Rea and the Blood of the Nectar caught my eye when it was offered by Netgalley and the publisher. I’m glad it did! It’s a super fantasy tale, smoothly merging the life of a poor girl in India with a fantastic world, Astranthia. It reminded me of a Tale from the Arabian Nights.
Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (The Chronicles of Astranthia #1)
By Payal Doshi
A middle-grade fantasy about twelve-year-old Rea Chettri, who portals into an otherworldly realm to go on a secret quest to find her missing twin brother Rohan. The clock is ticking in this fast-paced, thrilling, and exciting adventure rife with evil creatures, a ruthless villain, and unforgettable friendships.
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?
Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is Payal Doshi’s stunning #ownvoices middle-grade fantasy debut about understanding complex family dynamics, fighting for what is right, discovering oneself, and learning to make friends. [goodreads]
The blurb certainly tells you all about the plot. Payal Doshi has written a beautiful book. She contrasts the atmosphere of an Indian village, with an amazing otherworld. Everyone will be familiar with the back-biting and competitiveness of the schoolkids.
Rea and Leela make an excellent pair. First they get over the hurdle of ‘a girl like her would hardly want to be friends with me.’ Then they make a really good team. Rea’s moods and temperament swing about a great deal, but this is understandable, given the situation she’s in. Leela’s steadfast friendship is just what she (and the reader) needs.
I loved the contrasts in Astranthia, a civilisation based on the flower world. The deep black dungeons of the castle against the lively, outwardly carefree locals. But underneath they are careworn and frightened of their queen. Rea barges in all guns blazing, metaphorically, and only later wonders how she could have done such a thing!
I found the unveiling of the truths surrounding her somewhat confusing at times. In this case, everyone has two names, one for Astranthia and one for India. But a more alert reader than me would take this in their stride.
I really enjoyed this book. It was a breath of fresh air, even with all the smells from the dungeons.