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Fantasy,  Middle Grade,  Review

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi @payaldoshiauthor @MMPress_ // #ownvoice middle grade fantasy

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar was #ownvoice middle grade fantasy with Indian culture, parallel magical world, quest and riddles that readers of this genre would enjoy.

#ownvoice middle grade fantasy

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar (The Chronicles of Astranthia #1) by Payal Doshi

Publication Date : June 15th 2021

Publisher : Mango and Marigold Press

Genre : Middle Grade / Fantasy

Pages : 350

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis

Perfect for fans of the Aru Shah books and The Chronicles of Narnia.

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 middle-grade fantasy debut about understanding complex family dynamics, fighting for what is right, discovering oneself, and learning to make friends. 

Praise for Rea and the Blood of the Nectar

“A highly inventive, magic-filled fantasy.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“An extravagant and rewarding fantasy novel involving floral world building and childhood bravery.”

— Foreword Reviews

“With a spunky pari and eccentric creatures like a ‘cow-monkey dressed in jewels reciting poetry,’ Doshi kicks her series off on a high note.”

— Booklist

“Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is a gateway into pure imagination, with a fast-paced plot that will hook you and characters that will endear you. A wonderful debut.”

— KACEN CALLENDER, National Book Award winner for King and the Dragonflies and bestselling author of Hurricane Child

“From the tea plantations of Darjeeling to the flower-filled land of Astranthia, Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is an adventure filled with mythical monsters and marvelous creatures, magic and mayhem, friendship and family struggles. Rea is a fierce heroine whose courage and determination carry her forward to save her twin brother even when the path seems dark.”

– RAJANI LAROCCA, author of Midsummer’s Mayhem, Red, White, and Whole, and
Much Ado About Baseball

*** Disclaimer : I received e-copy of this book, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author and publicist. ***

Review

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar was interesting and well written middle grade fantasy that revolved around Rea’s journey to find her missing twin brother that unearthed family secrets. The story was about lies, betrayal, manipulation, friendship, loyalty, and family.

Writing was lucid, gripping, and descriptive with bumpy pace from steady to fast paced. Story was written in third person narrative from Rea’s POV. First few chapters (around 100 pages) were set in Darjeeling, India while rest of the story was set in magical parallel world, Astranthia.

Book started with Rea expressing her feelings towards her twin brother, Rohan, how her Amma (mother) and grandmother favoured Rohan and were being partial as Rohan was smart, clever and easily made friends while Rea was nothing like him. It annoyed Rea, made her feel lonely, misunderstood, and less loved. She so wished she didn’t have brother. You know the saying ‘be careful what you wish for’, well, that exactly happened here.

When Rohan disappeared on the night of their 12th birthday with no sign or trace, her mother and grandmother acted like he was gone forever, never coming back but Rea wasn’t going to accept it just like that. And that’s how started her adventure. Help of her only friend- Leela, village fortune teller who gave riddles, and night mares she was encountering ever since Rohan’s disappearance led her to a portal to another dimension, a magical world- Astranthia where she got help from barrow boy- Xerenther and a pari (fairy)- Flula.

It was interesting to find out how and why Rohan was taken to the other dimension, how Rea would find him, what dangers she might have to go through to rescue Rohan, what she would discover about herself and her family.

All characters were interesting, complex and realistic. Family dynamic was great. It showed the common picture of Indian family. Still in some family boy is given more importance than girl and grandparents or parents be partial towards boy and treat girl like she is the neighbour’s kid.

Rea’s mother wasn’t different. I didn’t like her for being partial and ignoring Rea. I get it she went through a lot, there was some terrible past and loss but still thinking Rohan is better than Rea, comparing siblings, and then loving him more was wrong. I also don’t like her for keeping such big secret and I found myself agreeing with Rea often. Only if they have told truth from the beginning things might have been different and at the same time, as mother, I could see why she kept the secret.

Rohan in most books was imprisoned. We only know him in the beginning and around climax. I don’t have much opinion on him but liked how he realised his mistakes for ignoring Rea and not involving her in his life and circle. I hope to see and understand him more in next books.

Rea was flawed and complicated. I could understand her feeling being lonely, for how her family treated her and difficulty in making friends. But as story progressed, I see her flaws more clearly. She was single minded, selfish, all she thought about her feelings, knowing more about her father, finding her brother, rescuing him and will get annoyed and frustrated when things didn’t turn out as she wanted or like, would lash out if someone wanted to do their own things. She was reckless, impulsive and naïve but was brave, determined, and courageous. I loved her for giving her and Leela’s friendship a chance and how that changed her view, woken her conscience and made her appreciate value of friendship.  I loved how she developed by the end of the book and learned so many things.

Leela was fabulous throughout the book. She was lively, bright girl, loyal friend, wise, and reasonable She helped Rea more than once and I loved her for staying with Rea all the time, understanding her feeling and making her see her mistakes. Flula was amazing, lovely fairy. I also liked Xerenther.

Queen Razya was ruthless and cunning ruler. She was interesting villain. I liked reading why she ruled differently from her ancestors. Her shadow magic and game of manipulation was terrifying. She was so good at it.

World was amazing. I enjoyed reading Indian culture in first few chapters. Even though this part was small one cannot miss picturesque setting of Darjeeling and its tea plantation slopes. I visited this place around 8 or 10 years ago but I still remember beauty and lovely weather of the place.  World of Astranthia was whimsical and magical. People, how they dress, class differences, rules of kingdom, portal called Doda Alda Mara and who can travel through it, buds and grass that comes to life, fairies, magical system, sacred flower, legendary creature, serpent lilies… it was all vividly described and yes there was a lot to take in.

I liked the message in book about being selfless, not jumping to assumptions, family bond, determination, courage, keep moving on in life even if things don’t turn out as you have planned and have peace with the past.

Twist and turns were interesting. Some I could see coming while some I couldn’t. Climax was surprising, tense and sad. I felt for both Rea and Rohan. I couldn’t guess how they would carry out their plan and save Rohan. I have to say I wasn’t expecting what happened on the night of ceremony. The conversation between family was best part. All events were adrenaline filled and action packed. End and epilogue were perfect.

Why 4 stars-

Like I said, even though Rea was great, most of the time her frustration at every other thing made me frustrated. I wouldn’t call it info dumping (as I like info on new world) but there was a lot to take in and it slowed the pace at certain parts. Some readers might not like it and would call it info dumping.

Overall, Rea and the Blood of the Nectar was enjoyable, refreshing, adventurous middle grade fantasy. If you love portal fantasy, parallel world, mesmerising world with lots of information, #ownvoice book with Indian culture, I recommend this book.

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About Author

Payal Doshi has a Masters in Creative Writing (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, Book 1 in The Chronicles of Astranthia series 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.

An Interview with Payal Doshi

  1. What was your inspiration for Rea and the Blood of the Nectar?

I wanted to write a fantasy story rooted in Indian culture and setting that had kids from India who went off on thrilling adventures and became heroes. I wanted to write a story I would have loved to read as a kid and one in which I saw myself in. I also wanted that story to portray these diverse characters having joyful and empowering experiences since often times that narrative gets overlooked when writing about underrepresented minorities. At the same time, I wanted to write a story that all kids would love. So, there’s a mystery that needs solving along with an exciting quest, a ticking clock, dark family secrets, unforgettable friendships, a fantastical world, and my favorite, magic!

I love reading books in which the setting feels like a character in itself and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to portray a region of India that was beautiful and underrated with respect to its landscape and people. The city of Darjeeling is a stunning hill station in the northeast part of the country ensconced within hills, the view of the majestic Himalayas and rolling tea plantations. I was inspired by its unique beauty and knew instantly that’s where I wanted to set my book.

  1. Why is it important to you to write stories for diverse voices?

When I first drafted this book, all my characters were white, and they lived in the English countryside. It wasn’t until my writing teacher pointed out my lack of Indian characters that I realized how the books I had read (and loved) growing up had subconsciously trained my mind into thinking those were the only types of stories people wanted to read. I was a voracious reader as a kid, but I’d never read a children’s book with a protagonist who was Indian or South Asian. I simply never saw myself in the books I read and loved.

So, when I decided to write my book, I wanted to change that statistic. I wanted South Asian kids to not only see themselves in books but also see themselves as the main characters of the stories they read. Diverse representation is incredibly important because kids from underrepresented minorities should grow up knowing that their stories deserve to be shared and celebrated and that they, too, can be the heroes of novels.

It is equally important to show kids from other countries that they can relate with characters from different backgrounds since they, too, share the same hopes, dreams, and fears as them.

  1. What is your favorite thing about Astranthia and why?

What I love about Astranthia is that you can’t pin down exactly where, or in which culture I’ve rooted the fantastical land in. Astranthia is an East-meets-West utopia where people from all cultures, races, and lands live together in harmony. I drew from my experiences growing up in Mumbai, India, where I was surrounded by Indian culture and tradition but also exposed to pop culture and media from the West. So, the reader will find several references to Indian, British, and Celtic folklore.

Astranthia is also steeped in the magic of the Som, a sacred and immortal flower, in which flows the elixir of nectar that keeps the realm alive. I love nature and I wanted to weave that lushness into the history and descriptions of Astranthia. I hope that readers will find Astranthia immersive, beautiful, and a magical escape.

  1. How is the first draft of the book different from the final draft?

Oh, night and day! Especially the first chapter. I’ve probably rewritten it at least fifteen times! The first draft was a loosely held story in which the characters meandered their way through the plot while the final draft is a fast-paced adventure with complex characters and an exciting adventure. My mantra when tackling drafts is ‘Rewrite, Revise, and Repeat!’ It is true what they say: Writing is rewriting.

  1. Did your writing process change during the pandemic?

To be honest, my writing process changed ever since I had a kid! I no longer had hours at my disposal. In that way, the pandemic has been similar since my husband and three-year-old are at home with me and between managing them and the household, I get pockets of time where I can squeeze in my writing. Before I had my daughter, I would sit at my laptop and ponder over how to approach the next chapter or scene. Nowadays, as soon as I get a chance to write, it’s go, go, go! Most of my rumination happens right before I fall asleep, while I’m cooking, or when I’m in the shower!

‘This post is a part of Blogchatter Half Marathon.’ 

Thank you for reading! Let’s chat…

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Hi, I'm Yesha, an Indian book blogger. Avid and eclectic reader who loves to read with a cup of tea. Not born reader but I don't think I’m going to stop reading books in this life. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

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