Review: The Savage Fortress

The Savage FortressThe Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The book wasn’t quite what I was expecting from reading the back cover, but I think 3 stars sums it up: it was a fine one-timer, but I probably won’t read it again.

The Savage Fortress is an action book about 13-year-old Ash Mistry and his 10-year-old sister Lucky, who are on a holiday with their aunt and uncle in India. The kids are used to a life of plenty in their regular home in London, and Ash is quickly getting tired of the dust and heat in India. But his life takes a turn into craziness when he discovers that ancient Hindu demons aren’t so “ancient” after all: they’re modern, and he’s just gotten on their bad side.

The beginning of the book does an excellent job transporting the reader to the hot, fly-infested city that Ash is experiencing. The descriptions and scenes are vibrant and full of humorous sibling banter. But that lessens more and more as the book goes on. On the myths front, the book does make for a good introduction to Hindu mythology. For the writing, some elements of the story felt forced, and I got tired of the constant reminders from the main character that “this isn’t just a story–it’s real” (which, ironically, kept reminding me that it IS just a story!).

A heads-up for those picking up The Savage Fortress as a “middle-grade” book: the other works by Sarwat Chadda are definitely in the older young-adult category, and this one reads a little more like younger YA than middle grade. There are plenty of gory scenes and animated death descriptions and the main character thinks a lot about girls. More attention is paid to Ash’s inner emotional arguments than is normally drawn out in middle grade.

While it wasn’t for me, though, I think The Savage Fortress will be enjoyed and understood best by ages 12 to 14 who don’t mind some action and blood, and like stories with the wimpy-kid-turning-tough-to-save-the-day theme. It’s definitely directed at the Percy Jackson fans, with Hindu mythology instead of Greek.

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