I’ve only recently started reading more and more middle grade books because for some reason I thought I wouldn’t be interested in them. I think I had some bad experiences with MG books earlier which led me to believe they’re not for me. That coupled with people around me looking down on reading below my age range made me stay away from MG books.
But I broke that barrier in quarantine by reading some amazing MG books which made me cry because honestly my world would have changed if I had been able to read them as a kid. And today I have another MG fantasy that is being hyped by the bookish community: Rea and the Blood of Nectar!
Indian kids on covers??? Hell yes!
Ahem, but if this is the first time you’re hearing about this book, here’s what it’s about:
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?
My Review of Rea and the Blood of Nectar
Disclaimer: I was given an arc of this book by the author sand publisher as a part of Lonely Pages Book Tour but that does not affect my review. All my thoughts and opinions are honest and unbiased.
Rea and the Blood of Nectar initially had me pleasantly surprised. We are introduced to the lives of Rea and Rohan in Darjeeling at the eve of the twins’ birthday. For me it felt like I was stepping directly into the small village of Darjeeling with Rea and was by her side in every step. I liked Rea from the very beginning. The story starts with her trying to infiltrate a secret cricket match that her brother is attending at midnight, on their birthday. It’s very evident from the storytelling that Rohan is favored in the house by both Rea’s amma and bajai(grandmother) and this is something reflective of quite a few families in India. Sons are seen as apples of the eyes and this makes Rea feel neglected and angry. Not to mention that Rohan and Rea have grown apart over time and Rea is bent on proving that she’s better than him and worthy of his time.
Things take a turn for the south though when Rohan disappears after the cricket match and Rea’s amma and bajai act as if he’s never going to return. But Rea knows things are very much off and her brother is alive so she embarks on an adventure with her friend Leela to find her lost brother which leads them to discover the world of Astranthia.
This is where things started falling apart for me. Until now we had been set up for this fantasy world and while I don’t mind some slow setting-up I was craving for some action which I expected to begin in the land of Astranthia. Instead we get long-winded descriptions and explorations of the world, its people and the friends Leela and Rea make a long the way. In that way the pace only slows down rather than picking up which was slightly disappointing. Two new characters, Xeranther and Flula the pari are introduced and while we do get a sense of Xeranther and his family, Flula remains more of a mystery and I wish we could have gotten to know her a bit better. Leela on the other hand is my favourite character of the lot. She’s loyal, sweet and optimistic and I’m glad Rea warms up to her more and more as the story progresses.
Throughout the rest of the book, I felt that the author had a clear idea of a blossoming world in her mind but was unable to piece it together for the readers on paper. There’s a lot of set-up and very less action plus the world as so many elements that I’m still not completely certain about everything. Plot-wise, it’s a decent storyline but there were some plot-holes that I couldn’t overlook. In fact our antagonist, Queen Razya raises a couple of them herself but they never get explained.
I was actually waiting for the ending before giving out my verdict on this book but it was very underwhelming. No spoilers here but I felt that the story could have ended with this book and the disappearance of a certain character made absolutely no sense to me. I can’t say what the second book may be about and sure it might introduce an interesting plotline but on the basis of what I read, I wish this was a standalone book.
But then again, I’m very happy to see an Indian cast in a middle-grade book. I’m also happy that kids get to read about Rea: a hot-headed, rash and ambitious girl with her own faults and flaws and a big heart. She’s very far from perfect and I love to see that because lets face it, none of us were saints at that age.
Overall, I think many people might be on the fence about this book and if you love it then I absolutely see why. This just wasn’t a book that left me amazed but I would still recommend people to give it a shot!
Huge thanks to Lonely Pages Book Tour for having me on this tour. Check out what other book bloggers have to say about this book by following the rest of the tour here 🙂
ABOUT THE 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, the first book 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
What are some middle grade books that you would like to recommend?
Have you read Rea and the Blood of Nectar? Is it on your TBR?
What kind of books had you been reading when you were in middle-grade?