Trigger Warnings: rape and sexual assault mention, child sexual assault mention, sexism and misogyny, war/violence and gore, kidnapping and torture, sex and contraceptives mention, death of parent mention
Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Fantasy
Publication date: 22nd June, 2021
Synopsis (taken from Storygraph)
In the concluding installment to the Wrath of Ambar duology from masterful author Tanaz Bhathena, Gul and Cavas must unite their magical forces―and hold onto their growing romance―to save their kingdom from tyranny.
With King Lohar dead and a usurper queen in power, Gul and Cavas face a new tyrannical government that is bent on killing them both. Their roles in King Lohar’s death have not gone unnoticed, and the new queen is out for blood. What she doesn’t know is that Gul and Cavas have a connection that runs deeper than romance, and together, they just might have the strength and magic to end her for good.
Then a grave mistake ends with Cavas taken prisoner by the government. Gul must train an army of warriors alone. With alliances shifting and the thirst for vengeance growing, the fate of Ambar seems ever more uncertain. It will take every ounce of strength, love, and sacrifice for Gul and Cavas to reach their final goal―and build a more just world than they’ve ever known.
Author Bio: Tanaz Bhathena was born in Mumbai and was raised in Saudi Arabia and eventually Toronto, Canada. She has been an award-winning short story author for almost ten years. Her debut YA novel A Girl Like That is a disturbing plunge into gender equality, mental health, abuse, bullying, rape and religion.
****eARC was provided by the publisher for an honest review.****
Tanaz Bhathena writes in a niche of fiction that sends me deep into nostalgia realm. A Girl Like That was depression in physical form but it packed a punch that needed to be delivered. So I expected nothing less from The Wrath of Ambar series and I was not let down.
As a quick recap of Hunted By The Sky, we’re introduced to Gul and Cavas, as two youths of a prophecy that claims they will save the kingdom. We follow Gul as she loses her parents at a young age and is taken in by a group of runaways and outcasts to train her magic. Cavas works for the palace and is an informant for an unknown group of people (at that point) who are fighting against the Raja.
Simply based on the premise you can probably tell that we have a run of the mill Chosen One trope for the duology. What makes this exciting is the mix between Zoroastrian, Hindu, and Islamic cultures and faiths throughout the worldbuilding. That alone sets this book apart because the author is building a world from scratch that doesn’t have decades of prior fantasy authors also writing similar fantasies.
The book gives you a strong cast of characters, a compelling romance/friendship basis, and ends on a cliffhanger that is unexpectedly bleak for how well the main character’s plan goes.
Rising Like A Storm opens a few weeks after the first book concludes. The beginning is chock full of more worldbuilding. The setting is outside that of the first book, we see a smidge of it at the end of book one, but a good 15% of this book is spent giving more backstory to the greater world the book is set in and fleshing out more characters that feature heavily in the second one. It’s packed but that slowed the pace of the book by a lot especially after the really tense and fast paced ending of the first book. This made me feel like the series perhaps deserved more books so that all this information had space to breathe. In my opinion, asking for more books is always a good thing.
Gul and Cavas have incredible character arcs. They end book one with a lot of tension between them due to boundaries that were crossed and misdirected blame and guilt. They’re forced to work together in part due to the urgency of the new prophecy and also because they simply cannot stay apart they are IN LOVE AND IT IS SO SWEET. I was a bit surprised at the advanced state of intimacy in this book (which is why I would consider this New Adult over Young Adult) but it’s healthy and safe conversation and also very much age appropriate so it fit with the arc of the characters. Their bond strengthens over the course of the book despite a whole plethora of emotional and physical obstacles. It was wonderful to see them work out issues and come out stronger.
I love the whole cast of characters. Kali, Sami, Amar, Juhi, Subodh, and more were all essential parts of the plot and had their own individual arcs that enhanced the overall story. I loved that Kali and Sami were queer. There were more queer characters mentioned in passing as well which really was a nice touch. Normalizing queerness in fantasies despite being ~historical~ makes for a much more inclusive reading experience.
The story picks up at around 30% when the villain gets a POV in the book as well. You get to see how public enemy #1 worked throughout the book, motivations, planning, misguided intent, the whole nine yards of unreliable narration. It really added that extra spice and made the book all the more enjoyable.
The pace from there on out was excellent and I found myself unable to put down my phone and continue with the normal passing of my day. The action sequences were riveting and the plot was set up in a way that the climactic payoff was quite excellent. I still think the series could have done with a third book to pace out the world building a bit. Sometimes a duology is not enough page time for a story to breathe and I felt like this series, excellent as it is, would have thrived on a three book arc.
Either way, it’s excellent and I can’t wait to see what Tanaz Bhathena has in store for us next!
Let me know y’all’s thoughts on this series and other books by the author. They’re all REALLY good!!!