Title: City of the Plague God
Author: Sarwat Chadda
Genre: Middle-Grade, Mythological, Retellings
Published: January 5th, 2021 (Rick Riordan Presents)
Synopsis: Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents CITY OF THE PLAGUE GOD, an adventure based on ancient Mesopotamian mythology written by Sarwat Chadda, author of the Ash Mistry series. Characters from the Epic of Gilgamesh populate this high-stakes contemporary adventure in which all of Manhattan is threatened by the ancient god of plagues.
Thirteen-year-old Sik wants a simple life going to school and helping at his parents’ deli in the evenings. But all that is blown to smithereens when Nergal comes looking for him, thinking that Sik holds the secret to eternal life. Turns out Sik is immortal but doesn’t know it, and that’s about to get him and the entire city into deep, deep trouble.
Sik’s not in this alone. He’s got Belet, the adopted daughter of Ishtar, the goddess of love and war, on his side, and a former hero named Gilgamesh, who has taken up gardening in Central Park. Now all they have to do is retrieve the Flower of Immortality to save Manhattan from being wiped out by disease. To succeed, they’ll have to conquer sly demons, treacherous gods, and their own darkest nightmares.
Thank you to the publisher, Disney Publishing Worldwide, and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Sikander Aziz’s normal life is turned upside down when one night, as he is working late at his family’s deli, he is attacked by demons who believe he holds the secret to immortality. He is saved by the unexpected appearance of a ninja – who he later finds out is his classmate, Belet, the adopted daughter of the goddess Ishtar – but the deli, his family’s livelihood is completely destroyed. Things only get worse as Nergal, the god who commands the demons, starts a disease in Manhattan – and the first to be affected are Sik’s own parents. Now Sik and Belet must go on a quest to find the Flower of Immortality before all of Manhattan is wiped out by the plague.
This will be a shorter review because when it comes to middle grade novels, I have a tendency to give away too much of the plot. I’ve been following the various Rick Riordan Presents series for some time now, but this is the only one apart from Aru Shah that I’ve actually picked up. My interest in mythology has largely been towards Greek, Roman, Egyptian and of course, Indian. Mesopotamian mythology, on the other hand, is one I have nearly no knowledge of beyond what we learnt during ancient civilizations in school.
This was a pretty fast paced book and full of adventure right from the very beginning. The pacing of the book doesn’t leave too much time for character development or backstories, but I liked how that was built up in bits and pieces over the course of the book, particularly with regards to Sik’s brother Mo. The mythological aspects were interesting, but I got the feeling I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had some background as the story doesn’t go into too much depth in that aspect. The good thing though, is that it’s possible to follow along and enjoy the story even if you are completely new to the topic.
Sik is an excellent main character and it was nice to see for once, a hero without any special powers and only fighting with the determination to save his family. He has experienced a significant loss in life and this book takes the time to focus on his grief, and how he is working through it which is not typically a topic touched upon in middle-grade novels. I did feel however, that the story took too much time to get to the point with the real quest coming into play only in the last quarter of the book – also making the quest itself much shorter than I would have liked, and giving the overall plot a less structured feel.
Overall, this was a fun read and a solid debut, and one I would definitely recommend!
City of the Plague God releases on January 5th, 2021.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
All quotes in this review were taken from an advance reader’s edition and may differ from the final version of the book.