“When you’re poor, secrets can very well be the difference between life and death.”
What a little gem this book turned out to be! The cover is absolutely gorgeous– I made jokes on my Instagram that the cover model’s eyes were so piercing that I had no idea how the story was even going to live up. But it sure did.
Intense, brutal, and surprisingly mature, let’s talk about Hunted by the Sky, shall we?
We enter Hunted by the Sky through Gul’s eyes. Gul, who’s had the misfortune of being born with a birthmark long-ago prophesied to bring about the end of the King of Ambar, is Going Through It. She’s just watched her parents be murdered in front of her by the king’s personal guard and is eventually taken in by a group (cult? sisterhood? family?) of supremely badass warrior women. Well, Gul is a little Arya Stark in the making and vows to take revenge on the King no matter what. She, along with Cavas, a palace servant (who is also Going Through It), reluctantly team up to make sure Gul survives. Easier said than done, amirite?
This book is an immersion of culture. From the honey-dripped discussions of food and dress to the crystal clear descriptions of magic-wielding mythological beasts and shapeshifters, Tanaz Bhathena leaves no sense untouched. You are dropped into the middle of this desert kingdom full-force and it’s deeply seeded belief system. You are feeling the burn of repressed magic slinking up your veins and sparking at your fingertips. It’s an immersion and it was an honor to get lost in this vivid world for hours on end.
I’ll admit that it took me a second to get into the plot– not for its slow pace, because the very first line of the story is of someone getting brutally murdered– but because I was on the fence of whether or not I liked Gul. When we first meet her, she is a terrified thirteen year old; whiney and full of a half-baked single minded rage (an arc that seemed wildly familiar, hello Game of Thrones). Cavas’s point of view drew me in a little more and for a hot minute, I was more curious about his story than hers.
But Gul grows up very quickly and the story turns far away from the GoT tendrils that rankled me. She becomes fiery and while she kind of easily falls into the “reluctant chosen one” trope, with everything else that’s going on, it’s easy to overlook and accept her as a fine future-saga-leading heroine. I have hope for her.
This book also threw in some plot-twists that I was not expecting at all! The climax near the end of the book, for one, had me pricking up and rapidly turning pages to see where the divergence in storyline was going to go.
There were only two things in this book I wasn’t completely sold on.
Number One: This book relies heavily on characters happening to be in the right place at the right time to overhear the right piece of information. There were multiple (multiple!) cases of both Gul and Cavas stumbling upon the “evil” character’s super secret plans and coming out unscathed. Once, I’ll accept. But you have to figure out plot devices other than good timing going forward.
Number Two: The relationship/ chemistry between Gul and Cavas. I wasn’t really feeling it. They didn’t spend enough time together to even really know each other. Most of what time they did spend was Cavas not particularly liking Gul’s attitude. Gul was attracted to him from the start, but it really seemed one-sided. And then they had to introduce Amar as another potential-but-not-really love interest for Gul who honestly, I liked more. We will see if the next book sells me on the “Gavas” ship.
But I’m old and crotchety and even those two things didn’t do much to damper my enjoyment of the book! It’s really worth a read and based on that ending chapter, I can’t wait to see where the story goes next!