Hunted By The Sky by Tanaz Bhathena (The Wrath Of Ambar #1)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (Fierce Reads)
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Available Through The Book Depository: Hunted By The Sky
Cover Design: Elizabeth Clark
Summary: Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul’s mark is what caused her parents’ murder at the hand of King Lohar’s ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.
Cavas lives in the tenements, and he’s just about ready to sign his life over to the king’s army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl–Gul–in the capital’s bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance–and discovers a magic he never expected to find.
Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king’s domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own.
*Received ARC through Goodreads*
My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾
My Thoughts: Inspired by Medieval India and Persia, Hunted By The Sky is a novel that follows Gul, a girl who can wield powerful magic and Cavas, a palace stableboy who’s only looking to heal his ill father. Filled with intrigue, revenge, and romance, Bhathena’s fantasy debut is set in a vibrant world, brimming with magic!
Perhaps its because I recently finished watching all of Avatar, but the expansive feel of Ambar gave me major ATLA vibes! I feel this is the kind of fantasy that blends the subtle world building and underlying character development in a way that’ll appeal to people that liked the show.
This was a fantasy I was really looking forward to because, I’ve read a bit of the author’s contemporary books and adored her writing style, so I was interested in seeing how her style transitions to a fantasy setting. No doubt this is a novel that takes risks as it introduces many elements to its world and expand on them over the course of the novel. Its layered and detailed setting hint at more to come in future books.
A series debut that’s definitely gone under the radar, Hunted By The Sky revolves around Gul and Cavas, two people brought together each for their own reasons. Gul’s parents were killed by Sky Warriors (who were seeking the legendary Star Warrior) and so, she’s forced to flee until she finds a mysterious rebel group of women. They help her understand her magic and aid her in taking revenge on the kingdom that took her family away.
Cavas, whose lived among the palace for years only wants to help his ill father from a fever that’s taken a toll on him for years. The death of his mother has also left him feeling lost in the world. The 2 find themselves drawn together as Cavas is tasked with helping Gul into Ambar Fort where the ruthless King Lohar lives.
While told through a dual POV, I appreciated how they each have their own storylines and distinct journeys that allow them to question their world and role within it. Its a gradually unfolding narrative led by two compelling protagonists that have been hardened by the tragedies around them. This is very much an introspective and character-driven fantasy that while slow paced, feels so immersive.
There’s mentions of Pashu (animals with human-like qualities), choli and ghagra, and an abundance of food that bring a richness in detail to the world’s culture. Also in the author’s note, Bhathena mentions that she drew on her Persian and Indian heritage to create her own myths and you can really sense the wonder and creativity woven into the tales of different deities, magic system, stories, and more!
Cavas finds he can communicate with spirits around him and yet he is labeled as a non-magi. Gul is a fabled Star Warrior who will bring an end to a tyrannical ruler and yet, she cannot come to terms with the destiny unfolding at every turn. As a magi, she grew up with parents who had magic and she herself is a whisper, able to communicate with animals telepathically.
The magic system is divided between Magi and Non-Magi, which highlights clear class division and inequality. Those with magic are treated with better schools, living arrangements, etc. compared to those without and Bhathena’s development of this system was one of the strongest throughout the novel. There’s also lots of different magical abilities from truth seekers, whisperers, and much more. Its established that powers within each magus react differently depending on the person and you can sense that with the different magis we encounter.
Because Gul is more unfamiliar with the palace, she is brought in undercover in order to infiltrate and seek the perfect moment to take down the king. However, she has to gather her intel all while feeling the stares of the court and palace at every turn. The plot overall, was very unexpected and I loved being surprised at what happened next. Also, there’s lots of scenes where the characters are very much going day-to-day in the palace and while it gives more perspective and insight to the world and characters, it does make the intrigue of the palace falter because it slows the pacing.
As she becomes familiar with the surrounding buildings of Ambar Fort, the royal siblings like Malti, Prince Amar, and the 2 other princes, she’s still trying to better understand her abilities and grasp her duty as the Star Warrior. All the while, she tries to find time with Cavas in order to learn as much as she can.
What Bhathena does so well is weave together threads of the magic system, history, lore, and character arcs that make it so much fun to try and connect it all!
The writing is descriptive and the 1st person POV really allows you to delve deep into the head space of our main characters. However, when it comes to the actual structure of the writing I felt it could have better conveyed the magic woven throughout the story with a different style.
Themes of this novel are that of destiny and how one chooses to accept it and family because its a major motivator for our 2 protagonists as they grow along their journey. The atmosphere is intriguing / fantastical as we delve deeper into the politics of the world, palace, and the developing magic system.
Now onto more about my rating! No doubt, I’m definitely interested in continuing this series, because of the unique world and its cast (including: Sisters Of The Golden Lotus, the princes, Latif, & Major Shayla). However alongside the writing, I think the pacing really impacted my reading experience. It felt like the story took more than 1/2 way to pick up as a lot of page time was spent still establishing Gul and Cavas as they had yet to meet.
This is also something I noticed while reading that actually booktuber Marines from MyNameIsMarines mentions in one of her recent videos titled “Story Elements That Worked For Me In One Book, But Not The Other” and it got the exact feeling I had while reading this book. Although I love political intrigue in novels, I think with Hunted By The Sky in particular, it really didn’t work for me. Mainly due to the slow pacing and the intrigue/court politics feeling quite brief and yet also somewhat obvious, I felt there wasn’t much room to delve into the grey area of the characters morality. I think after watching Marines’s video, I may do a blog post comparing elements that did/didn’t work with certain books, because that was definitely the case here.
I truly believe though, this was more of the case of Hunted By The Sky not being for me personally (and that’s okay!). But I do have faith that the sequel unravel new mysteries and answers left by this first book! Because wow, the ending really picks up and leaves me wondering!!
Hunted By The Sky is a character-driven fantasy tale filled with romance, intrigue, and introduces readers to a unique world! Gul and Cavas propel this story in very interesting ways that weave together an intriguing magic system, expansive world, expansive cast of characters, and page-turning story! An immersive new fantasy series definitely worth reading!
I’ll also be shouting out fellow book blogger reviews today! 📚🎉
First, I recommend Krisha’s Review which delves into character motivations, themes, and more! We also had similar ratings and I enjoyed reading her review. However, I love that its a mostly positive one if that’s what your looking for alongside a 3 star rating.
Next I recommend Fanna’s Review which is a beautifully written post that delves deeper into the #OwnVoices aspects of the culture represented in the novel. There’s also lots of detail in Fanna’s review if your looking for a more in-depth look into specific aspects of the world/story! Overall, I recommend both of these reviews if your interested in reading OwnVoices (Indian and South-Asian bloggers) thoughts on it! ✨