Wednesday 13 March 2013

Review: Ash Mistry and the City of Death by Sarwat Chadda

Ash Mistry is leading a pretty complicated life. There’s school, his unrequited crush on girl-next-door Gemma… and then there’s the fact that he’s the reincarnation of the great Indian hero Ashoka, not to mention the small detail that he died last year, and came back as an agent of the goddess of death.

So when the demon servants of the evil Lord Savage come after Gemma in order to get to Ash, you’d think he’d be ready to take them on.

But Lord Savage still has some tricks up his sleeve. And with Gemma out of the picture, the English villain is closer than ever to finding a magical aastra of his own, and the power to rule the world. It’s time for Ash to go up against his enemy once again. Luckily, as the human embodiment of the Kali-aastra, Ash can find the weak points in any living thing and kill it. But the key word there is ‘living’. And little does Ash know that Lord Savage has mastered another branch of magic – one which allows him to create whole armies out of un-living stone…

Here starts the campaign to persuade Goodreads to have a six star rating system. Looking back over the year so far, and bearing in mind that we are not even a quarter of the way through 2013, I have already given fourteen five star reviews to books with a 2013 release date. This is not me being overly generous - there are simply that many great books being released this year. However, to hijack Orwell's famous Animal Farm quote: All five star reviews are equal, but some five star reviews are more equal that others. Thus the need for that extra star, perhaps only awardable after a month has passed since first rating a book. Does it still stick in the mind? Do you find yourself looking longingly at it on your shelf, wishing you had the time to re-read it? I am finding this with a small number of those five star 2013 reads, and Ash Mistry and the City of Death is one of them.

Long time readers of The Book Zone will know that I have been a fan of Sarwat's writing ever since I first read Devil's Kiss, and his second book, Dark Goddess, was my Book Zone Book of the Year in 2010 (trophy finally made a ready to be delivered). I also loved Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress, and it was one of my favourite books of 2012, so I have been waiting impatiently for the sequel to be published, and it was well worth that wait. This book is blinkin' brilliant from beginning to end!

My thoughts about the importance of Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress as a book are unchanged a year on from when I read it and there's not a great deal I can add to that, so please head on over to my review here to find out why I feel this way. However, for those of you who have arrived here looking for more information about the sequel then please read on. 

The story has moved on a few months and Ash is living back in London with his family, trying to return to life as a normal school boy, with normal school boy problems, whilst also coming to terms with the fact that he is now the reincarnation of an ancient Indian hero. Ash has fallen badly for Gemma, one of the cool, popular crowd at school, and hearing she has split up with her boyfriend spurs him to make a move. Unfortunately, just as he seems to be making some headway, Parvati (demon daughter of Ravana) arrives on the scene with a favour to ask of Ash, and then soon after everything hits the fan, in the shape of Jackie, Lord Savage's right-hand she-demon. Nasty things happen, and instead of being seen as a hero, Ash sees fear in his friends' eyes when they look at him. 

With persona non grata status now firmly established and life in London totally unbearable Ash decides there is only one course of action for him to take: join up with Parvati, go back to India, kill Savage, get his revenge and save the world (again). After all, he is the Kali-aastra, master of Marma Adi and able to kill any living creature with the slightest touch of his little finger. Little does he know that his mission will not be quite so straightforward as Savage has managed to master a little more magic since their last meeting, and suddenly Ash is not as invincible as he thought. He also finds himself coming face-to-face with another old adversary, this time in the shape of Ujba, who now wants to continue the training that Rishi began with Ash. Add these woes to the fact that Ash still does not know what Parvati's true motives are, and whether he should trust her or not, and the stage is set for one hell of a second half to the book.

The climax to the book is typical of Sarwat Chadda - full of action, fights to the death, and more twists and turns than a Chubby Checker dance marathon, and you're left feeling pretty breathless come the end of the penultimate chapter. However, just as you thought you could relax Chadda plays the ace that he has kept hidden up his sleeve and leaves you with a jaw-to-the-ground-OMG-can't-believe-it final chapter that had me rushing to get online to check when the third book in the series is due to be released. Fortunately for Sarwat we only have to wait until July for this one - if we had had to wait a whole year then I may have been going fully tooled to his book launch to get all Ash Mistry on him until he revealed what happens next.

If you have/are a 9+ boy who loves Rick Riordan but has not yet discovered Ash Mistry then I simply cannot recommend the books enough. They are quite dark in places, and also occasionally gory (perfect for boys then), but also come laced with humour. The plot is super-fast paced, and I raced through the book, reading into the night as I couldn't put it down. Ash is a superb main character - even though he has muscled up since we first met him at the beginning of Savage Fortress, inside he is still a geeky, RPG playing kid from London, with all the insecurities that come with being that age, and I think kids will find it easy to relate to him, and also wonder how they would cope if suddenly they found themselves to be masters of ancient magics.

Ash Mistry and the City of Death was published on the 28 Feburary and my thanks go to HarperCollins for sending me a copy to review.


  1. I loved Savage Fortress too - how has this guy not got more recognition?!

  2. The combination of normal problems and the fantastic sounds like a great mix!