The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda*
Thirteen-year-old Ash Mistry grew up with tales of Rama and other heroes of Indian mythology, so when he gets the chance to visit his Uncle Vikram in Varanasi one summer, he is ecstatic. Then he gets to India. It's hot, muggy and so not fun. He can't wait to get back to London, his friends and his video games. But then his uncle is contracted by the mysterious Lord Savage to translate documents relating to an ancient civilization, and soon Ash and his sister Lucky are embroiled in a battle for their lives as they fight the evil Lord Savage and his army of rakshasas.
Much like Percy Jackson and the Kanes, Ash Mistry is an average kid thrust into extraordinary circumstances. I picked this book because I was looking for a Percy Jackson read-alike, but with a different myth system, and I was not disappointed. It turns out that Ash is a reincarnation of Rama, and he must battle Ravana, the demon king brought back to life by Lord Savage. The book is as action-packed as any of Riordan's mythology based books, and I think it's great to get kids interested in non-Western myth systems (although I also want someone to write me a book like this but with Norse mythology, so chop chop, writers).
I do have one itty bitty concern about this book. It is recommended for 8-12 year olds, which is great because I am trying to shore up my knowledge of upper-elementary and middle grade fiction. Generally, I think this book is perfect for 5th - 7th graders. However. In the great big battle at the end. It's pretty violent. I mean, at one point Ash pulls out a demon's heart from its chest, and not much is left to the imagination in the description. Like, remember that one scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Yeah. Maybe I worry too much. Maybe kids these days are all, whatever. That's nothing. But it gave me pause when considering who I would recommend this book to among my library patrons. Still, I enjoyed the read. The story clipped along at a good pace and I finished it in two sittings. I think fans of Riordan's novels will dig The Savage Fortress, too.
*I started reading a digital copy courtesy of NetGalley (which I couldn't finish due to tech problems on my side) and finished with a copy from my fabu local library.