the shadow to Prince Khufu, the future pharaoh of Egypt, charged with keeping the prince safe. Ash and the other diverse candidates (including a lioness) have to fight magical demons and monsters commanded by different Egyptian deities. A few candidates befriend Ash; others are hostile, like arrogant Sutekh and snotty red-headed Kiya. Prince Khufu’s unscrupulous older brother Rami has also enlisted the deceitful god Lord Set to sabotage the candidates, so the rule of succession reverts back to him. Adult author Durham’s middle grade debut is full of action, political intrigue, inventive solar powered gadgets, and quirky creatures. Ash is a sympathetic character who discovers his own self-worth and a surprising talent while competing in the grueling competition.
VERDICT An exciting, magical series opener perfect for fans of Rick Riordan, Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong, and Jonathan Stroud’s “Bartimaeus” series.

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