Gwen Dandridge

The Jinn’s Jest

The Jinn’s Jest
Category:
Published: February 23, 2017
Author's Twitter: @Gwen_fntsy_writ
It is the 14th century and Grenada is again under threat thrusting thirteen year old Sultana Ara and her cousin Layla again into danger. As Ara and Layla sail down the Grenadian coast to raise tribute for the Castilians, a magical and mischievous Jinn appears to cause trouble. And worse, a young, arrogant Venetian boy, Tomas, is aboard their ship. The Jinn issues a mathematic challenge to the young people; the stakes are high and none can afford to lose. Ara and her friends must use all their skill to protect themselves and Grenada, but will it be enough to defeat a Jinn? And what happens to the Jinn if he loses?

Approved  

4 Stars

Ara is the daughter of Sultan Mohammed the Sixth, ruler of Granada. A willful girl, she chafes under the restriction placed upon a Muslim girl in the society of the time, especially those applying to the daughter of a ruler. When a series of misfortunes—which Ara suspects are caused by magic—plagues Granada’s trade, and exposes it to possible invasion by its greedy neighbors, Ara and her cousin, Layla, are sent to Africa on a trade mission to reverse the kingdom’s fortunes. Fatima, the sultan’s elder wife, is sent along as chaperone, and they are joined by Tahirah, a Sufi mathemagician, and Suleiman, the court’s senior eunuch. Thomas, the son of an Italian trader, is also sent with them. Thomas, like Ara, has seen the magic, which they learn is coming from a young jinn, who has passed from his realm to the realm of the humans, and for unknown reasons is creating havoc.

The story unfolds as they journey from Granada, with a series of mishaps, magical and mercenary, and Ara, with the help of Tahirah, Layla, and Thomas, confront the jinn. In the process, each learns about themselves and the power of magic, and are transformed, to emerge whole at the end, as they confront the awesome power of the efrit jinni.

The plot is well laid out, with seemingly unrelated events tied together at the end. Readers who have enjoyed The Arabian Nights or The Adventures of Aladdin will find a number of implicit references in this story, and will be pulled into the narrative as it unfolds. The characters are all well developed, and their growth as the story progresses is logical and well-explained.

The book was fairly well edited, with only a minimal number of typos or formatting issues in the electronic version.

I give this book four stars.

The Dragons’ Chosen

The Dragons’ Chosen
Categories: ,
Published: January 1, 2016
Author's Twitter: @Gwen_fntsy_writ
The dragons came from beyond the Crystal Mountains, demanding a virgin sacrifice… and Princess Genevieve learns she’s it when she’s handed a golden token – the mark of the chosen. Genevieve accepts her fate. She must, in order to save her kingdom. But the journey to her final destiny is complicated by the arrival of Chris, a 1970s Berkeley co-ed. To Chris, the whole scenario reeks of deception. Where she comes from, corsets are for burning and virgins are hard to find. She’s sure the dragons are out for more than innocent blood, but the only way to find out what they really want is to accompany Genevieve on her journey. Not what she had planned for her sophomore year of college. Genevieve is duty-bound–unless Chris is right. Then her sacrifice would mean nothing. Other than woe to those who duped her…

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stone Lions

The Stone Lions
Published: January 12, 2016
Author's Twitter: @Gwen_fntsy_writ
In the throes of the 14th century, Islamic Spain is under pressure from Castile and Aragon. Ara, the twelve-year old daughter to the Sultan, finds herself in the center of a political intrigue when her eunuch tutor is magically transformed by the evil Wazir. Can a little girl save her friend and tutor with the help of a Sufi mathemagician. Intertwined in a mystery of math, art and magic, Ara races to find the seven broken symmetries before time runs out? Will she succeed or will the Alhambra fall and with it all that she loves? And will the stone lions awaken in time to help her? This cross-cultural fantasy combines mystery and math to teach the geometry of symmetry.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies

5 stars.

The Stone Lions is an excellent young adult novel set in Spain in the early 1400’s. Ara is a twelve-year-old Muslim girl and daughter of the Sultan. She lives with her cousin Layla in the Alhambra Palace, a place of great halls and courtyards decorated with beautiful tiles. Protective magic is woven into the symmetry of the mosaics, but the Sultans advisor is using his magic to break key symmetries and weaken the palace so the infidels/ book lovers/.  Christians from the north can take over the Kingdom.

Ara and Layla discover the treachery and with the help of a Sufi mathmagician take it in hand to fix the broken symmetries and try to find solid evidence of the advisor’s treachery to submit to the  Sultan.

The story is unique in that it is both highly educational and entertaining. In order to fix the magic, the girls must learn about symmetry and that is their first step towards becoming a mathmagician – I love that word and the concept of maths being magical that goes with it. Not only do we learn about this aspect of mathematics, but we also learn about the kind of life led and the values followed by these Muslim women. We learn that the harem is not a bunch of sex slaves – as Hollywood would have us believe – but the women and children’s part of the palace, where they have complete control and are safe from the men.

There is a wonderful scene where a group of Christian women and children come to visit, and though some cultural differences become apparent, it is clear that the similarities between the two groups are far greater than the differences. This is a truly excellent book to help foster religious tolerance.

The story is well-edited, so that it reads smoothly. The plot is sleek and engaging, and the pacing excellent. The characters are well-drawn and likeable – except for the creepy bad guy, of course.

I highly recommend this book for all young adults.

 

 

Reviewed by Amy Board

4 Stars

 

I highly enjoyed reading this book. Dandridge did a very good job of introducing the reader to an unfamiliar time, place, and culture while making it feel authentic. This was particularly impressive to me considering the story addressed many cultural norms that would seem out of place in Western society today, especially regarding the position of women. Yet Dandridge created a realistic, likable female lead, and gave distinct voices to the rest of her cast of characters, all the while uplifting and honoring the culture of that particular time and setting. I also loved (LOVED!) the idea of mathmagics. Using mathematical formulas and concepts to perform magical spells–brilliant! I’d love to read a follow-up novel that goes into greater detail about this, given that the emphasis of this book was on geometric symmetries. To that end, Dandridge did a wonderful job explaining the mathematical concept of symmetries in a manner that could be understood by a young audience and integrating it into the heart of the story. There were a few times, however, when the emphasis on explaining the concept of symmetries caused the scenes to drag on a bit, and I wondered whether younger readers might lose interest. Nevertheless, the story was very well crafted, the characters were likable and relatable, and the world building was phenomenal.

I received this book free from Awesome Indies Books in return for an honest review.

Reviewed by Dharshi

4 Stars

 

 

I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I picked it up because the concept of mathemagics intrigued me, but the unique setting and characters ultimately captivated my attention. I liked that Dandridge chose to include controversial topics like the role of women in the society. She treated these subjects thoughtfully and subtly. In particular, her women characters are clever and strong despite the limited power they hold. There are fewer male characters in the story, but all of Dandridge’s characters are well-developed and play a unique role in the story. I felt the story had two weaknesses. First, I thought it was a little slow. Second, the concept of mathemagics was hardly explored. The mathematics was explained well, but it was never clear to me how the mathematics translates to magical spells. Besides these minor points, I recommend this book.

I received this book free from Awesome IndiesBooks in return for an honest review.