Simon & Schuster Children's Books has pre-empted the "beautifully atmospheric" debut middle-grade novel The Kingdom Over the Sea by 22-year-old law student Zohra Nabi, as part of a two-book deal.
Publishing in spring 2023, The Kingdom Over the Sea is a "spine-tingling, unputdownable magical adventure" for middle-grade readers, and will be backed by "significant" marketing and PR investment.
Set in a lavish world of sorceresses, alchemists, jinn and flying carpets, this is an epic story of a girl raised in our world discovering her true magical identity and her place in a land where magic has been banned. The novel explores themes of identity, immigration and displacement inspired by the experiences of Nabi’s family in Kashmir.
Ali Dougal, publishing director, pre-empted world rights from Julia Churchill at A M Heath. The series was jointly acquired with Sarah McCabe, editor at Margaret McElderry Books. The publisher is already fielding interest from international publishers, with Maud Sepult overseeing rights sales.
Nabi is doing a Masters in law, but has always dreamed of being a writer. After winning a prize in a legal essay competition she put the money towards studying creative writing at the Faber Academy.
Dougal said: "I was so transported by the beautifully atmospheric world Zohra has created, that I read the script long into the night and couldn’t stop thinking about it. These characters just leap from the pages - children are going to be entranced. At S&S Children’s Books we’re investing significantly in building the global star-authors of the future, and the whole team is absolutely thrilled to be welcoming Zohra to the list."
Nabi commented: "I am unbelievably excited to work with Julia, Ali and the team at S&S on The Kingdom Over the Sea. I have always loved children’s books that transport you to another world, and I hope The Kingdom Over the Sea will do the same for readers today."
Churchill added: "It’s not often that a submission makes me forget my job and feel like a little girl reading her favourite book, and that’s what The Kingdom Over the Sea did to me. Hooky, exciting, thoughtful, fresh. I’m thrilled to be working with Zohra, so excited to see where she goes next, and we couldn’t have a better publishing team in S&S."