Ayesha Dean The Istanbul Intrigue

by Melati Lum


Ayesha and her friends Sara and Jess accompany Ayesha’s Uncle Dave to a business conference in Istanbul. The three girls enjoy visiting the landmarks of the city, especially the market and bookshops where Ayesha buys an antique book as a gift for her uncle. They discover a mysterious note hidden in the book. This note leads them on a search through the city for priceless manuscripts and into danger from the others searching for the same things.

Theme of the Book

Ayesha Dean: The Istanbul Intrigue is a Nancy Drew treasure hunt complete with adventure, danger, villains and heroes. Along with the mystery and intrigue, readers will learn about the city of Istanbul, about some aspects of Islam, and about the tragic trade in antiquities that should belong to all people.

What I Liked About the Story

Ayesha Dean: The Istanbul Intrigue succeeds on several levels.

First, it is a wonderful guide to a glorious city. The book describes the history and the beauty of several of Istanbul’s most famous landmarks: the Blue Mosque, the covered market, the Topkapi Palace, in a way that makes the reader want to buy a ticket and travel immediately. In addition to describing the highlights of the city, Ms. Lum presents some of the tenets of Islam in a very sympathetic and moderate way. Ayesha wears a hijab (headscarf) and stops to say her prayers but is very comfortable with the more modern dress she sees in Istanbul and does not in any way try to convert her friends. The lessons are not intrusive but form a seamless part of the narrative.

Second, Ayesha is an amazing character. It is so refreshing to have a confident, strong, Muslim woman as the main character in a book for younger readers. Ayesha is a black belt yet hesitates to use violence. She is close to her friends and comfortable in a multicultural environment. She is resourceful and smart yet fashion-conscious, always matching her hijab to her clothes and making sure she looks good. This is a character that all young girls, but especially young Muslim girls, can look up to.

Third, the plot is fast-paced and will easily keep the reader’s interest. Events in Ayesha’s treasure hunt move quickly with believable villains, supportive secondary characters, and a valuable prize at the end.

Although there is an element of romance in the story, there is only a glimmer of attraction between Ayesha and Emre.

What I Didn’t Like About the Story

The only difficulty I had with the book was with Uncle Dave and Mr. Isa, the guardian and father of Ayesha and Sara, respectively. Their reactions to the dangers faced by the girls seemed to be much more moderate than I would have expected. I’m sure that if I learned that my daughter’s hotel room had been broken into, that she had been followed in the streets, and that she had been threatened, my reaction would not have been to say “Well, be careful.” The two men seemed more distant towards their daughters than would be normal.

Final Say

According to the author, Ayesha Dean: The Istanbul Intrigue is aimed at an audience of 9 to 12 year olds. I think it might be a bit difficult for younger readers, simply in terms of vocabulary and language. For readers of 11 and 12 years, this book should be a thriller. It has everything a young reader needs and wants and nothing that will be objectionable to parents. As an adult reader, I did not find the book at all babyish but interesting enough to read in one sitting. I would happily recommend this to any parent of a young reader.

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