I have been a fan of almost all of the Rick Riordan Presents books. City of the Plague God is no different, but it’s a hard book to read in this time of actual plague.
Characters from the Epic of Gilgamesh populate this high-stakes contemporary adventure in which all of Manhattan is threatened by the ancient god of plagues.
Thirteen-year-old Sik wants a simple life going to school and helping at his parents’ deli in the evenings. But all that is blown to smithereens when Nergal comes looking for him, thinking that Sik holds the secret to eternal life.Turns out Sik is immortal but doesn’t know it, and that’s about to get him and the entire city into deep, deep trouble.
Sik’s not in this alone. He’s got Belet, the adopted daughter of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, on his side, and a former hero named Gilgamesh, who has taken up gardening in Central Park. Now all they have to do is retrieve the Flower of Immortality to save Manhattan from being wiped out by disease. To succeed, they’ll have to conquer sly demons, treacherous gods, and their own darkest nightmares. Goodreads
I received an eARC of City of the Plague God via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
City of the Plague God needs content warnings for plague, Islamophobia, racism, ableist language, grief & loss depiction, death of a mother on page, death of a brother via motorcycle accident (in past, discussed intensely on page), blood and gore, hospitalization, discussion of homelessness, discussion of immigration issues, and murder.
Sik is a devout Muslim and refers to his quest as a jihad and it felt really real and beautiful. He even talks to Ishtar about his faith and how he doesn’t really believe in her as a goddess, and it’s a lovely conversation.
My heart broke with how much Sikander loved his family and their deli, and how far he would go to protect all of them. I also really appreciated how Daoud doesn’t really change from the beginning of the novel. Instead, the way Sik sees him changes as he realizes more of who his brother’s friend really is. The way they worked together to save the world made me incredibly happy.
It also broke my heart as I realized how similar and how different their world’s reaction to new disease was. We don’t get the full picture because Sik is barely in the real world, but we do see the racism that people attach to his family simply because Nergal came to New York via their home.
One thing that I loved about this book was the way that the author refused to name any slurs that were used in the book. They were just called slurs or racist and that was that. I felt that it was a good way to say that yes, it happened, without forcing the kids this book is intended for to read those slurs.
I wish that the solution they came up with would work on COVID, but alas, this is the real world. So I’ll happily recommend this book for anyone who can handle reading about the plague right now. You can pick up a copy from Bookshop or Amazon through our affiliate links!
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