A Young Paladin of Zabul


Children - Social Issues
285 Pages
Reviewed on 06/25/2022
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Kristine Zimmerman for Readers' Favorite

A Young Paladin of Zabul by K.A. Lillehei is an important tale for the times we live in. Lillehei relates the story of Sam, a young boy from Iran, who has begun a perilous journey from his home country to what his father believes will be a better life for the whole family in the United States. Sam's father has shared the stories of the great warrior Rostam with him over and over. He believes that Sam is a champion, just like Rostam, and destined to do great things. Sam is only eleven and is thrust into situations that no child should endure but, unfortunately, many must. Will Sam make it safely to the west and freedom? Will he have the courage of Rostam?

A Young Paladin of Zabul is a book I could not put down. K.A. Lillehei writes with authenticity and passion about what it is like to be a refugee in our world today. Even though the story takes place in Asia and Europe, the trials and difficulties faced by Sam are universal for most refugees. Lillehei has created genuine characters with fears and flaws but also great resilience. I enjoyed how Lillehei incorporated the Persian myths of Rostam and the rituals of Iranian culture. Sam interacts with a wide variety of humanity along his journey, both good and bad, which feels true to me. A Young Paladin of Zabul is an eye-opening story that will give readers, both young and old, a deeper understanding of the refugee crisis and those that choose to embark on these paths.

Liz Konkel

The journey is dangerous for young Sam in A Young Paladin of Zabul by K.A. Lillehei. Sam travels with his father's friend and twin sons to the Turkish border to meet contacts that will get them out of the country. His father fears for Sam's safety as the journey will be full of risks and the path won't be easy. He does everything in his power to send his son to relatives in America. Sam carries with him the stories his father told him about Rostam – a hero with epic adventures that served as a paladin of the Shahnameh. The adventure that Sam undertakes brings various other children into his life, even if just for a moment, as they too have been sent away in hopes of obtaining a better future. This book takes a hard and honest eye-opening look at the millions of people that are forcibly displaced with the goal – which is successfully achieved – not to look at the statistics but at the reality that the children in these situations face and to show the humanity of refugees around the world.

Though labeled a children's story, this is perfect for all ages and all hearts. The writing focuses on Sam but interjections from a first-person narrator create a deeper and more personal connection to the journey. The beauty in the writing that Lillehei showcases throughout the story is truly breathtaking and has a poignancy that will resonate long after reading. You will be captivated by the subtle poetry that sets each scene and creates an emotional tone to put you into Sam's mindset through each step he takes -- from the jostling and chaos of the dusty road that unfolded in the darkness to the tension in the group as they traveled with unease as if expecting the hills to come alive suddenly like a stone monster. The humanity in the story is something that will weigh on your heart through characters like Sam's father who risks everything for his child and the responsibility on Sam's shoulders as the family's anchor of hope for a better life. By the end, a feeling of hope is embraced which is a satisfying conclusion to the overall tone, theme, and beauty found in A Young Paladin of Zabul. This is a story of humanity and reality that will offer understanding, honesty, and eye-opening revelations.

K.C. Finn

A Young Paladin of Zabul is a work of fiction in the social issues and current events subgenre. It is intended for independent young readers, young adults, and adults alike, and was penned by author K.A. Lillehei. In this harrowing tale based on real situations that young children face in all countries undergoing a refugee crisis, we meet eleven-year-old Sam, who forms the center of an incredible journey. Sam’s father has given everything to send his son to a better life in California, but first Sam must encounter refugees from many other countries as they struggle to walk the same path to safety and freedom.

Author K.A. Lillehei has a superb talent for delivering resonant social issues in a format that is both engaging to read about and easy to understand, whatever the age of the intended reader. I found some of the imagery and the reality of the devastation to be quite shocking, but nothing was ever too graphic or overdone for shock value. One of the most important underlying messages of this work is how it showcases that there is no neglect on the part of parents who have to send their children away in this manner; rather, it is the bond of love and the hope of a better future for their children that spurs them on. Overall, A Young Paladin of Zabul is a well-penned and emotionally resonant read which should definitely be experienced and discussed by different generations in every family to really understand the heartache of what takes place when people are displaced from their homes by famine, war, and destruction.