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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book that gave my imagination a ride on a magic carpet
I really enjoyed this book. It's a good story with a clever plot. After the first chapter, I was really in to it and wanted to read it as soon as I got home. It's also quite good because you see the different characters' points of view - in some stories you don't get the baddies opinion. If you like Harry Potter, like me, you'll probably like this book too. I would...
Published on 23 Mar 2010

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for younger children
I'd agree with those who suggest this is more suited to a younger audience - maybe under 11s who are good readers. It's the sort of thing my son would have enjoyed when he was into the Otto and the Flying Twins books by Charlotte Haptie. It creates a similar magical parallel world to the Otto books, though it's perhaps not quite as well plotted. It starts a bit slowly,...
Published on 15 April 2009 by LL


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic book that gave my imagination a ride on a magic carpet, 23 Mar 2010
A Kid's Review
This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book. It's a good story with a clever plot. After the first chapter, I was really in to it and wanted to read it as soon as I got home. It's also quite good because you see the different characters' points of view - in some stories you don't get the baddies opinion. If you like Harry Potter, like me, you'll probably like this book too. I would recommend this book for eight or nine year olds.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good for younger children, 15 April 2009
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This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
I'd agree with those who suggest this is more suited to a younger audience - maybe under 11s who are good readers. It's the sort of thing my son would have enjoyed when he was into the Otto and the Flying Twins books by Charlotte Haptie. It creates a similar magical parallel world to the Otto books, though it's perhaps not quite as well plotted. It starts a bit slowly, and the jokes about court bureaucracy seemed a bit thin, but the plot starts to pick up about a third of the way in. The underground city section is the best.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not aimed at me, 3 Jun 2011
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Lucy Felthouse (Derbyshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
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Despite the fact I'm not target market for this book, I still thought it was a good read. In a way it has the universal appeal of Harry Potter, though perhaps not quite so widely. It's the story of Zal and Zara, who are on an adventure to create the fastest flying carpet in their country to win the annual flying carpet race, claim the reward, and beat the bad guys. It's crazy but fun!

It's a well written, action packed book that I'd recommend to parents looking for something for their younger children to read.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Enchanting..., 21 Sep 2008
By 
C. Robson (Mayfair, London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
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This is a delightful children's book all about Zal and Zara on an adventure to create the fastest flying carpet in their country to win the annual flying carpet race, claim the prize money, and beat the "evil" Shadow Society.

Their adventure takes them on many learning curves and (although they are only twelve) is a coming of age book. Not in a sexual sense, but in that they realise their responsibilities to their families, fight good over evil, and self-honour. Even as an adult, I enjoyed this book - without wanting to spoil any of the plot, there's scary mummies, ancient ghost-emperors, sword-fights, magic in abundance, heroicism overcoming fear, carpet making (and flying) - oh and a wacky dog!

I hope you and your children enjoy this as much as I did.
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3.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining children's novel, 19 Sep 2008
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Mr. N. Daws (Staffordshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
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Without meaning to sound in the least patronising, perhaps the most impressive thing about Zal & Zara (as I'll call this book from now on) is that it was written by a 19-year-old.

Viewed in that light, it is a significant achievement. The prose style is unambitious, however, and the dialogue is flat and cliched. Neither is there much in the way of characterisation or character development.

Although Zal & Zara is not being promoted as a children's book, I can't help thinking that this will end up being its main audience. One part Enid Blyton, one part video game, with a good dash of Harry Potter thrown in as well, I could imagine 10- to 12-year-olds being enthralled by this book. Adults will, however, struggle to find much interest in the quest of the eponymous heroes to weave a rainbow carpet and win the annual magic carpet race.

To be fair to Kit Downes, there are a few nice humorous moments in the novel, and the plot is neatly constructed, driving the story along at a good pace. It also has an innocent charm about it. In particular, having recently read a number of 'dark fantasy' novels laden with obscenities, it came as something of a relief to encounter a fantasy novel where the strongest exclamation used is 'Camelpat' or, in extremis, 'Drat!'

In conclusion, I would happily recommend Zal & Zara to the younger readership I think it should have been explicitly targeted at. Adults (and publishers) looking for the next J.K. Rowling, with adult as well as child appeal, should probably look elsewhere.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A young writer's potential has TRULY been realised, 9 Aug 2008
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R. Wood "ryecroftwood2" - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
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Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed.

Indeed, quite the title for quite the children's book.

Let's start with the premise of the story that Kit Downes has come up with. The great city of Azamed is about to host its annual magic carpet race. That alone is a fantastic idea, but Downes has expanded that with so many more wonderful ideas to produce a cracking, multi-layered piece of storytelling.

Zal Thesa is a very talented weaver and aspiring swordsman. Zara is an equally talented, born-magician. Both are twelve and engaged to be married by their fathers. They despise one another, yet together assemble a magic carpet that makes one of the TWO favourites to win the Great Race. Unfortunately, the OTHER favourites, the insidious Shadow Society, destroy their carpet and leave Zal's father in a position of ruin. Determined not to let the Shadow Society win, Zal and Zara embark on a quest to get back into the race.

Starting with the writing style, Downes makes the whole reading experience easy to visualise. He paints a very nice picture, and uses the right amount of words to set the various scenes and explain the characters. He doesn't waste any time, he just explains what he has to before moving on. The result is a nice, smooth read that's instantly accessible and easy to follow.

The Great Race of Azamed was a reasonably small read. The font is normal size and the novel spans across 229 pages. It's not THAT big a book, really, and Downes' writing style can make it all over quite quickly. And that absolutely amazes me, because I don't know how the author was able to provide such depth to the characters and the story in such relatively short space.

Starting with Zal, he starts off with being an arrogant, self-centred hot-head, but the circumstances showcase how much of a good heart he has. His aspirations, loyalty to his father and reflections of his childhood make him such a compelling character, and the same can be said for Zara. She too has her faults but her compassionate nature, her magical prowess and revelations about her past make her an equally strong character to Zal.

And then of course, there's their chemistry together. The exploration of how close their parents are explains their forced relationship, how much pain they share and they have more in common with one another than they both realize. And the circumstances and their skills give them such credibility as heroes.

But the main villain, Haragan, is also such a well-written character. Although a nasty piece of work, his past makes him somewhat of a tragic villain. The exact reasons for his intense rivalry with Zara are again so engrossing, along with his forced loyalty to the Shadow Society. As such, it provides the ideal main antagonist for Zal and Zara and builds the credibility of all three characters even more.

The world of Azamed has been portrayed as such an enchanting place, and other things like the Shadow Society's origin and motives, the various forms of magic utilized, the dark secret of the Azamed city and what lies beneath, the truth behind magic carpets and the elusive Rainbow Carpet, a remarkable and memorable supporting cast and so much more, have all been skilfully written, along with various sub-plots that not only showcase morals, but also come back into play at just the right time to round up everything in a satisfying conclusion.

And then of course, there's the action at the end. The Great Race is obviously what it's all about but Downes has saved the very best part till last. The establishing of the setting and characters, and Zal and Zara's epic quest are absolutely superb but the final showdown between Zal and Zara and the Shadow Society is (hands-down) the highlight of the whole novel. The author's writing style makes it all so thrilling and breathtaking. It truly had me hooked and the number of shocking turns and the outcome made it all so gratifying to me.

Finally, the ending. There is enormous potential here, and only time will tell if Kit Downes decides to write a sequel or not. He doesn't really NEED to, as this can remain a stand-alone story if he chooses to, and that`s fine. But if the author decides to write a follow-up, I'd welcome it whole-heartedly given how expertly done his work is.

Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed is by ALL accounts a fantastically good read. I really enjoyed this novel and Kit Downes has every right to be proud of it. This is an excellent story, not just for children, but for adults as well in my opinion. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fly away success, 26 July 2008
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This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
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Every year in the kingdom of Azamed, the Great Magic Carpet Race takes place. The more colours the carpet contains, the more powerful and stable it is; yet no one has managed to weave a seven coloured carpet; a rainbow carpet, capable of retaining the magic it requires to fly. Now it is believed that a rainbow carpet is nothing more than myth; however two twelve year olds are about to disprove this belief.

Potentially the greatest carpet weaver ever (and currently certainly the fastest) Zal Thesa dreams of becoming a Guardsman and practices his sword skills every day. Unlike his father, his grandfather and another sixteen generations before him, Zal wants to buck tradition. Engaged to his father's best friend's daughter Zara Aura (yes they are only twelve but they've been engaged for six years) Zara too has her own special skills. She is one of only a handful of magicians capable of manipulating all seven magical colours, and if anyone could enchant a rainbow carpet to fly; she's just the girl.

The day before the Great Race, their six coloured carpet is destroyed and Zal's father left on the verge of poverty when his carpet shop is demolished in a fire by rivals. Fourteen year old Haragan is the instigator, a member of the secretive Shadow Society; a deeply competitive individual determined to win the Great Race at any cost, even if it means eliminating his closest rivals permanently.

With no carpet, little money, and certainly little time, Zal and Zara set off on an adventure; hoping to not only discover the secret of weaving a rainbow carpet, but also completing it in time to participate in the race. With adventures galore ahead of them, will these two youngsters survive the threats against their lives and one of the greatest Great Races ever witnessed in Azamed?

With an obvious Arabian Nights feel to this book; "Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed" is an enchanting read. This is a pretty impressive debut book from such a young author; Kit Downes was only nineteen when he wrote it and if he can produce this sort of fiction now, I'm sure he'll be writing absolute classics in the future.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Races to the finish line, 23 July 2008
By 
Clever Spud (Birmingham) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
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Once it starts this book doesn't let up until the very end. As stories go this is a bit of a thoroughbred with hardly an ounce of fat on it. I didn't want to put it down.

We know the story - Zal and Zara are young teenagers in a faux Middle Eastern fantasy kingdom whose parents want them to get married but they don't even get on. He's the rebel who wants to do his own thing and she's the single-minded strong-willed one. Events conspire to ruin their families and now the only way to restore their fortune is to win the great magic carpet race.

Kit Downes barely puts a foot wrong here in a novel written at a ridiculously young age. There's the rare piece of forced humour that looks shoe-horned into the story and the plot is virtually textbook rollercoaster with few surprises, although he did pull a rabbit out of the hat right at the end there that I didn't see coming.

Age-wise I'd say this was appropriate for the 8-12 bracket without question. Certainly anyone older than that is going to enjoy it but I think the two teenagers with "ugh, no way!" attitudes to the opposite sex aren't going to impress too many real teenagers. I'm ancient and I loved it and will be looking forward to the inevitable sequel.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Read, 22 July 2008
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artemisrhi "artemisrhi" (Forest of Dean) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
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Once I picked this book up I couldn't put it down! I agree very much with the previous reviews: it is well crafted, good story, believable characters and I look forward to further books in this series. It gives a nod to Harry Potter and Indiana Jones, which will appeal to it's target audience. Beats Eragon hands down.

When we have finished our current bed time book I know that my five and seven year old boys will love this. It is certainly something that we will enjoy reading together as although it is a children's book it stands well enough to an adult audience. I also think that my seven year old would be able to read it himself. This is because the book is so well written. The author understands what a child wants in a book and has really hit the spot.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting adventure for all ages, 22 July 2008
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R. E. Quinn (Great Britian) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed (Paperback)
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Although this book is obviously aimed at pre and young teens it was well written and intelligent so that it just as enjoyable for an adult to read as well.

The author has created an interesting world in the great city of Azamed where the seven colours of magic are a part of everyday life.

In this great city live our heros Zal who wants to be a guardsman not a carpet weaver like his father and Zara who is the rarest of magicians one born able to control all seven colours.

When our villians the Shadow Society destroy Zal's father's magic racing carpet for the annual great race of the title our heros set out to discover the secret of the legendary seven colour rainbow magic carpet in order to make a new carpet to win the race. Their search takes them from the Caliph's palace to a forgotten dead city under a volcano ruled by a ghosttly Emperor and his mummy guards to the excitment of the great race it's self and the battle with the Shadow Society.

Kit Downes has written a well thought out and enjoyable adventure that kids will take to with likeable heros and nasty villians which all good adventure stories should have. The magic duels between Zara and Haragan of the Shadows adds an extra level of excitment to the story. They will be cheering on our heros along with Rip, Zal's pet dog to triumph over the bad guys and I'm sure that they will all want more adventures from our intrepid duo and maybe a seven coloured magic carpet of their own.
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Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed
Zal and Zara and the Great Race of Azamed by Kit Downes (Paperback - 1 Sep 2008)
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