Sikander "Sik" Aziz, a Muslim boy, works all night at his parents' New York deli in the aftermath of his brother Mo's death. As he closes up late one night, Sik is attacked by two gangly and gross demons, and despite his wish to stay in "the real world," he gets a quick and not-at-all warm welcome from Nergal, the Mesopotamian god of disease and war. Nergal is certain that Mo stole something from him during a trip to Iraq, and has come to collect—and he's willing to kill all of New York if he doesn't get what he's looking for. When it turns out that Sik's classmate Belet is the adopted daughter of love goddess Ishtar, Sik has to face facts: the real world just got a lot more interesting. Sik has the trademark snark and humor of all heroes from Riordan's imprint, which makes this venture into one of the world's oldest mythologies more fun—and is especially appreciated given that this villain is a plague god making his literary debut during a pandemic. Grades 3-7. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews
Chadda (the Ash Mistry series) crafts an entertaining exploration of New York City through the eyes of an irreverent Iraqi American Muslim teen. Ever since Sikander Aziz's older brother died in a motorcycle accident two years ago, the now-13-year-old's responsibilities have been piling up. Forgoing usual games nights with friends, Sik spends his evenings helping out at his parents' Brooklyn deli, serving delicious Arab and Medi-terranean food to passersby. One night, though, his routine goes badly wrong when a pair of demons from Babylonian mythology launch a vicious attack on him, assisted by disease-ridden rodents. As servants of Nergal, the Mesopotamian god of plagues, their false belief that Sik holds the secret to eternal life puts him in the god's crosshairs. Together with Belet, daughter of the war goddess Ishtar, and Daoud, a vain would-be actor and friend, Sik must find the ancient flower of immortality and save his city from Nergal's devastation. Combining fast-paced action and heavy doses of humor, this Gilgamesh-inspired novel benefits from a well-developed secondary cast. The touching exploration of adolescent grief, and the strong connections between Sik and his parents, provide additional nuance and depth. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sarah Davies, Greenhouse Literary. (Jan.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.Review by School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 5–7—Thirteen-year-old Sikander Aziz's parents are the patients zero of a plague attacking New York City. Before they were isolated in a hospital ward, Sik's parents, who are Iraqi refugees, owned a successful deli in Manhattan, which thrived even as the family grieved the recent loss of Sik's older brother Mo. When Sik finds out that Nergal, a Mesopotamian plague god, is behind the pandemic, he teams up with new friend Belet and her adoptive mother, the goddess Ishtar, before bringing Gilgamesh out of retirement. This is a lush read with high appeal, full of apocalyptic drama, fight scenes, and stomach-churning descriptions of Nergal and his band of demons, balanced with Sik's dry humor and a cast of quirky, vivid characters. Belet is a brilliant fighter and is best friends with Kasasu, her sarcastic, talking sword; Gilgamesh is a pacifist and vegan baker; and Mo's friend Daoud (and, readers eventually learn, his great love) is a vain actor in denial that he is being typecast as a terrorist. There are other instances of Islamophobia in the story, and Muslim identity is an essential theme. The dialogue includes Arabic phrases and terms relating to Islam, all listed in a glossary, and there is even a reconciliation between Sik's Muslim faith and the existence of multiple gods and goddesses. VERDICT Featuring gods and goddesses and, importantly, Muslim heroes, this #OwnVoices tale eerily echoes our pandemic present; but readers will find escape in the entertaining balance of an apocalyptic setting with irreverent humor.—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn P.L. Copyright 2020 School Library Journal.
"Thirteen-year-old Sikander Aziz has to team up with the hero Gilgamesh in order to stop Nergal, the ancient god of plagues, from wiping out the population of Manhattan in this adventure based on Mesopotamian mythology"--Review by Publisher Summary 2
Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents an adventure based on ancient Mesopotamian mythology by Sarwat Chadda, author of the Ash Mistry series."An epic worthy of Gilgamesh. Chadda brings attention to the less well-recognized mythology of ancient Mesopotamia with engaging humor and wit."--Kirkus ReviewsThirteen-year-old Sik wants a simple life going to school and helping at his parents' deli in the evenings. But all that is blown to smithereens when Nergal comes looking for him, thinking that Sik holds the secret to eternal life.Turns out Sik is immortal but doesn't know it, and that's about to get him and the entire city into deep, deep trouble. Sik's not in this alone. He's got Belet, the adopted daughter of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, on his side, and a former hero named Gilgamesh, who has taken up gardening in Central Park. Now all they have to do is retrieve the Flower of Immortality to save Manhattan from being wiped out by disease. To succeed, they'll have to conquer sly demons, treacherous gods, and their own darkest nightmares."Featuring gods and goddesses, and importantly, Muslim heroes, this #OwnVoices tale eerily echoes our pandemic presents; but readers will find escape in the entertaining balance of an apocalyptic setting with irreverent humor."--School Library JournalEndorsed by Rick Riordan, author of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, soon to be a series on Disney+.Look for these other best-selling Rick Riordan Presents titles:Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani ChokshiThe Storm Runner by J. C. CervantesDragon Pearl by Yoon Ha LeeRace to the Sun by Rebecca RoanhorseTristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia