Title: Hunted by the Sky
Series: The Wrath of Ambar #1
Author: Tanaz Bhathena
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: June 23rd, 2020 (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux)
Synopsis: Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.
Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort…a world with secrets deadlier than their own. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.
Thank you to the publisher, Penguin Teen, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
A prophecy foretells the downfall of the cruel Raja Lohar of Ambar at the hands of one who bears a star-shaped birthmark and ever since, girls across Swapnalok with this mark have been disappearing. As Gul, who bears such a mark, flees her home, hiding from the Sky Warriors who murdered her parents, she runs into a group of rebels known as the Sisterhood of the Golden Lotus who take her in and train her in magic. Two years pass and though Gul can only just barely wield her magic, her thirst for revenge has not abated, and she is determined to find a way into the palace. Enter Cavas, a non-magus boy who lives in the tenements with his ailing father and is considering leaving his position in the royal stables to join the king’s army. A chance meeting at the bazaar on the night of the moon festival ends up with both of them being drawn into the plot as reluctant partners.
Hunted by the Sky inspired by Ancient India – this always makes me really happy because I’ve come across so few that use this kind of setting, considering it’s perfect for fantasy novels and especially so when done by an own-voices author. I recognized so many of the cultural influences and this book reminded me a lot, in terms of the feel of the world atleast, of The Candle and the Flame which I read last year. The magical aspects of this world are so fascinating with seemingly endless number of ways in which magic can manifest, from talking to animals, seeing the future, seeing ghosts and wielding dead magic (what that is exactly, I’m still not too clear on and would really like a proper definition rather than vague mentions).
As for our two main characters, though I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface so far, I enjoyed them a lot. Gul is like the ‘Chosen One’ figure, the prophesied Star Warrior who is meant to take down the tyrant king, yet can barely access her magic and has spent her whole life running and hiding from those hunting her because of her birthmark. Cavas on the other hand, is just trying to keep his head down and do his job so he can take care of his father – he is a character who is very easy to overlook, but really shouldn’t be because he is turning out to be just as crucial to the plot – not to mention all the secrets about his past that are only hinted at in this book! The chemistry between Cavas and Gul on the other hand was rather lacklustre in my opinion and could have been presented better, not to mention, it felt quite rushed too. The side characters are just as interesting, from the Sky Warriors and their leader, General Shayla to the Sisterhood and of course, the secret group we meet at the very end of this book and I want to know so much more about all of them.
The pacing wasn’t the best and nothing very interesting happened until well past the halfway point, but curiosity alone will keep you reading, if only to delve deeper into this world and its characters. I would have liked to spend more of the story inside the walls of the fort itself and learn about the history of the world in more detail and if the initial chapters had been faster, this could have been done. I also found this ARC really hard to read because of poor formatting, so it took a while longer to finish than is normal for my speed.
Overall, this was a solid read and the ending, while not entirely unexpected, was still shocking (not to mention absolutely chaotic), and raises so many questions! Hunted by the Sky was an interesting start to a new series and certainly a unique one. I can’t wait to see where this story goes next!
Hunted by the Sky releases on June 23rd, 2020.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!