A Girl… After her parents were killed, Gul Is taken in and trained in battle magic by a group of women devoted to overthrowing tyranny. Born with a star shaped birthmark, Gul must hide herself from the Raja’s Sky Warriors as a well as discover what power she has hiding inside. A Boy… Cavas lives in the tenements outside of the capital. These slums house thousands and thousands of people born without magic. These second-class citizens are looked down upon by those with magic. Called dirt lickers. Prevented from holding jobs or even living outside of the slums. Cavas longs to escape. But his world is rocked on the night of the blue moon… the night of lovers… A Prophecy… And a chance to save the world.
Oh my! What do I say about this novel? The world is incredibly fascinating and well woven. Based on Indian and Persian mythology and culture the world leaps off the page to the point where you can smell the curried lentils and hear the jingling of anklets. I loved the richness of the world. And loved that it wasn’t based on Western European fantasy tropes. Gul and Cavas are well-realized characters. Their voices are clear. Their motivations understandable. I was invested in their storylines. And I found that the people surrounding them were interesting and three dimensional. It was lovely seeing a Brown girl taking center stage. And I had absolutely no trouble relating to the characters' motivations in their story whatsoever. I have to admit, Prince Amar, his little sister, and Gul’s horse are my favorite characters.
Since this is young adult fantasy with romantic elements, you pretty much can guess that there are going to be a lot of standard tropes in play. There is the chosen one. A Prophecy. The mentor with a secret past. The charismatic animal companion. Hidden powers. And mysterious parentage. Two competing love interests. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these tropes being present. This book is intended for young adult readers. This is the kind of story that high schoolers will love. Especially those looking for #ownvoices fantasy featuring South Asian characters.
There are a few missteps that take it down a star. The first is that there is a minor pacing problem especially in the beginning of the story. It’s a bit slow, and some readers might find that off-putting. It could’ve used some tightening up. Especially since there was a lot of exposition that really felt like info dump. And while there was a lot of the world that needed to be broken down and conveyed to the readers I think there were some better ways to have done it than how it was handled. For that, I blame the editors and publishers. Since trad-pub has more rounds of feedback and revision than indie pub. However, once you got through the sort of clunky expedition the story really took off. There are some fairly tough themes throughout the story including classism and sexism. Refreshingly, different sexualities are handled very well. And there’s both good and bad examples of consent that are made very clear that what is the good and what is the bad.
Seriously I loved Prince Amar.
The book was written by a South Asian author of Persian and Indian descent. And Tanaz Bhathena also came from fandom. She was part of the Hunger Games fandom before she brokered a book deal. So if you’re looking to support an Author of Color and one who also came from and respects fanfiction, then please consider supporting her.
And all I really enjoyed this book. I look forward to reading the sequel. Four Stars.
If this is your jam, you can get it here. Or if the price is too steep – consider asking for it from your library. That’s what I did and it’s how I read this.
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