City of the Plague God

Disney-Hyperion/Rick Riordan Presents. Jan. 2021. 400p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781368051507.
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.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing