The City of Death by Sarwat Chadda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is even darker than the first book. Ash's problems grow exponentially. He suffers a terrible personal loss that drives him over the edge and forces him to return to the place of origin of his dark powers: India. This time, he is following the trail of Alexander Savage, his nemesis with strange companions, the street thief John and Parvati, a half-demon girl with a very ancient heritage. Ash has to face that the person he was before will never fit again. Too much has happened, and integrating all his past selves into that mundane existence doesn't work.
I know little to nothing about Indian mythology and folklore, but this book fills in a lot of those gaps. Ash has powers endowed by the black goddess, Kali, and that means that he draws from death energies. A horrible thing when it becomes apparent that those closest to him give him even more energy. Ash is learning the cost of his abilities and what powers they give him. He gains the accumulated knowledge of his past lives, but must suffer through the violent memories of those past selves and for them not to take control of him. The people, history, and places of India are vividly illustrated in this book.
Chadda writes excellent action, and there are no opportunities to be bored. Ash is an ideal hero, likable and snarky, and while he's powerful, he has not allowed those powers to give him a sense of overpowering arrogance, knowing how flawed those abilities truly are.
This book isn't for those who balk at seeing young people in danger. Oh, there is plenty of danger for the youngsters in this book. Some blood and guts, but not over the top. Ash and his companions end up in some nasty scrapes, and the bad guys aren't afraid of harming a young boy, or anyone else who gets in the way.
The characterizations are complex and layered. There are no blacks and whites, but instead each person has a little of both inside of them. Ash has to decided what path he will take and what he is willing to sacrifice to defeat Alexander Savage and to gain his greatest hope in this book.
The narrator does an excellent job with the various accents, Indian and British, not stereotyping either. I have enjoyed both books on audiobook and I hope to continue listening to the series in the future.
This series is a distinctive one, touching on a culture that is not often explored in young adult books. While the ending isn't strictly a cliff-hanger, it ends in a way that will make readers eager and ready for the next book, myself included. I'm looking forward to more adventures with Ash Mistry.
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