April 3, 2023

REVIEW Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria by George Jreije

Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria by George Jreije
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: October 4, 2022
Format: Audiobook (Borrowed from the Library)
Publisher: HarperCollins 

Social media was responsible for introducing me to George Jreije’s debut novel, Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria, and I’m so happy it did. If you’ve enjoyed heroes like Amari from B.B. Alston’s Amari and the Night Brothers, or Sik from Sarwat Chadda’s City of the Plague God, you’ll enjoy the story the author crafted in this book (some might even say storytelling is its own brand of alchemy). 

Shad Hadid has lived with his grandmother, ‘Teta’ ever since his small family group immigrated from Lebanon and his father passed away. Shad’s normal day-to-day routine of taking care of his grandmother and visiting the local bakery is interrupted after he learns that he comes from a long line of alchemists, and he’s sent to learn the family craft at the prestigious Alexandria Academy. However, things at the school will be much more complicated than Shad could have ever imagined, as he must contend with bullies, an entirely new world to learn about, and the mysterious villainous Necromancers trying to take over the school. 

Alchemy has always existed in the space between magic and science, and you can tell the author had fun playing with that aspect of the ‘magic system’. The passion came through in the storytelling, and it was wonderfully executed. Alexandria Academy was a new take on the magical school idea - I was pleasantly surprised by the dynamic of having all mentions of alchemy be forgotten by those who hear it, as it really helped give the story a unique spin among all the other magical schools in middle-grade books. I was also quite happy that the author threw in a nod to the famous Library of Alexandria (as that’s one of the places I would definitely want to visit if I could go back in time). Despite the fun that comes with alchemy, Mr. Jreije introduces some heavier things like school bullies, grief, and loss - all of which come together to help the story come across as more authentic and relatable. 

While the book falls firmly in the fantasy adventure genre, readers can also consider it a love letter to Lebanese culture and food. Shad aspires to be a baker one day, and it was really cool how the author wove elements of cooking into alchemy. I also want to give a shout-out to how on point all of the food descriptions were - I’ve never tried some of the featured dishes, but I had no problems envisioning them and the descriptions were so vivid they made me hungry

This is a great book for readers of all ages. Ali Nasser’s performance in the audiobook narration of the book was solid. Those who enjoy middle-grade fantasy adventures with underdog heroes, a deep appreciation for culture, and magical schools should give Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria a chance. After reading this book, I’m excited to check out the next book in the series, Shad Hadid and the Forbidden Alchemies, once it comes out in October 2023. 

About the Book

You are invited to the Alexandria Academy . . .

Twelve-year-old Shad Hadid has never quite fit in. The other kids at school don’t understand him, so he spends most of his time alone, cooking for his teta and daydreaming of opening his own Arabic bakery full of tasty treats. But when Shad is attacked by a shadowy monster, he learns his late baba was an alchemist with the ability to mix charms, elixirs, and mists—and he’s one too!

Then Shad receives an invitation to the mysterious Alexandria Academy, a fabled school for alchemists, where he hopes he’ll find safety and learn more about the ancient science. But when he arrives, no one at the school seems to know what alchemy is! As Shad digs deeper into the mystery, he discovers a sinister evil lurking in the shadows, and only he holds the key to stopping—or fulfilling—their plans.

With danger at every turn and the fate of the alchemy world on the line, can Shad save his friends and defeat this sinister foe?

About the Author

George is the Lebanese-American author of the Shad Hadid children's fantasy series as well as the upcoming graphic novel, Tarik’s Bazaar Adventure, both with HarperCollins. He has also written short stories published in collaboration with UNICEF
George was selected to be the inaugural writer-in-residence for the historic Concord Free Library in Massachusetts, a position that is currently ongoing. He has been a featured speaker at WorldCon, SCBWI regional conferences, the Elixir Writing Retreats, and many more
When not writing, George enjoys visiting schools and conferences as a lecturer, scouring the world for delicious food, and messing with new yoga poses. 

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