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The Secret of Ka: 01/13/12

cover art

The Secret of Ka by Christopher Pike is a YA fantasy that has stirred up controversy in the book blogosphere. Most of that stems from the book being set in Istanbul and the apparent lack of fact checking in how the city and its residents are portrayed. After reading, enjoying and mulling the negative reviews, I am still giving the book a positive review but not a perfect one.

Sara is in Istanbul visiting her father who is working on a large construction project. Her father demands she stay in the hotel unless she's with him or an approved chaperone. While the father says this is because Turkey is a muslim country. Later, though, the actual reason is revealed much later in the book. The father playing on stereotypes is an unfortunate part of his character.

Sara does get to tour her father's worksite, described as being in the desert mountains. Again, this doesn't really fit the location. There are mountains but Istanbul is surrounded by water on two sides and it's a rather green place. As the exact location of the construction site isn't mentioned except for it being a good distance out of the city, I'm going to let this one slide too as it's no worse than common mistake of putting Sausalito in San Francisco.

Sara's confinement to the hotel is also the means by which she meets the other protagonist, Amesh. He is a one handed delivery boy who has ties to the construction site. His actions with the djin and his reaction to Sara are tied up to how poorly the company have treated him.

Once the setting is established and Sara and Amesh are introduced, the book's plot finally takes off, leaving behind the factual errors of life in Istanbul. Most of the book centers on a flying carpet found by Sara and run on ley-lines and connected to an island of the Djin. Now interestingly, there is a ley-line that runs from Istanbul and out to the Mediterranean, so perhaps that detail demanded the location.

Sara and Amesh's adventures with the djin drive most of the book. Though the two are friends and might in the future become more than friends, there is not much in the way of romance between the two — a departure from so many contemporary YA novels. Instead of being instant girl friend / boy friend, they are more realistic teenagers, being at times competitive, selfish, and temperamental, but ultimately loyal to their new friendship.

While the set up of The Secret of Ka felt forced at times, I got so wrapped up in the mystery of the island and the danger posed by trying to work with djin and later the unexpected betrayal by the adults in Sara's life, that I forgot my initial misgivings about the opening of the book.

Review copy via NetGalley.

Four stars.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Friday, January, 13, 2012 at 21:01:09


I read another one by him before and really enjoyed it, so I think I'd surely give this one a shot. I like the premise, politically incorrect or not.

Comment #2: Monday, January 16, 2012 at 22:41:10


The political incorrectness is part of the plot. Turkey is purposely misrepresented by Sara's father and the company he works for but that's not made clear until the last third of the book. Anyone who stops early won't know that.

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