Categories: Seal of Excellence Recipients, YA Fantasy
Tags: Alhambra, fantasy, geometry, harem-life, history, islam, middle grade, symmetry
Series: The Stone Lions
Publisher: Hickory Tree Publishing
Author: Gwen Dandridge
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.
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Reviewed by Awesome Indies
January 24, 2014
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
December 11, 2015
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
December 31, 2015
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.