Saturday, 3 March 2012

Review: Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda

In One Line: geeky kid on holiday in India uncovers dastardly plot to release absolute evil upon the world, and kicks some ass!!!
Genre: middle-grade mythological action adventure - with added demons!
The Gist:
So here’s the disclaimer: this is NOT YA, and I know the author, so I was really nervous approaching this one. What if I hated it? What if you all think I’m just being sycophantic? 
Well here’s the truth. You know when you go with your mates to the cinema, and you can’t decide what to watch so you go and see that Hollywood blockbuster because the chances are the majority will end up liking it (while inside you’re going but I WANT THE CLASSIC ROM-COM DAMMIT!)? And then you end up getting floored by said blockbuster even though you were dead cynical about it and thought it might just be an overblown CGI excuse to wear 3D glasses? Well this book is like that. I was all prepared to just nod and smile politely and pat lovely Sarwat on the back and go Well Done You! And then I got floored. Because this book ROCKS. 
Ash is your typical English-Indian kid who is on holiday in India visiting relatives with his kid sister Lucky. When he accompanies his uncle to visit Lord Savage (BLATANT BADDIE ALERT!) he unwittingly gets embroiled in a mega-plot to unleash a devastating evil across the earth (but mostly India). Cue evil demons, not so evil demons, snakes, spiders and kids in baggy pants type things doing ancient martial arts! Kapow!!!
The Cover:
Look guys! There’s Ash, with his weirdy sword about to kick the sh*t out of a giant muscular demon with dreads!!! The ethos of this cover is ‘what you see is what you get’ and it sets a template for further books. 
Why You’ll Love This Book
  • Actual Hindu mythology. Yep. The writer’s done his research, and he knows his stuff. This book is crammed with authentic CULTURE folks, and it’s written in such a way that it doesn’t get in the way of the plot, but enhances it. You’ll find yourself dipping into wikipedia to check the facts whilst reading, and you won’t be disappointed! I also love the fact that unlike the mythology of the ancient Greeks or Egyptians, this stuff is happening Right Now. This is living mythology, and gives an exciting view on Hindu mysticism. 
  • Geek talk. Ash Mistry is a DUDE. He has a paunch and his references Star Trek. So basically he’s a character in The Big Bang Theory waiting to happen. Except that we all know that he’s actually the hero, even if he doesn’t realise it yet! Watching Ash develop from mega-geek to KAPOW is awesome. 
  • Parvati. Anyone call for a super-hot badass Indian girl who is actually a cobra but also one of the good guys? Hell yeah! I love Parvati - she’s my only hope for a girlie YA spinoff. Imagine getting to your awkward teenage years, and then discovering that you’re actually a snake and that your Daddy is actually the Indian Satan? But what I especially like about her is that she’s not just the token hot girl with fangs - she has a dark side that means you’re always slightly doubting her intentions and motives. She has DEPTH guys. 
  • Classic action movie tropes. Something tells me that Sarwat Chadda knows his cinema. Yeah. He’s watched loads and loads of awesome movies. You can just tell. 

Why You May Not Love This Book:
  • Lucky. Sorry, I just didn’t buy the kid sister. Mostly because every other character is so awesome, and she was just a stereotypical kid sister. And my inner-feminist-demon got a little pissed off when the siblings get their kickass training - Ash gets to learn martial arts, and she gets to do healing stuff. I kind of felt sorry for her. A bit like when the Pevensie kids get their presents from Father Christmas, and Lucy gets the vial of healing liquid whilst her brothers get weapons. Yeah. You heard me. I made a CS Lewis reference. 
  • Properly scary demons. Now I know that for the target audience, the scary animal demons are undoubtedly a Good Thing. But I get scared easily. Especially by the woman who turns herself into lots and lots of hairy spiders. 
  • It’s not YA - just thought I’d put that in. Because my regular readers are probably going ‘what the hell? You’re reviewing a book with no sexytimes?’ BUT you do get a hint of a possible romance to come in future installments (for when Ash is older than THIRTEEN).

The Hypersomnia Test:
Do you know what, this book did it for me. The pace, the action scenes, the scary creatures - there were moments when I thought that reading this book was better than many of the big blockbuster films that Hollywood has been churning out lately. And I was gripped. No sleepytimes during this one!
Final Verdict:
I will be the first to say that this isn’t the kind of book I will usually read (as you may be able to tell from my blog reviews so far), but I got along with this book so well it’s made me realise that often YA can be lacking in pace and darn good storytelling. Regardless of your age, it’s hard not to be sucked in by this epic twist on Indian mythology. I’ll also say this: I have never ever been tempted to visit India (I don’t think I will get on with the food, and I am a VERY fussy eater) but now I am seriously thinking about going. For as much as this book is a classic action-adventure for younger readers, it’s got so much respect for the culture of India that it does a pretty good job of selling the place for people like me! 
Further Reading:
The History Keepers by Damian Dibben
Time Riders by Alex Scarrow
To buy Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress click HERE!!!

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