Elise Bellin, Librarian of the Islamic Resource Center, wrote this book review as part of an ongoing series that focuses on a range of books within the IRC collection as a service to the community.

The Gauntlet

The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi © 2017 – ISBN: 9781481486965

What do you get when you cross place Jumanji in a steampunk world reminiscent of something from a Middle Eastern fantasy and mix in a little bit of the movie Labyrinth just to top things off? Probably something pretty close to what Karuna Riazi wrote in her book, The Gauntlet. With generations of children’s lives (and a baby brother) in the balance, three friends must traverse the innards of a mysterious mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand, win, and somehow dismantle it before they find themselves trapped forever inside. Along the way, they will have to fight camel spiders, red scorpions, sand cats, and grease monkeys, uncover and defeat the game’s creator, Amari, at his own game and escape the seemingly inescapable prison of the game itself. A pretty tall order for a twelve-year-old and her friends. Add in a decent amount of culture shock via a new school in which she is the only girl who wears a hijab and a birthday party in which the birthday girl, Farah, doesn’t know most of the people there and you get a recipe for an outstanding book!

The Gauntlet is one of several that came out two years ago with the start of Simon and Schuster’s new imprint, Salaam Reads, a division of the company that endeavors to bring Muslim authors to the public focusing on ages birth through young adult. It is becoming a place for a number of previously and never before seen authors to reach a wider audience and allow Muslim children to see themselves represented in the pages of a good book. To be honest, we could use more books and publishing houses like this and I think we will start to see more as time goes by. Either way, this book, aimed at children 8-12 years old, is worth the read.

Founded in 2010, the Islamic Resource Center (IRC) is the first Islamic public lending library in Wisconsin. The IRC aims to provide resources to educators, students, health professionals, interfaith groups, and any members of the Milwaukee community that want an accurate understanding of the Islamic faith, its practices, and its people.