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October 1, 2022

Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria by George Jreije ~ a Review

by MK French

Shad Hadid never fit in at school, so he focused on his family and dreams of opening an Arabic bakery. When Shad is attacked, he discovers his late baba was an alchemist and he’s one as well. This skill earns him an invitation to the Alexandria Academy, a school for alchemists. Shad hopes to learn more about alchemy and that he'll be safe from monsters, but no one at the school knows what alchemy even is. Shad soon discovers evil, and only he holds the key to stopping or fulfilling their plans.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of middle grades fantasy novel Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria
October 2022; HarperCollins; 978-0063094819
audio, ebook, print (384 pages); middle grades

Eleven-year-old Shad lives with his grandmother and worries about her health. He also gets bullied, isn't the greatest student, and is more concerned about cooking and baking sweets than anything else. His Lebanese background separates him from classmates; one, in particular, had been told by a parent to avoid him when he first emigrated. That's heartbreaking and only too real to read in the opening chapters. Lebanese food is so good, and the culture of the area is fascinating! But the character offscreen is part of the isolating background, making it easier for Shad to switch schools after his beloved grandmother dies. 

Like any eleven/twelve-year-old, Shad has to face schoolwork, bullies, and massive amounts of change. Unlike most kids, what he's learning is massive amounts of math and science with alchemy on the side, all in the fabled lost library of Alexandria. (No lie, I'm jealous.) He must be sneaky not only with his training but in avoiding the bullies and the necromancer threat cultivating them. It doesn't happen by accident, as he has good friends, studies hard, and even pushes past his own discomfort to talk with Sarah, his bully from Portland.  That makes him learn more about her and why her behavior was so bad and allows him to understand that even bullies are people, and he has inner strength and kindness.  It's an important lesson to learn, and I hope to see future adventures with Shad. He's such a fun kid to hang out with, lots of children and preteens will love this book.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and a golden retriever.

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