This story opens in India on the eve of Rea’s twelfth birthday. Rea is devastated to discover that instead of celebrating it with her, her twin Rohan has planned a secret midnight game of cricket with his friends. Determined to spoil his fun, Rea sneaks out of the house after him and forces her way into the game. She’s thrilled when her team beats Rohan’s team, but her joy turns to horror the next day when she discovers Rohan never made it home after the game. While Amma (her mother) and Bajai (her grandmother) fall apart in despair, Rea is determined to find her brother. Her search for Rohan leads her to the magical land of Astranthia, where Rohan is being held captive by an evil queen.
There are a lot of good elements in this story. Rea has complex relationships with her brother, her mother and grandmother, which she has to resolve, and I liked how her friendship with Leela develops. Astranthia, a country where the inhabitants wear petals for clothes, live in bud-hoods. and where nectar is magic, is imaginative. I loved the Ceffyldwer and the Sea of Serpent lilies, and the shadow magic which the evil queen wielded (which I liked to have seen more of). The concept of nectar as magic was intriguing, although I didn’t understand how it worked.
However the plot is quite convoluted. Rea only gets to Astranthia a quarter of the way through the book after solving a few clues but it seemed unnecessarily difficult for her to get there. There is a twist at the end of the story but it’s contrived, and makes the lengthy story of Rea getting to Astranthia even more unnecessary. There are some serious themes (attempted suicide and a murder pact) that I felt were handled too lightly. The attempted suicide, from a plot perspective, also served no purpose. The murder pact was left unresolved, presumably this is being kept for book 2. It’s not necessary to tie up all the ends in a story, but this seemed too big a plot element to be left open. In contrast, the story of Rea’s father and her family’s background, although I wanted more detail, can easily wait for a sequel.
Overall this story did not work for me, and I struggled to finish the book. Which was a pity, because the author writes well, there are lots of great ideas, and the characters were well drawn. The pacing and plot let it down, in my opinion. However, reading is such a personal thing that what one person hates, another will love, so I am sure the things that are obstacles to me won’t prevent others enjoying the book. If you have read this story, whether you enjoyed it or not. I’d love to hear what you thought.
TOTP and I award Rea and the Blood of the Nectar a disappointed five out of ten diamonds.