I gave up on trying to write this review properly very early on. See if you can tell.
There are three things that I seriously love always and forever and they are mythology, Indiana Jones and Skulduggery Pleasant. I mean, there’s a lot more than that, but those three things are entirely relevant to this thing here now that I am writing. Because Oh My God if you like any of those three things then Ash Mistry is a most satisfactory reading experience. And here I mean “satisfactory” to mean what cats feel when they rub up against a scratching post or when someone gives you a head massage or when you find a book that is so exactly what you’d have liked to read aged nine, damn it all. It’s not your ordinary garden variety sort-of-okay-but-nothing-special “satisfactory”. I mean oh does it satisfy.
So here’s the run down on Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress:
Ash Mistry hates India. Which is a problem since his uncle has brought him and his annoying younger sister Lucky there to take up a dream job with the mysterious Lord Savage. But Ash immediately suspects something is very wrong with the eccentric millionaire. Soon, Ash finds himself in a desperate battle to stop Savage’s masterplan – the opening of the Iron Gates that have kept Ravana, the demon king, at bay for four millennia…
There is also this note on the back of the proof:
One slightly geeky boy from our time…
IS GOING TO KICK SOME DEMON ASS.
From which you can get a pretty strong sense of the book’s style, and if this fails to move you then we really have some problems. Or, you. You really have some problems.
For some reason I’ve seen this being recommended as a “book for boys”. What poppycock is that. I can categorically state that I as a nine-year-old girl who liked dolls and flowery things would have eaten this up and then some, so I assume there will be a swarm of girls out there who will also happily devour this like a demon crocodile (hello book reference shoe-horned in there, how you doin’?). It’s got bloodshed and violence with a liberal amount of gore and gets really dramatic and traumatic, and all of it is brilliantly done. Some children enjoy reading about massive murderous demons who maim and kill just to entertain themselves, and the heroes who have to buck up and save the world despite all sorts of nastiness trying to ruin their day. Some adults enjoy that too, and here I point to myself, and feel no shame at all because I am well beyond that point these days.
I’m finding it hard to distill exactly what I liked most about it down to a few sentences (this is probably clear). It was so very exciting and different – none of the usual Greek, Roman, Egyptian or Norse gods here, but demons and monsters from Indian mythology, in a rich, colourfully described version of India which was absolutely wonderful to read and I could have happily read double as much of the descriptions.* I really loved the writing. I loved how vivid it all was – everything from the descriptions of Varanasi itself, the people, the physical landscape to the gory bits, the adrenaline-pumping bits, the honestly really sad and distressing bits – hell, I was along for the ride, and the plot was twisty like a nice twisty water slide. It never got bogged down in detail but kept ripping along at a good old pace and that kind of writing is always a favourite.
And to top it all off it’s funny. Sister Spooky describes it as “Buffy with a dash of Big Bang Theory” which really isn’t far off the mark, but I’d throw in Indiana Jones and a bit of Skulduggery Pleasant in there too. I giggled quite a lot while reading this. On the bus too, which was highly embarrassing, but could not be helped.
I liked Ash and his sister Lucky a great deal and their interactions were wonderful. My sister is an actual annoyance, whereas Ash gets off lightly with Lucky, who doesn’t seem like a bad sort of sibling. Thinking about their page-time together, I really like that we see Ash is a proper hero from practically the first page.
So, basically, although there were a couple of little niggly bits which always happen in the first books of new series, I really liked it. Really really. I want more, and soon, because Ash Mistry and the Savage Fortress was a really good, bloody, horrible, hilarious, warm-hearted read and I reckon the youth need more of that kind of thing.
Also you should totally read Sarwat Chadda’s blog post “Introducing Ash Mistry” because I have said so and I’m very persuasive.
*I was reading it on a London bus and at one point I got all pissy because the bus stopped and I had to get off and when the book was open I was in a tremendously exciting exotic place with snake demons and ancient lost languages and decadent parties with grotesque villains, but when I looked up I was at the wrong end of Oxford Street in the rain next to a drunk couple arguing about umbrellas. Did Not Want.