This July is full of blogtours because I couldn’t get enough from all those gorgeous and amazing books that will come out this summer. Luckily, I’m not the only one and if you want to know what other people are thinking about “Nura and the Immortal Palace” (although I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t be satisfied with ME) you should take a look at all the other amazing posts!
Aru Shah and the End of Time meets Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away in this mesmerizing portal fantasy that takes readers into the little-known world of Jinn.
Nura longs for the simple pleasure of many things—to wear a beautiful red dupatta or to bite into a sweet gulab. But with her mom hard at work in a run-down sweatshop and three younger siblings to feed, Nura must spend her days earning money by mica mining. But it’s not just the extra rupees in her pocket Nura is after. Local rumor says there’s buried treasure in the mine, and Nura knows that finding it could change the course of her family’s life forever. Her plan backfires when the mines collapse and four kids, including her best friend, Faisal, are claimed dead. Nura refuses to believe it and shovels her way through the dirt hoping to find him. Instead, she finds herself at the entrance to a strange world of purple skies and pink seas—a portal to the opulent realm of jinn, inhabited by the trickster creatures from her mother’s cautionary tales. Yet they aren’t nearly as treacherous as her mother made them out to be, because Nura is invited to a luxury jinn hotel, where she’s given everything she could ever imagine and more. But there’s a dark truth lurking beneath all that glitter and gold, and when Nura crosses the owner’s son and is banished to the working quarters, she realizes she isn’t the only human who’s ended up in the hotel’s clutches. Faisal and the other missing children are there, too, and if Nura can’t find a way to help them all escape, they’ll be bound to work for the hotel forever.
I was super hyped about this book, especially because the synopsis said that this book was supposed to be a “Aru Shah and the End of Time meets Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away“. I have not read Aru Shah but I absolutely adore Spirited Away. I have so many great childhood memories of this movie, so I was absolutely delighted and HAD to take part in the blogtour.
I could definitely see the resemblance to Spirited Away. The traverse into a hidden and magical world, that is full of spirits and monsters, the glittering world for the highborns and rich, how hard the “workforce” is slaving away.
But despite these similarities, for me the whole thing had a much different vibe to it.
There was a constant danger lurking and there was not really anything whimsical about it, which I had hoped for. I was a bit disappointed.
What didn’t disappoint was MT. Khan’s writing. It was fluent and vivid and the story was very well-paced.
I have to admit, I didn’t quite like the main character, Nura – she was fierce and a good and loving sister and daughter, but she also had an arrogance about her that annoyed me a bit. I could see where that arrogance came from though and it made me a bit softer towards her.
Woven into the book – rather prominently, I have to say – are the themes of child labour, education and exploitation. It showcases how young children are when they start to work to support their families, how the poor are exploited and manipulated.
I was wondering if those themes were not too heavy for a children’s book but luckily it never gets too graphic or too bad that you would say, you cannot give this to a Middlegrade student.
While I’m neither Pakistani nor Muslim, I still enjoyed the representation. It felt genuine to me and I can guarantee that young children will enjoy seeing themself represented. There is nothing dumbed down and seems to feature direct Islamic and Quranic references. (I had to ask my colleague about it and she confirmed and got curious about the book which I see as a total win.) I really quite liked it and I got really curious about the mythologies and stories.
All in all, I had great fun with this book, even though I couldn’t quite warm to Nura. The representation is great and the story has strong themes.
M.T. Khan is a speculative fiction author with a penchant for all things myth, science, and philosophy. She focuses on stories that combine all three, dreaming of evocative worlds and dark possibilities.
When she’s not writing, M.T. Khan has her nose deep in physics textbooks or glued to her CAD computer as she majors in Mechanical Engineering. Born in Lahore, Pakistan, she currently resides in Toronto, Canada, with a hyperactive cat and an ever-increasing selection of tea. Her forthcoming debut, NURA AND THE IMMORTAL PALACE, hits shelves on July 5th 2022 from Little, Brown.
Did my review make you curious? Have you read the book or can you see yourself reading it?