Blood and Ink

Publisher: Andersen Press

Review

Described in the dictionary as 'Any far off place', Timbuktu remains a mysterious place in its reality. Stephen Davies has poured research and passion into this tense novel for young adult readers. Using recent historical events as pinpoints in the story, two alternating narratives tell a story from each side of the battle. Sixteen-year-old Ali is a warrior, dedicated to the jihad and their charismatic leader Redbeard. Kadija is a daughter of Timbuktu, hoping to become a Guardian (a position usually reserved for boys) to protect the ancient manuscripts of her ancestors.

When their lives collide, brave Kadija mocks Ali's blind commitment to the newly established laws that keep her hair covered and take away her music. She finds herself hoping he comes back for more and while Ali tries to keep to his noble cause, the call of Kadija's tattooed skin begins a chain of terrible events that result in a gruelling showdown of public punishment.

Kadija's bright spirit is a refreshing insight to the life of teenager living in the Sahara. Ali's journey is an important glimpse into the difficult position young men face when deciding to protect their families in times of war. This is a little known area of the world and its stories must be told. Diverse YA fiction like this helps share news and history and when it is wrapped into a novel like this, densely packed into a Romeo and Juliet tale of love and hate, it is at its most powerful. A compelling story that shows the shocking truth behind the headlines that make it over to us, not an easy read but rewarding to those culturally curious and hungry for a wider viewpoint.

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