The City of Death, by Sarwat Chadda

The City of Death, by Sarwat Chadda (Scholastic 2013, ages 11ish to 14ish) is the sequel to last year's The Savage Fortress (my review), and it could be said, and almost certainly has been said, that this series is "Percy Jackson with Hindu Dieties," in as much both star boys involved in the doings (mostly violent) of mythological beings.

In any event, Ash Mistry is an ordinary 14-year-old Anglo-Indian boy who, on his first trip to India, became a living avatar of Kali, goddess of death, destruction, chaos, and a bit more death, and took down a major demon lord.  This did not solve his problems.  Rather, it did the opposite.

Back in England, his most pressing problem is that Gemma, the girl he rather liked gets killed by his enemies.  Other problems (his relationship with Parvati, half snake-demon warrior, half teenage-girl warrior, a diamond that's full of ancient nasty magic, the powers of Kali writhing around inside him, and flashbacks to all the past lives of Kali's other embodiments) are also troubling. 

Going back to India wasn't high on Ash's list of things to do, but there's not much choice....only once there, Ash makes some very bad choices indeed (mostly because he is consumed with guilt about the girl who died, but some because he is a fourteen-year-old boy), and I, at least, wanted to shake him at times. 

And though I found his journeys and adventures and mythological encounters not uninteresting, the desire to shake Ash was a bit too strong for me to truly enjoy the book. Because obviously, Ash, Parvati is the coolest character in the whole series and you should just accept that and stop with the guilt over Gemma (the US cover shows a bit of the tension between Parvati and Ash, which makes me like it more than the UK cover at right).  I will trust that he will continue realize this in book 3.  (I think that one of the strong points of the Percy Jackson series is the number of different viewpoint characters who all, at some point, want to shake each other, saving the reader the trouble). 

Shaking aside, I did appreciate that Ash clearly recognizes that his is an unevible position, and that being the "good guy" is not something that's going to come with a nice set of instructions.   His relationship with Parvati is also charged with tension--she is half-demon, he, as the embodiment of Kali's power, is the mythical slayer of demons.   So there's depths here that make this a lot more than just the sum of the adventures.

The titular City of Death is pretty cool too. 

Short answer: facile though the comparison might be, I really do think this would be a good series to give the Percy Jackson fans who enjoy demonic violence in their fiction.  It would also be a good series to give to the kid who has no interest in Greek mythology who enjoys mayhem mixed with a splash of moral tension. 

disclaimer:  review copy received from the publisher

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