Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar

Doshi, Payal. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar 
June 15th 2021 by Mango and Marigold Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Rea's family doesn't have an easy life in Darjeeling, India, but her mother and grandmother work hard to provide a comfortable life for Rea and her twin brother Rohan without their father. Sometimes Rea has to pick tea leaves with her mother, even though she is technically too young, in order to provide more income. It irks her that Rohan isn't expected to work as hard, and when he makes plans without her on their birthday, she finds a way to pay him back. Along with her neighbor, Leela, Rea sneaks out of the house and takes over her brother's cricket game, embarrassing him. The next day, Rohan hasn't come home, and her mother is angry and scared. She had told the children to stay inside and lock the doors. The reason is soon made clear by a fortune teller whom the mother has recently consulted, and Rea and Leela find themselves in the magical realm of Delphinus, in the flowery kingdom of Astranthia, trying to find him. They meet Xeranther, who tells them about the kingdom, and Rea finds out that she and her brother have royal blood that allows them to travel between worlds. It is this blood that has caused Queen Rayza to take Rohan for her evil purposes. She is practicing Shadow Magic and slowly destroying the kingdom. Through Xeranther, the girls also meet paries and other magical creatures, and set out on their quest to save Rohan by finding a magical flower petal. They must work with Oleandra, who is trying to overthrow the queen, deal with banshees and other creatures, and ask the Ceffyldwer  to help them get across the lake. Even if they manage to get the petal, will the queen release Rohan? And will everything in Astranthia be peaceful?
Strengths: Sibling rivalry happens even with twins, and Rea and Rohan's problems are a great way to start the story, especially when Rea must then save her annoying brother. The magical realm is well developed, and the descriptions of flowers were particularly appealing. The quest brings Rea into contact with a wide variety of creatures, and the interactions are engaging and interesting. Queen Rayza is certainly evil, but in a sort of White Witch way that almost makes me think she might not be too bad, which adds a nice tension. I especially liked that Leela was involved, even though she and Rea weren't particularly good friends back in the real world. I'll be keeping an eye out for the next book in the series, since the book ends on a bit of a teaser. According to the author, The Chronicles of Astranthia is going to be a trilogy and the second book is planned for a Fall 2022 release.
Weaknesses: It took me a while to warm to Rea, although she does become more engaging as the story continues. There also seems to be a bit of Welsh mythology (the Ceffyldwer) mixed in with the Indian characters and creatures, and it would have been nice to have a note about that. 
What I really think: This reminded me somehow of Lynne Reid Banks' 1976 The Farthest-Away Mountain, which was popular with my readers until it fell apart, and Kerr's 2004 Children of the Lamp series. There's also a bit of Mull's 2006 Fablehaven, with all of the descriptions of fairies (paries). Fantasy adventure quests where children get powers when they reach adolescence and must use them to save the world are always in demand. Rea's life in India added a fresh twist, although what I would really like would be a realistic novel about her everyday life. 

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