Most middle-grade novels don't begin with the storyteller being stoned to death. But The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams goes delightfully rogue. The 11th-century Silk Road is a treacherous place for all who journey there in this ambitious, mesmerizing adventure by Printz-winning author Daniel Nayeri (Everything Sad Is Untrue).
Omar's story opens as he is chased down by former friends who are stoning him for "crimes against God," though, as far as his "heart can tell," he has not committed any. After being rescued--purchased--by a portly and charismatic merchant calling himself "Samir, the Seller of Dreams," Omar is bound as a servant and renamed Monkey. As Omar/Monkey journeys through the desert, he gets to know Samir's trickster ways and his caravan of fellow merchants and travelers. Soon, the beautiful Mara catches Monkey's eye and, despite her patronizing indifference to him, he falls in love. When the group learns that assassins are hunting Samir, Monkey sees his chance to secure his freedom and impress Mara.
Nayeri's breathtaking story takes readers on a harrowing journey along one of history's most legendary trails. The Many Assassinations of Samir, the Seller of Dreams has that rare immersive, almost magical quality that feels both timeless and fresh, bred of myth and legend, yet brimming with realism and life. Gorgeous full-color paintings by Daniel Miyares (Float) strengthen key pieces of the story, giving readers a sense of the heat of the blacksmith's tent, the cool of the desert twilight and the lurking dangers. Frightening, hilarious and heartfelt, Nayeri's novel defies expectations, offering middle-graders an unforgettable read. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer