Fantasy Books

The star with a scar: Review of Tanaz Bhathena’s ‘Hunted by the Sky’

A prophecy. A child with a scar. A villain slated to be killed by this child. The YA fantasy fiction Haunted by the Sky shares these plot points with Rowling’s Harry Potter series. There are other similarities too, but then the template of good versus evil, or 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 is what makes all the difference. Indian fantasy fiction writers blend mythology, history and fantasy quite effectively: it is quite a burgeoning genre here, enriched by books like Samit Basu’s The Simoqin Prophecies or the more recent An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir. Tanaz Bhathena’s book is a welcome addition to the genre.

The story unfolds in simple prose. The fantasy world is intricately and entertainingly detailed, whether it’s the city of Ambarvadi, the magical Ambar Fort, the squalid tenements, or the mythical Tavan guarded by golden bars reaching up to the sky.

The story moves swiftly, packing in both action and adventure. Gul, the spirited heroine, has to fulfil the prophecy of destroying the evil King Lohar. Along the way, she enters into a budding romance with a young man, Cavas.

There are engaging characters — like a sisterhood of three brave women, a king who is half-human, half-animal, ghosts who materialise to communicate important matters. The chief villain, Scorpion, is infused with adequate lashings of the requisite menace to make her a formidable opponent. This is the first book in a series and the climax neatly sets the stage for the next.

If there is one drawback to the 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 the battle between a prisoner and an unknown opponent in front of a crowd that so resembles scenes from Gladiator.

On the whole, though, it’s a breezy read.

Hunted by the Sky; Tanaz Bhathena, Penguin, ₹399

The reviewer is a manuscript editor and novelist based in Bengaluru.


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Printable version | Jun 13, 2021 2:08:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/the-star-with-a-scar-review-of-tanaz-bhathenas-hunted-by-the-sky/article32862566.ece

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