Today I’m featuring REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR by Payal Doshi, an engaging Own Voices middle grade fantasy adventure set in India (and beyond!).
Read on for my review of the book, and then make sure you also check out Payal’s list of top ten addictions to find out more about the author!
Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi
Series: The Chronicles of Astranthia #1
Published by Mango and Marigold Press on June 15, 2021
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade
Source: The Publisher
Cover Artist: Beverly Johnson
Perfect for fans of the Aru Shah books and The Chronicles of Narnia.
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 middle-grade fantasy debut about understanding complex family dynamics, fighting for what is right, discovering oneself, and learning to make friends.
Rea is an exciting portal fantasy set in Darjeeling India and in a magical land that will fascinate kids of all ages! Rea has spent her life feeling “less than”—she doesn’t make friends easily like her twin brother Rohan does, and even her mother seems to favor him. She feels invisible and unappreciated. But when her brother plans a secret midnight birthday cricket game and doesn’t even invite her, she’s had enough. She follows him and gets one shining moment of happiness before everything falls apart. When Rohan disappears and Rea’s mother and grandmother start acting suspiciously, Rea decides to go on a quest to find him—only to find herself (and her only friend) transported to a dangerous magical land filled with paris (fairies) and other magical creatures. While there, Rea encounters an evil queen and unravels a series of secrets that connect Rea and her brother to her. There are plenty of surprises and magical roadblocks along the way!
I loved that this book starts out in India, and we really get a sense of life there. For example, Rea spends time on a tea plantation with her mother, in an Indian village visiting a fortune-teller, and playing cricket with her brother. Then, when she’s transported to Aranthia, we encounter magical creatures that are specific to Indian folklore (I would have loved to have seen India reflected even more in the magical land, but that is just a personal preference). Kids will resonate with Rea’s desire to be truly seen (who doesn’t feel overlooked sometimes?) and will find inspiration in Rea’s unconditional love of family and her discovery of true friendship.
***Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own and no compensation was given.***
About the Author
Payal Doshi has a Masters in Creative Writing (Fiction) from The New School, New York. Having lived in the UK and US, she noticed a lack of Indian protagonists in global children’s fiction and one day wrote the opening paragraph to what would become her first children’s novel. She was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and two-year-old daughter. When she isn’t writing or spending time with her family, you can find her nose deep in a book with a cup of coffee or daydreaming of fantasy realms to send her characters off into. She loves the smell of old, yellowed books. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar, Book 1 in The Chronicles of Astranthia is her debut middle grade novel.
Payal’s Top Ten Addictions
1. Quality Time with My Daughter
My daughter is a precocious three-year-old chatterbox who is in that delightful phase of poo jokes, silly faces, making up words, telling stories with an unbridled imagination, and casually dropping one-liners that make me laugh out loud! She’s just gone from her princess phase to being obsessed with learning road signs. Being with her is a riot, and she reminds me to take joy in the small things and not to take life too seriously, which I often do.
I drink only one cup of coffee in a day, but I need that one cup. I take my coffee quite milky with a spoon of sugar and when I need that extra kick, I’ll add a helping of—wait for it—chocolate syrup. I know the coffee mafia are coming for me; my coffee is basically a dessert!
3. My Phone
I’m not proud that my phone is on this list, but my parents and family live in India and I’m constantly messaging or video chatting with them through the day. These days with book promotions, I’m also spending a lot of time on Instagram and Twitter updating my feed and staying in touch with the world of children’s literature.
4. Watching TV with My Husband Once Our Daughter Has Gone to Bed!
This is very specific, but I can assure you every parent of a toddler knows exactly what I’m talking about! My husband and I love to unwind at the end of the day by watching a movie or a TV show and those couple of hours once our daughter is down for the night we get to hang out, cozy up, and watch uninterrupted television which honestly feels like date night. 😊
I was born in Mumbai, India where it’s sunny and hot for pretty much the whole year. I currently live in Minneapolis where that is not the case, in fact, it’s practically the opposite! I absolutely love summer! I love the greenery, sunshine, heat, swimming pools, cold lemonade, summer dresses, and most of all, vacationing at a beach with 80-degree waters!
6. All Things Books
Like many authors, I love reading. Books are my escape and my place of relaxation and comfort. I love having a book to curl up to when I get a free moment. I love being in bookstores or browsing my bookshelf pondering over what to read next or binge watching Booktube videos for book recommendations.
7. Monsoons in Mumbai
Although I said I love summer, there are days back in Mumbai when the rain is coming down hard during the monsoon season in India that makes for a perfect day to sit by the window, watch the downpour, smell the petrichor of rain-soaked earth, and read a book while sipping on a hot cup of masala chai (it has cardamom, ginger, cloves, and lemongrass) and snacking on a plate of piping hot samosas. Ah, it’s heaven!
I promise this isn’t paid sponsorship but it’s ridiculous the amount of time I’ve been spending on Canva these days to create graphics for my social media posts and even for presentations I’ve done for panels and school visits! But I love it! Creating these visuals surprisingly refreshes my mind when I feel creatively fatigued.
9. Music I Listened To as a 90s Kid
Think Lifehouse, Howie Day, Enya, Backstreet Boys, The Corrs, Boyzone, Linkin Park (a couple songs), Britney Spears, etc. When I’m alone in the car running errands, it’s what I listen to and it takes me right back to the time I was teenager through to a young adult. It’s also the only time I will sing my heart out while not caring about how tone deaf I sound!
10. Barbeque Lays
This list of addictions would be incomplete if I didn’t mention Barbecue Lays. I am addicted to them to the extent that it has (embarrassingly) been my dinner far too many times! I’m a fairly disciplined person in life, but when it comes to Barbeque Lays I have absolutely zero self-control! So now, I make sure to buy a bag just once a month!
Payal and I are kindred coffee spirits. I also drink just one cup—with more milk than coffee and a spoonful of honey. I haven’t tried adding chocolate syrup, but it sounds absolutely fabulous! I agree that coffee should taste more like a dessert than a bitter treat. And I definitely remember those toddler days, though my kids are way past that now.
What’s the last book you read that was set in a country other than your own? I want to know!