cover image Flower and Thorn

Flower and Thorn

Rati Mehrotra. Wednesday, $21 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-82370-0

In this lush fantasy adventure, Mehrotra (Night of the Raven, Dawn of the Dove) answers the question “What if marginalized communities had magic to combat colonizers?” In the early 16th century, at the start of the Portuguese invasion of India, 17-year-old Irinya Dewa, a nomadic flower hunter, frequents the salt flats of Gujarat to gather blooms that heal and act as magical talismans. Flower hunting is dangerous work, but the survival of Irinya’s kul, which is indebted to ruthless baniya, or moneylenders, depends on it. When her childhood friend Fardan finds a flower once thought to be extinct, and Irinya is tricked by a handsome stranger to relinquish it to him, she unknowingly sets off a chain of events that leads to the slaughter of a beloved elder from her kul by the baniya. What follows is an adventure-filled quest to set things to rights in which Irinya travels to Ahmedabad, the seat of the Gujarat sultanate, to retrieve the flower that could change not only her people’s lives, but also the fate of India. While dialogue and character sensibilities sometimes read as too contemporary for the historical setting, the worldbuilding is solid in this fascinating reimagining of events that ruminates on themes of colonialism, environmentalism, greed, and power dynamics. Ages 14–up. Agent: Mary C. Moore, Kimberley Cameron & Assoc. (Oct.)