Title: The Lost Prisoner – The Hidden Children Series
Author: Reshma K. Barshikar
Publisher: Two Ravens
Age Group: 12 years+
Genre: YA Fantasy
Posting this on behalf of my daughter Sonimrin Shimray who just turned sweet 16, who loves to read and paint.
Alright…picture this – Harry Potter but Indian and a blend of Percy Jackson-esque lingo. There you have it- The Lost Prisoner by Reshma K. Barshikar is just that!
In the second instalment of The Hidden Children series (though I believe one could start reading this book directly as there is no discrepancy in the plot due to the useful recap penned down in the first few pages) Reshma takes us back to explore the profound friendship between four friends who are standing at the crossroads of their lives once again.
Set in 21st century Mumbai – the story is a wonderful addition to the ongoing saga for the female protagonist Shui, who’s a youthful dyslexic teenager, coming around an epic battle she fought beside her true friends that took place in the previous book. Shui is figuring out her newly discovered powers and coming to terms with the fact that she now possesses a powerful book called the Grimoire. This goes hand in hand with developing a crush on an older boy, and doing her best to stay out of trouble but oh well…for people like her, trouble always slithers through the tiniest gaps.
Well for starters, something sinister begins brewing with two children: promised to be just like her, are suspiciously introduced by a Guru asking for protection. To put the cherry on top, Shui’s friend, Anya gets kidnapped out of the blue and the two mystery children also go missing conveniently. Shui and her team must ready themselves for another adventure to fight this new evil that is threatening to tear them apart.
I read the first book a couple years ago and I must admit that I prefer this one a lot more when it comes to the plot building and the prodigious improvement in the pacing of the action filled scenes.
Personally, I’ve always had a problem with YA fiction written by Indian authors that promises ‘good’ representation of the culture, through the eyes of the Indian characters because usually it always results in placing Indian characters in a completely Western trope. But building a world that was and is truly organic plus authentic to our understanding is what I think made Rehsma’s brainchild a blessing to Indian fantasy literature.
In The Lost Prisoner, the world is pretty much created from scratch – one with its own laws, language, and physical design. To cite a few examples, the world building becomes more intricate as we learn about other Bile Raths and they delve into the Witan community’s history; as well as fraction of the Red Riders also known as the Witan community’s biggest nemesis, aren’t actually the only one’s on Shui’s tail but someone else is too. So the anticipation of the build up and finding out who’s the mystery true antagonist entity kept me on my toes throughout. Truly the highlight. Oh! To add on, there are the Tarathas, the Great Sleep, magical witches linked with the roots of shamanism and much more. So if you are a sucker for intricate, ‘layered like your sweaters during winter’ type of lore like me, then this is for you.
Now coming to the hard part, the criticisms. Mine ironically begins with the ending. To me, the story started to feel more like an incomprehensible fever dream towards the end, with so much happening and it wasn’t always conveyed properly to the reader, resulting in me not fully appreciating events that I know for a fact are intriguing. Admittedly, I wasn’t super invested in the friendship drama between the protagonist and one of the characters. I think it was rather unnecessary as it made no contribution to the plot and could have been avoided but I do acknowledge that many readers do love their theatrics to pepper up their rather boring amalgamated lives. Tacking on a more subjective opinion of mine is that the pop-culture references were slightly too frequent. I’m what one may call ‘chronically online personified’ so I could call myself a well informed individual when it comes to these things, but I believe when you repeatedly quote another piece of media at key moments while simultaneously not having enough original quotes, it sort of steals the book’s moment of glory and no one wants to steal someone’s thunder. Right?
In fine, this book is a triumph and appeals to a wide range of readers, making it a versatile and enjoyable read for both children and adults. A must read for any YA fantasy fan especially if you’re an Indian who finds escape in the genre.
– Sonimrin Shimray
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Disclaimer: Sonimrin is part of the #kbcReviewerSquad and received this book as a review copy from the publisher through kbc.