Thank you to Ellen Whitfield from Books Forward for the review copy in exchange for an honest review. This does not change my opinion in anyway.
Book: Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (The Chronicles of Astranthia 1) by Payal Doshi
Release Date: June 15th 2021
Tags: Fantasy | Middle Grade | Portal Fantasy | Other Worlds | Royalty | Darjeeling, India |
Trigger/Content Warnings: Attempted Suicide | Physical Assault
It all begins on the night 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?
A middle grade portal fantasy set in India? Yes please we need more of these kind of books on the shelves.
We follow Rea who feels alone and rejected on her birthday. Because her twin brother Royan doesn’t want to celebrate it with her. After a midnight escape from the house from both of them, Rohan dissapears. Rea doesn’t understand. Her amma and grandmother seem to know so much more but they won’t say anything. And so she goes out on her own to find her brother. Supported by her friend Leela, she jumps into a whole magical world.
There were elements that I really liked and there were elements that I didn’t care for as much. But lets start with the good bits.
This book is set in India and I love that. The magical world isn’t inspired by india but it doesn’t have to be. Having the starting world be India is great to have. Its the kind of representation we still miss often. So much starts in America or other English speaking countries. I love that this didn’t and that we get a bit of the culture through their every day life.
Another element that I really appreciated was the friendship between Leela and Rea. Rea has been hurt in the past and she doesn’t trust. But she also wants someone on her side. Leela has always been open for a friendship with Rea. She saw a kindred spirit and made sure to be around. And throughout, despite Rea’s lashing out, she stuck by her friend. Understanding why she was lashing out, trying to get her to see what she was doing. Leela was a gem.
I also loved that there was a chapter where Rea and Leela were actively puzzling out the prophecy they had gotten about where to find Rohan. Nothing fell there way. They really used their minds and research abbilities to get to where they needed to go.
Having said that I struggled with the fact that Rea’s family still would not say anything, even after Rohan was taken. They could have chosen to go about it as a family and they choose not to, sticking their heads in the sand. They took your bloody kid?!? And I really hope that the next book might touch on that bit because I feel that is something the four of them need to talk out. And then there was the bit of the attempted suicide that I felt was too easily stepped over. If you are going to do that and especially in a middle grade, even in this setting, please, please, please take the time to deal with it properly.
The magical world also has some great things like bud houses and fun foods. Whimsical elements. But throughout the story I never really felt this was a magical or whimsical place. It just didn’t come through at all. Maybe that was because we followed Rea and she was so focused on Rohan that she couldn’t see it. But I didn’t care much for the world as a whole. I also would have loved to have learned more about the magic of the nectar. It still felt a bit too vague for me.
All in all this was a fun middle grade fantasy with great diversity. I’m curious to see where the author will take this world and story in the next book.
6 thoughts on “Rea and the Blood of the Nectar | ARC Review”
Great review! I agree that we need more fantasy books that don’t start off in the USA or UK. While I love books that incorporate the mythology of the culture where they’re set, you’re right that they don’t have to! We also need more of the “standard” fantasy stories (aka not related to myths) set in different places.
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Agreed and let there be diverse characters there. 🙂