Book review: Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena
Enter the Star Warrior
A prophecy. A child with a scar. A villain slated to be killed by said child.
Tanaz Bhathena’s Haunted by the sky, a YA fantasy fiction, shares these plot points with Rowling’s Potter series. There are other similarities too, but then the template of good versus evil, or even of a child being born to bring down a tyrant is universal.
It is how the writer uses the trope to create a singular and exciting world that makes all the difference. Indian fantasy fiction writers blend mythology, history and fantasy very effectively. Fantasy fiction is a burgeoning genre in India and enriched by books like Samit Basu’s ‘The Simoqin Propecies’ or even the recent ‘An Ember in the Ashes ‘ by Sabaa Tahir. Bhathena`s book is a welcome addition to the genre.
The story unfolds in fairly simple prose. The fantasy world the tale posits itself in is intricately and entertainingly detailed, whether it’s the city of Ambarvadi, the magical Ambar Fort, the squalid tenements or even the mythical Tavan, guarded by golden bars reaching for the sky.
The story moves swiftly, packing in both action and adventure. Gul, the spirited heroine of the book, has to fulfill the prophecy of destroying the evil King Lohar. Along the way, she also enters into a budding romance with a young man, Cavas.
There are engaging characters that people the book, like a sisterhood of three brave women, a king who is half- human and half- animal, ghosts who materialize in order to communicate important matters, and others. The chief villain, Scorpion, is infused with adequate lashings of the requisite menace to make her a formidable opponent. As this is the first book in a series, the climax neatly sets the stage for the next.
If there is one drawback to this book, it is that parts of it feel derivative. Whether it`s the child with the scar, the division of people into those who can do magic, called magi, and those who can’t, or even the battle between a prisoner and an unknown opponent in front of a crowd, that so resembles scenes from the film `Gladiator.’ On the whole, though, it`s a breezy, entertaining read.
Hunted by the Sky /By Tanaz Bhathena/Farrar Straus Giroux/374 pages.
This ran in THE HINDU`S LITERARY REVIEW of 18 Oct 2020.