Review: Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena

I discovered Hunted by the Sky on a list of anticipated 2020 releases and was immediately hooked by its blurb. Although it had its highs — including one of the most richly developed settings I’ve read in a while — the predominant emotion I was feeling when I finished this book was disappointment. It’s a shame.

And also, this is sort of off-topic, but I forgot to include this in my already way-too-long monthly wrap-up 😅 — the voting for the Fourth Annual 2020 Book Blogger Awards is now underway!! You can vote here, and check out the full list of this year’s nominees here. I’m so overwhelmed by how supportive and warm and talented this community is. The number of blogs I’m following has already doubled, and I suspect there’s many more to come. A huge thank you to May @ Forever and Everly and Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books for hosting these awards!

TITLE: Hunted by the Sky
AUTHOR: Tanaz Bhathena
GENRE: Fantasy, young adult
PUBLICATION: June 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
PAGES: 374
RATING: ⭑ ⭑ ½ 


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. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India. 

Trigger warnings: Trauma, death of a parent, terminal illness, prejudice, animal cruelty, human trafficking, physical abuse, drugging, forced marriage, graphic deaths, violence, gore

Hunted by the Sky, the first in the Wrath of Ambar series, is set in a world inspired by medieval India, where the magic running in your veins defines who you are. When Gul’s parents are murdered due to the star-shaped birthmark on Gul’s arm, Gul vows revenge on King Lohar, the cruel ruler determined to root out all possible girls who might be the prophesied Star Warrior. Gul is bent on killing Lohar, but the undeniable pull between her and Cavas — a boy with troubles of his own — as well as the secret workings of Ambar Fort force her to question whether the prophecy she’s been avoiding all her life may have more to do with her than she knows.

Everything about this book’s blurb seemed written with me in mind. “Exploring class struggles”? “High-stakes romance”? YES, PLEASE. I loved the beginning. The magical setting and the centuries of history that Bhathena wrote for the kingdom of Svapnalok drew me in immediately, as well the intense first lines of the book. The world is lush and enchanting. Gul and Cavas, our main characters, are nuanced and flawed. The themes against social injustice through the experiences of non-magi (those without magic) like Cavas had me eager to reach the end. The prose was beautiful. The stage was set for a new favorite.

You can sense the “but…” coming: The romance had to go and ruin everything. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Gul and Cavas’s dynamic, the precarious balance between their initial attraction and the standards held by their world. But firstly, their chemistry was lacking. Secondly, their relationship progressed way. too. fast. 

As far as I can judge, their insta-attraction borders on instalove, the anathema of YA. At one point in the book, Gul declares that she would give up her entire mission of vengeance against the king to help Cavas out of a certain sticky situation. We’re talking about a goal she’s been working toward for years, against a guy she’s seen probably fewer than five times. Please. I understand this is meant to emphasize that these two are literally destined for each other, but it was too much for me. I wish the romance had taken more of a backseat in the whole scheme of things, allowing for more slow-burn time and establishing the two’s chemistry. The pacing also felt oddly unbalanced — long stretches of nothing happening, then that whole chaotic bloodbath at that end.

All in all, Hunted by the Sky has a brilliant premise and lovely world-building that fans of An Ember in the Ashes and We Hunt the Flame will enjoy, but a subpar execution. That being said, the author does have me hooked with that ending. I have hope for the next book.

Abby the Christian Bookworm

The relationship between the magi and the non-magi in the society of Hunted by the Sky spotlights the discrimination that takes place even in our world today. As the Bible says, Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV). Through God-inspired kindness, we can give each other hope by loving and encouraging everyone, rather than hating one another for things we cannot control.

That’s it for today! I’m aware this basically turned into a rant rather than a well-formed review, but oh well. How about you? Have you read Hunted by the Sky? What did you think of it? Chat with me in the comments!

Also, this is my first book review including trigger warnings, so please feel free to suggest improvements and give feedback in the comments!

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