The Grababer by Nirmal Pulickal and Jehan Zachary
Review,  Fantasy,  Middle Grade

The Grabber by Nirmal Pulickal and Jehan Zachary – fantasy based on the legend of the Black Taj

The Grabber is an interesting genre mix middle-grade fantasy based on the legend of the Black Taj, with an amazing concept and plot.

fantasy based on the legend of the Black Taj

The Grabber by Nirmal Pulickal and Jehan Zachary

Publication Date : April 17, 2023

Publisher : Puffin

Read Date : May 15, 2023

Genre : Historical Fantasy / Middle-grade

Pages : 208

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Disclaimer – Many thanks to publisher for sending review copy  as part of Blogchatter Book Review Program.
This post contains affiliate links.


Identical stood the two Taj Mahals, but the black one hid a sinister secret.

Buried in the sands of time is an urban legend-there was once another grand tomb as beautiful and as magnificent as its white twin, the Black Taj Mahal. But it hid a dark the sixty-four chopped hands that built the White Taj.

Centuries later, during the British era, twelve-year-old Nuru befriends a queen from the erstwhile Mughal courts. Mumtaz appears and disappears as she pleases but warns of a prophecy. The revival of the pisacha-a ghoulish union of the sixty-four severed hands that built the White Taj Mahal.

Everyone’s end is near and there is only one way to defeat this evil-find the fabled Black Taj Mahal.


The Grabber is middle-grade dark fantasy based on the legend of the Black Taj that follows the story of 12 yrs old Nuru who was chosen by Mumtaz to fulfill the prophecy of fighting the evil sorcerer buried under The Black Taj with sixty-four severed hands that built the White Taj Mahal.

Writing is fitting for middle-grade readers, lucid, not overly descriptive or overly atmospheric. I loved the concept of the story. It’s very unique that brings forth many facts and myths about the Taj Mahal and Black Taj. The setting of 1875 British-ruled India is very well written.

The initial chapters introduces Nuru who is a smart, adventurous, brave, and mischievous boy of the village headman. He quickly forms bond with Mumtaz when he meets her who is not just a spirit but is a Djinn. He learns magic and spells from Mumtaz and learns about the prophecy as the book progressed. It was interesting to see how Nuru would defeat the evil spirit.

There is a time jump back to the rule of Shah Jahan and how he created the Taj Mahal and got the idea of its counterpart the Black Taj. The history and the story build around it and how that affected the present, Nuru’s life, prophecy, and rise of evil was my favorite part in the story. There are illustrations in some chapters that gave visual effects and brought the story to life.

I loved some of the things the author included in the plot that was mentioned in the notes at the end- the bond between the British and Indian characters; avoiding the imperialist stereotype that Indians are fool and stupid by making Nuru smart even though he was uneducated; a strong female character of Mumtaz; and highlighting the mental health of Shah Jahan by not portraying him absolute villain which busted the common belief that Mughals were bad. I also enjoyed all the legends and superstitions included in the story.

It’s truly amazing and inspiring that story is the imagination of the young mind, Jehan Zachary, Pulickal’s son. But as much as I love the concept, setting, historical facts and myths, I don’t think I enjoyed the execution and characterization.

The whole appearance of Mumtaz and she training and informing Nuru about the prophecy was a little unbelievable and also there was no clear explanation about why exactly her spirit stayed around and how she turned into Djinn. Nuru also was too quick to believe her it was quite unbelievable he didn’t question her apart from his curiosity.

As for Nuru’s parents, I feel it hard to believe they sent him off to fight the demon. Yes, there was reluctance and it was necessary for the plot but apart from Jack no adult was there to fight with him. There is no character development and much emotional depth to them.

Overall, The Grabber is an interesting genre mix middle-grade fantasy with an amazing concept and plot but I didn’t enjoy the execution. However, this can surely fascinate young readers.

I recommend this if you like,
middle-grade fantasy
myths and legend of Black Taj
history of Taj Mahal
setting of British-ruled India

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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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