The Yogi’s Curse by Lars Guignard
Print Length: 340 pages
Publisher: Fantastic Press (July 23, 2013)
Genre: Juvenile fiction; Fantasy/magic; Action/adventure
Zoe and Zak are back in India again. And this time they’re attending Moonstock Himalayan Academy for Boys and Girls, which might seem fun except for the fact that the school itself is more than a little strange. This is no Hogwarts in the Himalayas, where with the wave of a wand one can conjure up delicious feasts and fun stuff. For one thing, the food is terrible, toilet paper must be purchased, the hot water is erratic, there’s no technology (like Internet) and the teachers are eccentric bordering on weird. Anyone who ever attended boarding school will remember how often reality diverged from the brochure. But attending the school might just be more important than the kids think; after all, Moonstock has the reputation for turning out achievers and those who go on to change the world in some way.
The crazy part of Moonstock becomes apparent when Zoe and Zak discover students ride elephants instead of school buses, snarling monkeys work as security guards, and vigilant (talking) parrots monitor the halls. But living with a bunch of other kids their age can be a lot of fun too, or at least it seems that way until Zoe’s roommate Anita goes missing. Following the directions written on a steamy bathroom mirror, Zoe and Zak fly off on their magic carpet to learn that they have been chosen yet again for an important mission. This time they’ve been asked to lift the Yogi’s Curse except that Zoe and Zak don’t even know what the Yogi’s Curse is, let alone how to lift it. But like it or not, they soon discover that a whole lot of people are depending on them. To make matters worse and just when they need all the extra help they can get, Zak’s whip Stryker (which turns into a two-headed cobra) and the magic carpet (masquerading as a humble Doormat to escape detection) are confiscated by the school owners as ‘prohibited items.’ The tension mounts as the kids are pursued by giant fire-winged birds with malicious intentions, a talking elephant informs them that elephants are on the brink of death unless the curse is lifted, and they have a formidable demon enemy to defeat. Can Zoe and Zak save the day?
I really enjoyed this read. For me, the second book has cemented the series and made a lovely springboard for Book 3. Zak and Zoe’s success in the first book created a domino effect of events that take them into this adventure. Back story keeps new readers attuned so both plots link up nicely. Zak really comes into his own here and takes the word ‘intrepid’ to new heights. He stares down Amanda Mean, the school bully; goes into partnership with another student running an informal tuck-shop (that stocks lots of decent toilet paper); starts a vlog; and has some really inventive ideas using whatever comes to hand (including a flying feather!). He may not have Zoe’s powers, but he makes some surprising decisions that work out just fine. Zoe stops being so self-pitying and starts to think about just why her mother chose Moonstock as a boarding school. The action is non-stop and plot twists and turns keep readers hanging onto their magic carpets as they fly along with our heroes. The magicality is wonderful, using legends and fantasy elements from Indian culture and mythology. There are no instant spells ‘imported’ into the story: all the enchantment belongs firmly in India, using cultural and folkloric aspects that will no doubt get young readers interested in reading up more about the background. I thought the constant reference to ghastly food making the students sick, and the chemistry teacher’s unfortunate tendency to flatulence a bit repetitive, but no doubt kids will just crack up laughing each time they read it, so this is a minor issue. Zoe narrates, as in Book 1, and the lovely dry humor in her comments will appeal to adults as well as kids. The ending wraps up nicely with both Zoe and Zak having grown and matured, and learned some important life lessons. I really am looking forward to reading Book 3.
Reviewer’s bio: Fiona Ingram is an award-winning middle grade author who is passionate about getting kids interested in reading. Find out more about Fiona and her books on www.FionaIngram.com. She reviews books for the Jozikids Blog.