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The Stone Lions
In the last throes of the 14th century, Islamic Spain is under pressure from Castile and Aragon. Ara, the twelve-year old daughter to the Sultan, finds herself in the center of a political intrigue when her eunuch tutor is magically transformed by the evil Wazir. Can a little girl save her friend and tutor with the help of a Sufi mathemagician? Intertwined in a mystery of math, art and magic, Ara races to find the seven broken symmetries before time runs out. Will she succeed or will the Alhambra fall and with it all that she loves? And will the stone lions awaken in time to help her? This cross-cultural fantasy combines mystery and math to teach the geometry of symmetry. This project was supported by the NSF grant 9552462
Debut author Dandridge explores the complex world of 15th-century Islamic Spain in this fantasy. Ara, the unruly daughter of the sultan of Alhambra, and her shy cousin Layla are swept up in a magical plot to destroy the palace and usurp its rightful ruler. Working with a visiting Sufi “mathemagician” named Tahirah and the magically transformed harem eunuch Suleiman, Ara and Layla must learn the secrets of symmetry—an integral part of Islamic art and central to the magic of the Alhambra—to stop a great evil from tearing apart their home. Dandridge brings a deep respect for historical accuracy and Islamic culture to the story, and although her interpretation of Sharia law may sometimes err on the stricter side, her depiction of women’s everyday lives in aristocratic 1400s Spain is spot-on. Her prose is slightly stiff in exposition dealing with the principles of symmetry, but Dandridge plays her own academic background for laughs with the scholarly Tahirah. More importantly, the story never stops feeling like a Rowling-esque adventure, pitting brave girls against seemingly impossible odds—mathematically speaking, of course. Ages 8–up. (BookLife)