My Review of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

OMG what have I just read?
Okay, now that I’ve read this book, I can end this year in peace.

This was my very first eARC (ARC being Advanced Reader’s Copy, in case you don’t know) from NetGalley. I received it months ago but only dove in because, well, Aldiko app sucks as a reading app. But now that I’ve finally read it, I realized no other book could’ve been more fitting for me to end this year, both as a reader and a book blogger.

Guys, this book comes out on March 2018 and I’d strongly strongly strongly recommend this book to be preordered. It’s one of the best young adult fantasy books I’ve read so far. The author is a darling (yes, I know her via Twitter, and I’d brag that she follows me back *squeal*). This book received a whooping yet deserving attention throughout American publishing industry and it deserves it all. The planned trilogy was sold for a whooping seven figure deal ($3millions to be exact) and got a movie deal to be produced by the producers of the Twilight Saga, The Fault in Our Stars and The Maze Runner. Fox 2000 got the film right, here’s the link:

Okay now I’ll start bragging about the story.

So this is the summary from Goodreads:

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now, Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for the enemy.

If you’re a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender and shipped Katara and Zuko, you’ll love this book. It has so much awesome similarities to that amazing series, gah!

If you’re a fan of The Hate U Give, you’ll love this book too. This book is almost the fantasy version of The Hate U Give, and the movement Black Lives Matter rings so true and so symbolically throughout this entire book! The author pitched this book as Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Black Lives Matter.

Also, if you’re a fan of Sarah J. Maas and loved Rhysand in the first book, you might find a character there who’ll remind you of him. But the most touching feature would be the relationship of Zélie, the protagonist, had with her later mother is similar to the one Tris shared with her mother in Divergent. Touching and deep.

If you’re still reading this review, then I’m sure I’ve got your attention. Now I’ll go to the elaboration.

01) Plot:

This book is as fast paced as Divergent, with stakes as high and gripping as Hunger Games, An Ember in the Ashes and Harry Potter. Yup, I’ll go to that comparisons. It’s that good. The incidents are gripping and raw with emotions and so touching and tug at your heart! I’ve felt such whirlwind or such rollercoaster of emotions while reading this book. The last time it happened was reading An Ember in the Ashes and Forest of A Thousand Lanterns and A Court of Thorns and Roses.

So when this book will come out and you get it, be prepared to lock your heart somewhere far far away and read it with stone as your heart (though I doubt you’ll succeed lol)

02) Characters:

There were three point of views in this book, Zélie, the protagonist and a maji (those blessed by the gods to be able to carry magic in their blood), Princess Amari (daughter of the king of the land) and Prince Inan (the secondary antagonist). Each of them were reasonable for all their actions and you cannot judge them too harshly for the rightness and wrongness of their choices and decisions.

Zélie Adebola:

She reminds me of Tris, Katniss, and Laia combined. She’s scared, confused, doubtful, stubborn, brave and resourceful. She’s so relatable and never once I felt stumbling along her narrative. She’s the Katara of this book in my opinion.

Princess Amari:

She’s the best princess character I’ve read so far. She provides a lot of angle Zélie can’t and thus shows us the story from a different angle. But despite not being the protagonist, her own story will tug you at heart and feel very relatable as well. She’s the Aang of this book, lol.

Prince Inan:

Hands down he’s the Zuko. Like Prince Zuko, he’s relentless to prove his worth as the rightful king and heir to the throne, always struggling to do the right thing. I liked him a lot at first but in the end, his questionable acts made a stopper to liking him for now. Maybe in the sequels.

Supporting Characters:

They weren’t there to just prow the story forward. They all had their own stories to tell, their own goals and hopes and dreams and Ms. Adeyemi weaved them all so deftly into the story, I’m gobsmacked. Even the main antagonist, the cruel king, had his own stories to tell. Not a cardboard cutout of a great evil villain like the King of Hybern from ACOTAR series.

03) The Symbolism:

This story is so much symbolical to the police brutality the African Americans face regularly. Several times the situations and events of the story reminded me of The Hate U Give. For example, this line:

“Your people, your guards—they’re nothing more than killers, rapists, and thieves. The only difference between them and criminals is the uniforms they wear.”

Gosh, this line tugs so close to my heart. It immediately reminded me of Starr Carter and how she witnessed the death of her friend. It reminded me of all the brutal deaths the African Americans experience regularly without any justice. This book is the symbolic story of the oppression most African Americans often experience and fear. If you were a fan of The Hate U Give, then you’d love this book, trust me.

So my review just went crazy long but trust me, you need this book on your shelves and in your life. So fans of An Ember in the Ashes, Hunger Games, and The Hate U Give, preorder this beauty. You won’t regret it.

Thank you, NetGalley US and the publishers, Pan MacMillan, for granting me the fabulous opportunity to read and review the eARC of this mind blowing book.

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My Review on Want by Cindy Pon

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

OMG! This is the first SciFi I read that addresses environmental pollution as the main theme and it’s so beautifully written and structured, this is definitely one of my favorite read in 2017. Gosh, the whole book, written from Zhou’s point of view, is mind-blowingly good and thought-provoking. Not one paragraph would feel boring or stifling to you. 

I read it in one go and this is a late review by the way. Unlike other SciFi where save, the world theme seems very unrelatable, this one doesn’t. On the face of global warming and smog returning to pollute our air, this book gives a thought-provoking picture of the future, not as unrealistic as most SciFi do.

Anyway, here are the best parts of this book:

01) Plot:

Mind-blowing! Bamboozled by its sheer awesomeness. The plot starts with a smooth kidnapping and is then justified in the next few chapters. The chapters are bit long for me, simply because the plot was so good you do not want to leave the book to do something else unless you have finished the chapter. A fresh take on SciFi is what this book is. Ms. Pon knows what she’s doing. 

So the gist of the book is that in the alternate near future Taipei, capital of Taiwan, there are two classes of citizens: Yous (pronounced as Yo, meaning “to have”) or the upper class, and Meis (pronounced as May, meaning ” without”). The air of Taipei is unbreathable and often leads to death and diseases because of the pollution. The Meis suffer while the Yous live in their million yuan worth suits that allow them to breathe clean oxygen. The company that makes those suits bribe and threaten the politicians to not do anything about the environment and thus earns millions worldwide. The protagonist wants to put a stop to it by blowing up the suit manufacturing company with the hell of his friends, as well as avenge the death of a motherly figure to him who was murdered for raising her voice against the corruption.

Okay, I suck at summarizing.

02) Characters:

I loved them so much! All of them, even the evil villain! Gosh. They were all distinct from each other, and all had their places and reasons to be in the book. I really wanna introduce them to you all so here they are. 

(Reminder, all the pictures are fan made and I plucked them from the internet, so the source would be Google reverse image search.)

The protagonist and narrator Jason Zhou:

His love interest and second most important character, Daiyu

Zhou’s gang members who help him in his mission to help the meis.

03) Theme:

This book’s theme hit so close to heart. Being from a third world country who’ll suffer the most from global warming and sea level’s rising, I know how the Meis feel as well as how desperate and angry Zhou and his friends feel. This is the first book, as I’ve mentioned before, that explores in depth about pollution and how it’ll affect our future. In the 1950s, the London sky was downcast with thick smog. Now in winter, Delhi sky is heavy with smog too. If we keep up, pretty soon all of the world would face the same. And Cindy Pon delves into this matter through her beautifully thought out bo.

04) The Dilemma:

One of the things I loved so much about this book is how much the situations make the protagonist do and choose morally gray stuff, though not too much and nothing unforgivable. This shows how much we have to sacrifice for the greater good, the bigger picture.

05) The Swoon-Worthy Romance:

I gotta mention this because the chemistry between Zhou and Daiyu was so cute! Nothing unhealthy or weird or cliché or abusive. If you love romance as subplot, you’ll love this book and the romance in it.

Overall, this book was super awesome and I’d read it again and again if I want.

Thank you, Riveted Lit, for allowing me to read it for free back at the beginning of December, whose review I’m writing now, oops!

I’m eagerly waiting for its sequel next year!

(Source of the images: Google reverse image search)

My Review of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Summary: 

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.)

This book was long overdue and I finally jumped into reading it.

And what a fantastically cute story it it!

Sandhya Menon, despite being a debut author, has such distinct voice and storytelling method. You can easily get seeped into it. Having two different point of views to juggle isn’t a child’s play. But both Dimple and Rishi’s voices and their uniqueness shone through. The only letdown (not technically a letdown let’s be honest) was not getting to see how Rishi and Dimple developed the app. Sad but then again, it’s a young adult romcom, not a science fiction.

Anyway, here is the breakdown of the stars I rewarded it:

01) The Plot:

It may not be super unique but then again, no story in this world is anymore! But the way Ms. Menon presented it to us? Superb! Making the story centering two Indian-American teenagers was the best idea. And the book being ownvoices was a plus point. I also loved how we got to see both Dimple and Rishi’s sides of the story. 

Also, a lot of reviewers “complained” that rich people were shown in a negative light in this book.

No it wasn’t.

Rather Sandhya Menon expertly showed us both the sides. She showed us how vain rich people can be in Hari and Evan, while also showed how kind and generous they can be in Rishi and Celia. 

Also, I loved how in the restaurant scene, Ms. Menon showed the true meaning of sticking to your roots. I hate Hari. The way he condescended and patronized and bullied Dimple was fist clenchingly mean!

Also through that scene, Ms. Menon showed how middle class kids feel awkward and embarrassed at high class restaurants. Being a middle class kid myself, I understood Dimple’s pain so much. My heart literally thumped for her OMG!

The most enjoyable part, for me, were the bickering between Dimple and her mom, then her earlier interactions with Rishi, and Rishi’s interactions with Ashish. I’d have loved loved loved if we got to see Dimple decoding and coding things. Rishi’s talent was demonstrated properly but I missed seeing Dimple’s one.

02) Characters:

Dimple:

I loved her! She had her flaws and there were times when her rude remarks to either Dimple or others around her made me frown. But overall I loved her. I loved how she slowly became softer and more polite. I loved how Ms. Menon made her impulsive without making her totally heartless. She acted rude but then immediately regretted them. Who among us never acted impulsive? None, I bet. And the way she selflessly sacrificed at the end for Rishi’s sake?

Remarkably touching.

I thoroughly enjoyed her POV whenever she had to sit through with her annoying neighbors. Totally lol moments. Being a brown girl who also doesn’t do makeups, is a nerd, and thrives to achieve her dream, I get her so much. Like hers, my mom too often scolds me for not applying more makeup, for not being more feminine, for not taking much care of my face and how I look. Like Dimple, I too hate Kaajal and own old but little makeups. 

I relate to her so much.

Love love love her.

Rishi:

He’s such a sweetheart!

I fell for his sweetness upon reading his first chapter. Such a polite, cute guy! Adorable! I loved how he put up with Dimple’s impulsive reactions but at the same time never lost sight of his own emotions. I loved how he had his own flaw and how beautifully his character arc was built and then resolved around it. The way he adored Dimple is every girl’s dream.

And I also loved how awkwardly he helped Ashish with girl problems. Totally cute and adorable and funny at the same time.

And his first meeting with Dimple?

H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S!

He’s truly the Ideal Indian Husband material lol.

Celia:

She was such a sweet best friend, albeit at some point, she was annoying, especially whenever she stuck up to the Aberzombies. But I get her reason. Who among us don’t want to be part of a special group? Even she got her own character arc.

Ashish:

He was such fun! I hated that his entry into the story was so late! He was also perfect, albeit his own athletic, emotion-hiding way.

Dimple’s mamma:

She’s so like my mom, always grimacing whenever I refuse to wear makeups and act like a boy. Her banter with Dimple were funny and heartrending. Whenever I read about Dimple’s mamma, only this gif from Bend It Like Beckham popped into my mind:

03) The Relatability Factor:

This’ll be the third book I read this year where I could easily relate with the culture and heritage of the protagonists. First it was The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, then it was The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi (to which I related the most since the author is a Bangladeshi like me). Then comes this adorable little love story. I cannot express how much that made me adore the book. The Hindi talk, the pressure brown parents give to their kids, the pressure and embarrassment brown kids feel due to their parents, all the drama and fun and heartaches and emotions. White people don’t get often why we act the way we do and hence we often see very little in fiction aboushone This wasn’t a Bollywood movie but close to it without the cliché songs and costumes.

Overall, this book was the Bollywood version of Hollywood’s romcom. I adored Dimple and Rishi’s match and related so much to them. It’s admirable. 

They say “Behind every successful man is a woman.”?

In case of this book, “Beside every soft hearted boy is a hard edged tough girl protecting him.”

Can’t wait to read From Twinkle, With Love next.

My Review of Zero Repeat Forever by Gabrielle Prendergast

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Omg!!! This book is so heartbreaking and touching and beautiful! I think this has to be the best SciFi I’ve read in this year. It’s so good and I’m glad I read it without wasting time.

This book is a SciFi version of Beauty and the Beast, but nothing like ACOTAR or Beastly or even Wintersong. Set against 21st century America, somewhere near the Rocky Mountains, this book is about alien invasion (or is it?) and humanity at its worst and all. When I first read the summary on Goodreads and the first few chapters, I thought, “Oh so this will be another Warm Bodies but with aliens.” I have a pretty narrow view of aliens live story, since it kinda creeps me out. But I still read them, mostly because I’d like to be proven wrong.

THIS BOOK PROVED ME WRONG!!!

I loved the central characters so much. There were two point of views, from a human girl and an alien soldier’s. The female protagonist, Raven (who is also biracial, half white half black), is fierce and pessimistic and does not sit back and let others dictate her life. And I just adored Eighth/August, the alien boy soldier, for being so adorable in love with Raven and being so sentimental and emotional when he’s not supposed to be, when his species isn’t supposed to be.

I love love love love love him! He’s naïve, innocent, sweet and charming like R was in Warm Bodies.

Anyway, here are more reasons to read this book:

01) Realistic Plot:

Okay, SciFi are NOT realistic and so isn’t this book’s plot. Yet the portrayal of all things that could’ve happened and could’ve been felt by everyone is shown here. All the emotions are so poignant and raw and just hurts you like you can be hurt by a story.

So the plot is that aliens called Nahx have attacked planet earth and are mercilessly darting people. The Nahx are tall, like basketball players tall, with a body armor that can both shield them from harm and also helps them feel things. Their only weakness is at their neck where a stab can pretty much do the trick. And they don’t feel anything other than rage and bloodthirst. So yeah pretty much killing machine. They resemble to human wearing astronaut suits and helmet. And they’re ranked according to their mental functionality, like the most devoid of feelings and most cruel and direct are First, then there are Second, Third, Fourth etc. Our adorable hero Eighth/August is an eighth, so pretty low. His ability to feel beauty and human emotions make him defected to his kind.

Anyway, this story never once sounds unrealistic other than the one question the author dodges intentionally and annoyingly.

Why. The. Hell. Did. They. Attack. Humans?

Warning: this book has a pretty cliffhanging ending.

02) Character Portrayal:

Super amazing. Every character was shown to have emotions and back stories and their own reason to act reasonably or evilly. The last time I read such character development is in the book The Strange and Beautiful Sorrow of Ava Lavender. This book’s character development shows how war and apocalyptic events can turn humans either evil and dictating or humane and sacrificing.

03) The Romance:

Is also so realistic and touching and moving! No makeout sessions, no cliché tropes like hand holding and stuff. All incidents between Raven and Eighth/August are so beautiful and heartrending! I suppressed a cry when I mistook that Eighth/August’s love for Raven may be unrequited. There was no abuse either. Totally healthy beautiful relationship.

04) The Writing:

Simply stunning. No flowery or purple prose to express emotions. Simply simple words woven beautifully together that effortlessly tugs your heart and hurts you there.

I’d recommend all to give this book a try. It may be a SciFi young adult book but trust me, it falls more to literary section than mainstream fighting like in Divergent or The 5th Wave or Hunger Games. It is not. Rather there is less plot and more characters who become your friends as they take you on horror adventures of survival, love and tragedy.

I can’t wait for its sequel!!
Thank you, Riveted Lit, for allowing me to read it for free in 24hrs. Super grateful!

My Review on Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

⭐⭐⭐⭐

“People always love people more when they’re dead.”

This book, I should clarify, is not a novel, rather a verse novella, or prose poem book. The book is about 15yrs old Will, an African American teen, who takes it upon himself to find his older brother’s shooter and avenge his death. On his way to kill his brother’s murderer, he encounters ghosts from his past in his building’s elevator and what comes next will both shock and touch you.

I wasn’t acquainted with Jason Reynolds’ work before reading this, mostly because I read contemporary young adult less now than before. But this year I became a huge fan of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and albeit no police brutality was shown here, this book deserves a lot of praises. 

The reason why I gave this book glittering 4 stars is because:

01) The structure of the poem:

According to Goodreads, this book is around 320 pages long in the hardcover. But I read it for free from a site called Riveted, where there was a “one day free for all to read” event going on. This review is written immediately after I read this book.

If you’re a big fan of The Hate U Give, then you will like this book. The entire poem didn’t feel like a poem, rather a novella with a heartrending and poignant tale of losing your loved ones and coping with it, as well the theme of revenge. Jason Reynolds touches upon the subject in a very expert way, and the way he presented the events is very refreshing.

02) The characters:

Altogether there were nine characters in this poem, but only seven got ample scene space. The protagonist is Will, who is quite determined to avenge his older brother’s murder. The way Jason Reynolds shows us Will’s coping with his brother’s demise is very unique and touching. I have, like Will, only one and therefore I could imagine his grief and pain.

Will’s mission to avenge his brother’s murder is very much understandable. His reaction to discovering his brother’s gun and holding it was very moving.

I Had Never Held A Gun

Never even 

touched one.


Heavier than

I expected,


like holding 

a newborn


except I

knew the


cry would 

be much


Much much

much louder.”

03) The Meeting of Will with the Ghost(s) of his past:
Inside the elevator, on his way to shooting his brother’s killer, Will meets with several people from his past who were killed brutally like his brother was. From childhood crush to deceased uncle, Will meets them all. His meeting with his father was the most touching to me:

“How do you small-talk your father

when “dad” is a language so foreign

that whenever you try to say it,

it feels like you got a third lip

and a second tongue?”

In fact, all the stories of those characters were different yet similar, but all equally touching and poignant and very realistic. The characters each were portrayed beautifully and they all felt like real life people.

04) The Ending:

It deserves a star for the excellent plot twist. You knew it was coming, you could guess it, and still it’d surprise you.

So I’d recommend this book to all fans of Angie Thomas and The Hate U Give. Excellent read. I’d also keep my eyes out for more works by Jason Reynolds from now on.

My Review on Forest of A Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If there was any way to give this book more than five stars, I would. In fact it deserves a thousand stars like its title.

It’s a masterpiece, guys, I’m telling you, this book is 100% a masterpiece.

I have so much feeling after devouring this book in a day it was that good. After I finished it, all I can say to the author

I’ve been waiting for such a heartbreaking book for a long time and my masochistic desire had been sated. This book will touch your heart and soul if you are all for the fall of a fallen character.

Okay, now what about this book that made me gushing about it so much.

First, what the book is about.

It’s a young adult fantasy set in East Asian (presumably Chinese) setting about the origin of Snow White’s Evil Queen. This will be the author’s debut book.

Now the things that made me fall for this awesome book:

01) The Plot and concept:

If you’ve seen the origin story of Regina aka Snow White’s Evil Queen from Once Upon A Time, don’t expect the same story for this book. While Regina turned evil over the loss of the love of her life, the protagonist Xifeng (pronounced She-Fung) is nothing like that. Without giving you spoiler, I’d only say that she’s ambitious and goal-oriented and a lot darker than Regina was in her origin story. 

The whole plot was full to brim with symbolism and metaphor and amazing foreshadowing. A lot of plot twists punched me in the gut. This book may be the author’s debut book, but she knows her craft pretty well.

02) Characterization:

It’s rare to see a good innocent character turn evil in books these days but thanks to villain origin stories, they’re coming back. And I’m at an awe by the characterization of Xifeng. The way the author corrupted her heart and soul made me gasp aloud. You get so seeped into her goals and viewpoints that no matter how cruel and barbaric she becomes, you still want her to win. Her cruelty make you smirk, her heartache make your heart break. You never notice when she’s well past redemption. In fact, there was one truly gruesome deed by her that if it were done by a villain or any other characters, I’d have detested them. But when Xifeng did it, I rooted for her and cheered her on when she emerged successful.

Yeah I have a dark soul.

3) The setting:

It truly feels like another character of its own. The setting may not be the usual European or desert landscape of fantasy series but not once you feel like this setting is hazy and underdeveloped. It’s lush and sometimes the descriptions make you feel like you’ve entered the story itself.

04) The writing:

Like I said before, though this book was the author’s debut book, nothing about this book hinted that. Rather she felt like an experienced writer, crafting her third or fourth book after writing successful books like Marissa Meyer had with her Cinder series and then wrote Heartless. Julie C. Dao knows her craft and utilizes them well.

05) The heartbreak:

I’m not a crier. I rarely wanna cry over a book or a movie. But this book made me wanna bawl. Like there are several scenes the protagonist had with characters from her life in the beginning which made me press my lips to suppress my tears. Though written in third person point of view, the words were as if thoughts of the protagonist and I felt them so closely. 

Truly truly heartbreaking a story.

So I’ve warned you, read this book with your heart locked away somewhere.

I’d recommend this book to all fantasy readers, especially you are a sucker for epic fantasy and tragic ending. I started and finished this book with two days to go for my finals. It’s that addictive.

Julie C. Dao can color me her staunch fan from now on.

My Review on The Gauntlet by Karuna Riazi

⭐⭐⭐⭐

(Disclaimer: Contains mild spoilers)

I was very excited to read this book, mostly because a) the author is of Bangladeshi origin, and b) the book is inspired by Jumanji, and we all know how awesome that was.

And my excitement was piqued after I read its first chapter excerpt. This book may be the middle grade, PG-12 version of Caraval but wayyyy better, trust me. Where Caraval lacked character depth and poignancy, this book seeps with it. Where Caraval suffered from little character development and relatability, this book is immersed with relatable, multidimensional characters.

Let’s see how I marked the stars:

One star for the strong, beautifully woven plot:

This book is undoubtedly Caraval meets Jumanji. Like in Caraval, the protagonist enters a magical yet dangerous world looking for their lost, scatterbrained, impatient and impulsive younger siblings. Like in Caraval, their sole mission in this world is to find their siblings safe and sound and return home. Only, for Farah Mirza, protagonist of this book, home truly is a haven and heaven for her, unlike it was for Scarlett.

And like Jumanji, this boardgame is dangerous and should’ve come with a warning. Like in Jumanji, this book has a character people considered crazy because in reality, they too once played this game and lost a friend in it, and that trauma ate away their whole life. While it was Sarah and Alan in Junanji, it’s Aunt Zohra and Vijay Bhai here.

Seriously this book has such strong and intricate plot structure. You’ll surely love it.

Relatable Characters:

Which older siblings among us didn’t have to give up lots of stuff for the sake of younger siblings’ tantrums? Which one of us had to leave friends behind for the sake of family moving away and then feel awkwardly distant from them when you rendezvoused with them? Which one of us never wished a siblings gone from their lives and then regret it for we love them too much?

It all happened with Farah. She’s only twelve but so much more mature than all her friends and most of the game’s characters. She’s steadfast, patient, smart and sometimes gives you the right reactions, even though they seem childish and self-centered to you at some point.

And her friends here? So distinctive. Usually sidekick friends are pushed to the back with cardboard personalities. But Essie and Alex were anything but. Essie is the outspoken, brash friend and muscle of the group, while Alex, the history nerd, is the brain, and Farah is the morality of the group. And the coolest thing is? She’s a hijabi girl! 

And the minor characters are important too. Ahmad, Farah’s impatient brother, has ADHD, that often exasperates Farah’s family, including Farah herself, but her kindness and affection for him is endearing. And Ahmad was cute too. And despite being alone most of the game, he kept himself alive and survived the game, no easy feat for a 7 year old with no adult to take care of you and you have ADHD.

Setting:

The setting was 80% the game, 20% Farah’s home in Manhattan, NYC. The descriptions Ms. Riazi gave to show us her setting were evocative, vivid and uniquely woven. While Jumanji had jungle setting, Gauntlet had an infusion of Middle Eastern Islamic architecture, and Bangladeshi cultural aspects such as a Sandesh shop, mention of samosa, betel leaves and chenna murki. And never in a moment the setting felt out of place or weird. Rather at some point, they’ll give you the chills.

The language:

I had to give an extra point for this. Like Sabaa Tahir did with Ember, Ms. Riazi added lots of Bengali words such as tiktiki, names of the sweets, masi, apu, Bhai, etc. It felt good to read about a fantasy book where you find your culture being appreciated. That’s how good it feels to read an own voices book.

One reason I couldn’t give this book 5 stars is because though it had an aweosme plot, sometimes it bogged down, especially during descriptions of the rules of many boardgames they played and the action scenes. There are many readers like me who never played any boardgames or a lot of them. For them, the newly introduced rules of real life games can be a bit mind boggling.

Overall, if you liked or read Caraval, I’d recommend this book to you. You’d love the beautiful friendship between Farah, Alex and Essie, the deep siblings relationship between Farah and Ahmad, and the strong bond of family and friends.