Hunted by the Sky, by Tanaz Bhathena

Hunted by the Sky (The Wrath of Ambar #1) by Tanaz Bhathena (June 23rd 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux) has magic, secrets and intrigue, powerful and amoral antagonists, class struggles, gender struggles, nascent romance, and a vivid background based on Vedic and Medival India!

Twenty years ago, vicious King Lohar ascended the throne of Ambar, and his priests prophesied that a magic-wielding girl, marked with a star, would be his downfall.  So of course he began hunting all girls with star-shaped birthmarks, draining their magic, and killing them

Gul was such a girl, born with magic (though not able to do much with it) and with a star-shaped mark on her arm.  When King Lohar's ruthless soldiers get word of her existence, and kill her parents, she barely escapes.  She vows vengeance, but even though her magic becomes focused enough to let her communicate with animals (including a lovely horse!), she has no idea how she'll kill the king.

Then she's taken in by the Sisters of the Golden Lotus, women plotting to overthrow the tyrant.  They train her in warrior magic, and her potential begins to emerge, explosively and powerfully.  But they can't get her into the castle to kill the king....and their leader, being far wiser than a traumatized teenaged girl, knows that killing one specific tyrant won't help in the grand scheme of things...

Cavas is a teenaged boy who works in the king's stables, spending everything he earns on medicine for his father, dying of the illness common in the poverty stricken tenements of the city.  He has no magic, and so the magial elite despise him as a dirt-licker.   He does not love the king (why would he?), but he is not a rebel at heart.  But when his path crosses with Gul in the city's bazaar, sparks fly,  and their lives are twisted together.

Which is to say there's a lot more story about what happens when Cavas gets Gul into the castle.  We get to see lots more of the magic of this world and how it works, secrets about people's identities are revealed, and there's violence and death....

This is where I started really enjoying the story, about halfway through.  Before then, it was fine, but I wasn't hooked--thinking about it, both of the point of view characters aren't really interacting with other people; both are somewhat isolated. And this didn't make it easy to connect with them.  When they connect with each other,  the reader finally gets to see them from another person's eyes, and gets to see them getting to know each other in prickly, difficult circumstances.   The scale of the magical world enlarges, too, once the action moves to the castle.  Details about other nations, magical beings, history and stories, small household magics and bigger ones made Gul and Cavas' personal struggles more meaningful, and the setting more vivid.

There are a lot of books about girls of destiny who become queens (though in this first book of the series we are left in the middle of the story, before she actually becomes queen), and some are better than others.  I see no reason why YA readers of that genre won't love this series; it has all the right elements including a potential love triangle--there's a third character one could certainly ship Gul with instead of Cavas….).  The Indian background of the story, the grappling with how to effect change, and the secrets the two main characters discover about themselves make this one stand out in a somewhat crowded field.

I ended up definitely sold on this, and look forward to the second book, coming next year!

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher


  1. I'm not sure I would stick with a book that doesn't capture me until halfway through. Good for you. Thanks for telling me about this one.

  2. I appreciated the ambitious world-building in this one, though I didn't think the writing was always quite up to the challenge: we get a lot of politics and mythology thrown at us, and I'm hoping things get clearer in the second book! It's interesting that you assume Gul will become queen, because, of course, that's where the Chosen One usually ends up, but I really don't see Gul making a good ruler of any kind!


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