cover image SABA: Under the Hyena's Foot

SABA: Under the Hyena's Foot

Jane Kurtz, . . Pleasant/American Girl, $15.95 (207pp) ISBN 978-1-58485-829-4

Set in Ethiopia in 1846, this installment in the publisher's Girls of Many Lands series centers on Saba, a girl who lives in rural poverty with her grandmother. But when Saba and her brother, Mesfin, are kidnapped and taken to the emperor's compound, they discover their royal blood; their other grandmother's brother currently reigns. Saba's parents, in order to protect their children from the constant fighting for the throne, had hidden them long ago. Now Saba has been separated from Mesfin, and as she slowly begins unraveling the politics—the current emperor, her great-uncle, is a puppet and his wife, a "hyena," will stop at nothing to maintain control—she fears for her brother's fate. She also dreads the marriage the empress is arranging for her. The author blends fiction and history: while Saba is made up, Empress Menen was an actual person. Readers may have trouble piecing together the complicated power struggles, but they may well be captivated by the glimpse into Saba's world and the aphoristic language ("Strength meant that if you fell off your horse, you walked"). As in other books in the series, this concludes with a glossary and short history lesson; fortunately, the author works many details about Saba's culture directly into the novel itself. Readers will likely root for Saba as she carves out her own daring adventure. Ages 10-up. (Sept.)

FYI: Other new titles in the Girls of Many Lands series are Leyla: The Black Tulip by Alev Lytle Croutier, which takes its heroine to Istanbul in 1720; and Kathleen: The Celtic Knot by Siobhán Parkinson, set in 1937 Dublin. Nine-inch dolls of each heroine are also available. ( Leyla $15.95 ISBN-1-58485-831-1; $7.95 paper -749-8; Kathleen $15.95 -830-3; $7.95 -748-X; Sept.)