Review Blog

Sep 24 2012

The Secret of Zanzibar by Frances Watts

cover image

ABC Books, 2012. ISBN 9780733330650.
Recommended. The Secret of Zanzibar is the final book of the Gerander Trilogy and brings to the conclusion the adventures of triplets Alex, Alice and Alistair, Tibby Rose and a cast of relations and friends.
Time is running out for the members of FIG (Free and Independent Gerander) as Queen Eugenia of Souris is about to march on Cornoliana and claim the throne of Gerander. Alex and Alice's mission is to encourage a mass peaceful protest to prevent the Queen entering the City, whilst Tibby Rose and Alistair are off to Templeton to enlist the help of her Godfather Granville, editor of the local paper. Their mission is to inform the Sourians of the truth of the occupation of Gerander.
The fortunes of the two groups are followed in alternating chapters. This allows for the author to build on the suspense as the reader is left hanging at an important point, then bought back to the story of the other group. Great for serialisation! The confrontation at the gates of Cornoliana brings a surprise twist and begs the question 'Where to next?' for both the characters and author.
The characters are mice operating in a fantasy world, but the themes of freedom and resistance are universal and the situations the young spies find themselves in, hiding from the Queen's guards or imprisoned and interrogated are reflective of the real world at the present time. There are many other themes touched on in the book including prejudice, freedom of the press, home and family which would serve as teaching or discussion points.
I love the way the author has taken famous quotes and tweaked them slightly to fit the story eg. 'You never really understand a mouse until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it,' attributed to Atticus Finch a wise mouse from the book To Kill a Mocking Bird and 'All that is needed for evil to triumph is for good mice to do nothing.'
An enjoyable read with something to say.
Sue Keane

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