ARC Review: REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR by Payal Doshi

Rating: ★★★★☆

Summary: A middle-grade fantasy about twelve-year-old Rea Chettri, who portals into an otherworldly realm to go on a secret quest to find her missing twin brother Rohan. The clock is ticking in this fast-paced, thrilling, and exciting adventure rife with evil creatures, a ruthless villain, and unforgettable friendships.

It all begins on the night Rea turns twelve. After a big fight with her twin brother Rohan on their birthday, Rea’s life in the small village of Darjeeling, India, gets turned on its head. It’s four in the morning and Rohan is nowhere to be found.

It hasn’t even been a day and Amma acts like Rohan’s gone forever. Her grandmother, too, is behaving strangely. Unwilling to give up on her brother, Rea and her friend Leela meet Mishti Daadi, a wrinkly old fortune-teller whose powers of divination set them off on a thrilling and secret quest. In the shade of night, they portal into an otherworldly realm and travel to Astranthia, a land full of magic and whimsy. There with the help of Xeranther, an Astranthian barrow boy, and Flula, a pari, Rea battles serpent-lilies and blood-sucking banshees, encounters a butterfly-faced woman and blue lizard-men, and learns that Rohan has been captured. Rea also discovers that she is a princess with magic. Only she has no idea how to use it.

Struggling with the truth her Amma has kept hidden from her, Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan, find a way to rescue him and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can she rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is Payal Doshi’s stunning #ownvoices middle-grade fantasy debut about understanding complex family dynamics, fighting for what is right, discovering oneself, and learning to make friends.

My first blog review was YA, second adult so obviously third had to be MG. Haha, kidding. I wanted something fun and easy to read, given how messy the past week was for me and Rea and the Blood of the Nectar was just that. I’d missed how much fun MG books could be, despite not being the target audience for it. It has adventure, family secrets, sibling rivalry and bond and strong friendships.

First, my heart swelled with the Indian rep in this book. I wish I had books like this in my school library back when I was a kid. From the terms used, to the setting, everything was so authentically Indian, I had a fabulous time reading it. Mentions of food like pakoras, roti and dal, thupkas as well the festival of Diwali or kids playing cricket, everything was a delight. Own Voices stories just make me really happy.

From the tea plantations in Darjeeling to the sparkling fantasy world of Astranthia with its plants, fairies, and magical creatures, the beautifully pictured worldbuilding takes us through an action packed story about Rea on a quest to save her twin brother. Also, Darjeeling is a beautiful hill station as it is, you all should really look it up!!

❛As far as the eye could see, rows of tea shrubs unfurled like carpets, rolling high and low to reveal mist-covered valleys and the snow clad peaks of the Himalayan mountains.❜

This book thoroughly explores sibling relationships and friendships. Rea starts out as feeling inferior to her brother, not blending with the children around her and pushing people away, which is something children and pre-teens do experience in their lives. As she embarks on her adventure and learns of the secrets she comes to appreciate the people around her. I particularly loved her friendship with Leela as well as the ones from Astranthia. Though, I would’ve liked if there were more moments which showed the depth of the relationship between Rea and Rohan.

Rea’s character development is also commendable. She’s strong-minded and strong-willed for a twelve year old. From drifting apart from her brother to risking her life in an unknown world to save him, she has come a far way. It’s refreshing to see a young girl with magical powers discover familial ties and learn the lessons of life, which could be applied to readers of our ages too. She solved the riddles with her intelligence and till the end she proved to be brave.

❛No memory of her past was worth more than Rohan’s freedom.❜

Did I say I loved the magical world of Astranthia? Let me say it again. Doshi painted a spectacular picture that literally transported me to it. It was so creative and exciting. The characters Rea meets there like Flula the pari or Xeranther and some others, all were significant to the story. We even get glimpses into the villain’s POV that adds to the intrigue of the story.

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is a promising middle-grade debut about an adventurous fantasy imbibed with Indian culture, vivid settings, thoughtful relationships dynamics and interesting plot. I cannot wait to see what happens in the sequel! If you’re a MG reader or looking for an enjoyable, quick tale or you simply want more South-Asian books, I definitely recommend this book to you.

Thank you Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!

❛To friendship across worlds.❜

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar releases June 15h.

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