About the Book:
It all begins on thenight Rea turns twelve. After a big fight with her twin brother Rohan on their birthday, Rea’s life in the small village of Darjeeling, India, gets turned on its head. It’s four in the morning and Rohan is nowhere to be found.It hasn’t even been a day and Amma acts like Rohan’s gone forever. Her grandmother, too, is behaving strangely. Unwilling to give up on her brother, Rea and her friend Leela meet Mishti Daadi, a wrinkly old fortune-teller whose powers of divination set them off on a thrilling and secret quest. In the shade of night, they portal into an otherworldly realm and travel to Astranthia, a land full of magic and whimsy. There with the help of Xeranther, an Astranthian barrow boy, and Flula, a pari, Rea battles serpent-lilies and blood-sucking banshees, encounters a butterfly-faced woman and blue lizard-men, and learns that Rohan has been captured. Rea also discovers that she is a princess with magic. Only she has no idea how to use it.Struggling with the truth her Amma has kept hidden from her, Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan, find a way to rescue him and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can she rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?
I was ecstatic to read this own voice middle grade fantasy, set in, *drumroll please* our very own Darjeeling, in India!! The blurb above gives you a pretty good idea about the story of the book, but it was a pleasant surprise to read about a twelve year old who uses Indian colloquialisms, wears Indian clothes, celebrates Indian festivals, plays Indian sports and eats Indian food. My stomach was literally growling with hunger at all the mentions of the Diwali and street food delicacies such as pakoras, laddoos and thukpas. Delicious!!
Rea’s adventure starts from the streets of Darjeeling but most of the book is situated in the fantastical world of Astranthia. As with a good plot and adventure story, Rea’s quest to find and rescue her twin brother keeps you absolutely hooked, with ample twists and turns and scary creatures. The story is fresh and familiar at the same time.
I really enjoyed the riddles and the challenges Rea has to solve and the way she forms friendships with some very likeable characters such as Leela from India and Xeranther and Flula from Astranthia. Queen Razya as the antagonist was quite a treat and not one of your typical black and white villain. I like a villain who is difficult to hate.
It was also interesting to note that this story wasn’t your typical chosen one story. Yes, there are some elements of it, but the story also addresses many other issues such as sibling rivalry, allowing friendships into your life, considering other’s needs before your own, a bit of political tension, the subtle favouritism of the male child. I wondered how twelve year olds across the world will relate to this when they read the book 🙂
All in all, a wholesome, entertaining own voices story from Payal Doshi, in the first of the Astranthia series. I am really keen to see where the story will head next 🙂
A huge thank you to Lonely Pages Book Tours, the author Payal Doshi and the Publishers for sharing a review copy of the book and allowing me to participate in this blog tour. All opinions are my own.
About The Author
Payal Doshi has a Masters in CreativeWriting (Fiction) from The New School, New York. Having lived in the UK and US, she noticed a lack of Indian protagonists in global children’s fiction and one day wrote the opening paragraph to what would become her first children’s novel. She was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and three-year-old daughter. When she isn’t writing or spending time with her family, you can find her nose deep in a book with a cup of coffee or daydreaming of fantasy realms to send her characters off into. She loves the smell of old, yellowed books. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar, the first book in TheChronicles of Astranthiaseries is her debut middle grade novel. For more information, visit her website, www.payaldoshiauthor.com, or follow her on Instagram @payaldoshiauthor and on Twitter @payaldwrites.