Review: Nightmares in Paradise

Nightmares in Paradise (Ring of Solomon series)

by Aden Polydoros

Inkyard Press, 2024

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Kathryn Hall

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Nightmares in Paradise is a sequel to Ring of Solomon, the first middle grade novel from Polydoros, and can be read independently, although it is better to read both sequentially. Zach Darlington has recovered from his encounter with Ashmedai, the King of Demons. When his annoying little sister Naomi disappears with his flaming sword, he and his friend Sandra call on Ashmedai to help them find her. Adventures ensue: strange beasts attack, bullies experience Biblical consequences, and the good guys win. Zach is bullied by several kids at school, who surmise that he is gay, although he has not come out even to his parents yet. The book is well written and an enjoyable read.

There are two completely different types of Jewish representation in this book. Zach and his family are contemporary California Jews who prepare Ashkenazi food and celebrate Jewish holidays. Zach is 13 years old and has not become a bar mitzvah, but might consider it. The other Jewish content is based on Torah and ancient Jewish folklore when Zach, his sister Naomi, and his friend Sandra wind up battling monsters on the way to and in the Garden of Eden. Both Jewish and non-Jewish readers will find this book a winning combination of the familiar and both Jewish and non-Jewish readers will appreciate familiar and unfamiliar elements in this winning middle grade adventure quest.

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Reviewer Kathryn Hall is a retired pediatrician, lifetime member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, volunteer librarian for her synagogue and for her local LGBT+ center, and active in her local PFLAG chapter. She has a special interest in Jewish children's literature with LGBT+ content. She lives in Central California with her husband, the youngest of her three children, and two of her eight grandchildren.