OwlCrate Jr Book Club! The Kingdom Over the Sea

By: Cheryl Long

May Book Club: The Kingdom Over the Sea by Zohra Nabi! 

Get ready to be swept away into a magical new world in The Kingdom Over the Sea by Zohra Nabi!

Welcome to May’s Book Club!! Read along with us this month and check back to this page every week for more fun Book Club extras - including an introduction to the book, our exclusive reading guides, Q&A with the author, book-a-like recommendations, and our creativity corner!

Make sure to head over to instagram every Friday to participate in our weekly book club chat for a chance to win a free box!


Book Introduction: 

The Kingdom Over the Sea by Zohra NabiAfter Yara Sulimayah’s mother suddenly passes away, she finds a cryptic message left to her — instructions leading her to magical world across the sea to find a sorceress by the name of Leyla Khatoun. Chartering a strange vessel, Yara arrives in a strange world where sorcery and magic aren’t just outlawed, but those who practice have been hunted and executed.


Landing in trouble almost immediately, Yara is helped by a kindly baker who informs her of the dangers of this world and helps her to escape the city equipped with a searching charm that will help her find Leyla.


Along her journey she saves and befriends a jinn, who accompanies her. But when they finally find Leyla, it isn’t the welcoming greeting Yara was expecting. Not only does Lelya not seem to know or remember her mother, but she isn’t too keen to help her. But when a dormant, powerful magic is revealed inside Yara, Leyla might be the only one who can help her — and keep those in hiding safe from the evil eye of the Sultan and his alchemists, before Yara’s magic draws their attention.

Reading Guide:

Access May's Reading Guide here! (This can also be found bound inside your exclusive OwlCrate Jr edition!!)

Author Q&A with Zohra Nabi: 

Author Zohra Nabi

Hi Zohra! The Kingdom over the Sea was an incredibly gripping tale, we just couldn’t put it down! How did the idea for this story first come to you?

Thank you! The Kingdom Over the Sea came from lots of ideas I’ve had over the years for stories—some which I’ve been holding onto since I was fourteen! What made all the pieces of the jigsaw fit together was a talk I went to at the British Museum called “Libraries of Exile.” It was about how creative ideas can come from moving across countries. It made me wonder how someone who had moved to the UK as a baby would feel if she discovered she was from a magical world—and how she would react to encountering injustice there. I still have the excited notes I made during the talk, when I realised how I could make the story come alive.


The world building in this book was fantastic! Can you tell us a little about your process of writing such a vivid setting?

There were three stages to creating Zehaira. Firstly, I read a mixture of fairy tales, history books and medieval guides, which gave me lots of different ideas about how I could create a grand city. Luckily, I was a student at the time, and had access to beautiful libraries for my reading! Secondly, I did worksheets—probably like the ones you’re given at school—which made me think through the difficult questions about how my world could work, instead of just pushing them to one side. And finally—and maybe most importantly—I closed my eyes, and imagined I was Yara, stepping off the boat and feeling a new sun on my face, and I tried to see the city through her eyes.


We loved that poetry was woven into the magic system! What was the inspiration behind that?

Where my grandparents are from in Kashmir, poetry is a part of everyday life! It has a very long, rich tradition there—they have lots of poems they can recite from memory. Poetry is really important all over the Islamic world—in collections of tales like One Thousand and One Nights, poems form part of the textures of the stories. I’m definitely not the first writer to arrange spells to make them rhyme, but I knew that I wanted my sorcerers to be scholars—and that part of their craft should be language: how to arrange words in the most powerful way, and how that could change the world around them.


Throughout Yara’s journey we explore the themes of identity and belonging. What do you hope young readers take away from this story?

I hope my readers take away lots of things from this story. I hope firstly that readers know that if you find yourself in a position where you are made to feel small, or like you don’t belong, that there are people who feel the same way, and who want to help you. They might need your help in return, too—helping each other to the best of our ability is one of the best ways to make a difference. And even though it’s hard being in a position where you feel like you don’t belong, it’s also a super-power—it will make you see the world in a whole different way


Will we be seeing more of Yara and her story in the future?

I don’t think Yara would let me stop telling her story just yet! Yara and her friends will be returning in 2024 for more adventures—but so will Yara’s enemies…


Book-a-like Recommendations: 

Loved The Kingdom Over the Sea? Check out these awesome middle grade titles! 

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi       Nura and the Immortal Palace by M.L. Khan     Zachary Ying and the Dragon Emperor by Xiran Jay Zhao


Live Chat with Sally and Zhora Nabi: 

Missed the Live? Click here to watch our chat with Zhora on Instagram!