Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Hunted by the Sky

Finished September 27 
Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

This is the first book in a fantasy series that is inspired by medieval India. Written for teens and with teen characters at the center of it, this book begins with a teen girl, Gul, hiding as government-sponsored warriors looking for her kill her parents. Gul has known all her life that her life is in danger due to a birthmark on her arm. It was foretold that a girl with such a birthmark would kill the king and so girls have been hunted down and disappeared for years. 
Now that she is on her own, she must figure out how to survive and how to kill the king and the Sky Warrior Shayla who killed her parents. 
Gul lives in the kingdom of Ambar, a kingdom that belonged to a loose coalition of neighbouring kingdoms but that has since become more independent, and one that has become more authoritarian and less tolerant. It used to be that all people lived in harmony, but with the current king and his predecessor those who don't have magical skills have been moved to their own neighbourhoods called tenements, had their rights taken away, and become near slaves. There are those who remember times of more harmony where all the people lived together and worked together and went to school together, but in the current world life is difficult for those without magic. 
One of those who has grown up in the tenements is Cavas, a boy who works in the royal stables as his father did before him. Cavas lost his mother when he was very young and as his father grew more ill, he has taken on the role of breadwinner for the pair of them, but also has recently been introduced to a mysterious man he summons with a special coin, one he gives information to in exchange for money. Cavas uses the money to buy medicine for his father, and hopes to find a way to leave the tenements so that his father can get well again, as it is the air of the tenements that has brought the disease he suffers from. 
Gul found her path crossing the path of a group of women, women who took her with them and have been training her to become a warrior, who have a similar aim to change the leadership of their kingdom and bring a more just and equitable rule back. Gul has only had glimpses of the magic she has been given, when it appears in times of stress or threat. Now she must learn how to understand it and control it.
As Gul and Cavas have their paths cross, it becomes clear that something ties their fates, and the magic together, and they must overcome their differences to work together. 
I found this a fascinating world, with very interesting types of magic skills in the different characters, and creatures different from the ones in this world. Gul's affinity for animals is an unusual and useful one, and when Cavas learns his own truths about what he is able to do, he must put aside resentments from the past. They are both strong-willed and smart and both believe in social change for the greater good.
There is a glossary at the back of the book to explain some of the terminology of this world, although I found that the context helped anyway and the book's flow wasn't lost due to the new words. 

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