Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda. Published by Harper Collins, 2012. (Ash Mistry Chronicles; 1). Paperback edition rrp. NZ$16.95.
From the publisher:
Ash Mistry hates India. Which is a problem since his uncle has brought him and his annoying younger sister Lucky there to take up a dream job with the mysterious Lord Savage. But Ash immediately suspects something is very wrong with the eccentric millionaire. Soon, Ash finds himself in a desperate battle to stop Savage’s masterplan – the opening of the Iron Gates that have kept Ravana, the demon king, at bay for four millennia…
**Breathtaking action adventure for 8 to 12-year-olds. Ash Mistry, reluctant hero, faces ancient demons…and comes into an astonishing, magical inheritance.
Varanasi: holy city of the Ganges.
In this land of ancient temples, incense and snake charmers…
Where the monsters and heroes of the past come to life…
One slightly geeky boy from our time…
IS GOING TO KICK THE DEMON HORDES BACK TO HELL.
Book trailer with author commentary:
“The Indian Gods and Demons are like nothing else on earth…”
What do I think of this book?
I thought this was FANTASTIC!…probably one of the most adventurous and exciting books I have read since I began reading children’s books with the purpose of recommending them and blogging about them. Lots of book blurbs and reviews promise a story with “high octane” excitement – this one actually delivers it – and I believe this author deserves a huge following (and a movie contract too…)
Our main character is just another “ordinary boy”. Ash is described as being a little bit tubby and unfit, and the local Varanasi street urchins describe him as a coconut – “brown on the outside – but white in the middle”. Ash feels feels too Indian to fit in at home, but too British to be accepted in India. He wishes he was back in the UK with his mates, computer games, Macdonalds and the girl he secretly likes. He is sick of his stay in Varanasi – the flies, the smells and the snakes. He doesn’t want to be a hero and doesn’t crave action and adventure, but literally stumbles into it and is then caught up in events.
Elements of the action feel familiar (think Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson or the Kane Chronicles but featuring Hindu Gods and Demons instead of Ancient Greek or Egyptian Gods). Hindu Mythology features some very scary monsters, demons and Gods and in this book they are very convincingly described and vividly drawn. The story is set in the ancient and holy city of Varanasi – given this is the city famous for its funeral pyres where death (and the tourism it brings) one of it’s main attractions; it is the perfect setting for a story where reality meets mysticism. The story involves a seriously evil villain trying to bring the demon King (Ravana) back to life and ensure his own immortality in the process. If the demon King is unleashed it means the end of the world , with evil, death and destruction on a global scale – literally hell on earth.
The author breaks up Ash’s narrative with dream like sequences that take us back to the time when Rama defeats Ravana and banishes him to his hidden tomb. By doing this, the reader gets a lesson in Indian mythology along the way that adds depth to the plot. I like the way interesting ideas about reincarnation and karma are interwoven into the story. Perhaps that makes the amount of death and destruction more palatable – even some of the dying tell Ash that their death is not the end, they will be reborn and meet again in another life.
This would be perfect for older children wanting another book as exciting and engaging as those by Rick Riordan. I thought this one was at least as good, but the Indian setting and mythology takes it out of the ordinary! There is a sequel due soon as this is the first of an intended trilogy.
** I am recommending this book for ages 10+ : the violent elements make this a more mature (intermediate) read.
The website contains lots of great resources, including illustrations and information and on the Hindu Gods and Demons.
Excerpt from the book in PDF form (Chapter 2):
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