Children’s author, Nazneen Ahmed Pathak, visited the Isle of Wight Story Festival 2024 to discuss the release of City of Stolen Magic, which was published in June 2023. 

Despite being a novel aimed at children, Nazneen’s first and only published novel, City of Stolen Magic, captured my attention from the offset. It is gorgeously written, unlike any children’s book I have read before and it is so refreshing that Nazneen depicts the sobering truths in regards to British colonial rule in India. The book isn’t afraid to tackle the darker and more uncomfortable side of colonial rule in India. 

While at the story festival, Nazneen mentioned how she believed there is a real absence of education in regards to the British Empire. Nazneen illuminates this side of history in a sensitive but truthful manner; which is an absolute breath of fresh air to the children’s writing industry. 

She crafts the novel in a very clever, well-fashioned and purposeful manner; interwoven with history, magic, travel and family- whilst drawing inspiration from her Bangladeshi heritage, which is seen with the beautiful illustrations on the front cover; one half being a depiction of London and the other being what is now, Bangladesh; the village Chompa grows up in is based on Nazneen’s paternal grandfather's home; which really adds a personal sense to the geographical aspect of the story.

I loved the incorporation of Bengali traditions and folklore; as you really got a sense for Nazneen’s own cultural identity, as well as the integration of magic, which is used by Chompa and her mother Amina which was cleverly intertwined with the historical and geographical aspects of the novel. 

It was fantastic seeing Nazneen at the Story Festival, and she and her children loved the festival. She  commented on the warm and special atmosphere at Quay arts, as well as being part of such a wonderful line-up. If you get a chance to read City of Stolen Magic it is most definitely worth it, and Nazneen is currently working on a follow up, featuring Chompa, and her friends-so keep your eyes peeled!