Book Review: Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi
Publishers: Mango and Marigold Press
Genre: Children Fiction, Middle Grade, Own Voices (I got an e-ARC from Netgalley)
Pub Date 17 May 2021
While reading this book, two things should be remembered that are mentioned in the acknowledgement at the end. Firstly, even though the book is a Fantasy, the author took a trip to Darjeeling which forms the primary world for the story. Second, the author always carried a pocket dictionary looking up new words whenever she could until her late twenties.
The story is written in gorgeous prose that few writers can manage. Some of the scenes like the nightmare scenes are absolute delight to read and the exquisite prose comes as a surprise for an MG book. The flourish of writing in some ways reminded me of Roshani Chokshi’s style in the book Star Touched Queen.
“The sun oppressive and scorching, shone overhead, soaking the hills of Darjeeling in liquid gold. As far as the eye could see, rows of tea shrubs unfurled like carpets, rolling high and low to reveal mist covered valleys…”
I loved the vividness of this sentence — “The streets blurred past Rea in waves of sound and color.”
There are many such beautifully crafted sentences and at many places the prose is lyrical. It is evident that the author has been meticulous in polishing her drafts.
The story follows a standard MG format of presenting the story in a puzzle + quest format. The main character is Rea, who is rather fastidious in her relations with others. The inciting incident is that Rea’s brother goes missing— suspected abduction that puts her on a quest to search for him through a series of situations that are presented in the form of puzzles.
Abduction is a time tested plot device, whether it be the Epics of old like Ramayana or even Science Fiction book like Planetside by Michael Mammay. Somehow, I felt, the story is heavily inspired from the Ramayana adapting it to the requirements of MG – and that in a very innovative way, at least till the point where Rea and her friend are able to cross the lake (which is like a sea) to meet the evil queen and demand release of her brother.
I also loved the innocence portrayed, where the main character thinks that she would reach the evil queen and demand the release and her brother would be released.
The use of the portal has been executed in a very effective manner — “The roots looped around her as if she was an appendage of Rea’s they had forgotten about, and bound together, they dangled like ragdolls, screaming at the top of their voices. The cavernous hollow of the canopy opened its hungry mouth and a gut – wrenching jerk catapulted them into it. Instantly, all went black.”
Now when I walk across any old banyan tree, I need to be extra careful ;-)
The imagination in this book is relentless, and the umpteen twists can make one breathless.
On the flip side, the story takes some time to begin, and I found the initial pages meandering. But then, I’ve read books that keep the readers totally clueless and make them plod through pages until halfway when suddenly the story begins to make sense.
My daughter, a voracious reader, has also read the e-ARC, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The quality of writing makes me wonder why the author is not writing in the adult segment!
And did I say, the cover is stunning?
Overall, a wonderful book. Loved it.
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