cover image The Force of Fire (Kingdom Beyond)

The Force of Fire (Kingdom Beyond)

Sayantani DasGupta. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-338-63664-2

DasGupta (the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series) brings to life concepts from Bengali folklore through Pinki, a rakkosh—demon—student at the Ghatatkach Academy of Murder and Mayhem, located in the fantastical Kingdom Beyond. Forced to be a “solitary diva-loner type” by other students’ taunting her about her full scholarship, Pinki pushes down her angry feelings and focuses on being a star student in her demonic classes—only controlling her fire-breathing powers eludes her. Unlike the rest of her family, she views with pessimism the rakkosh resistance against the Empire of Serpent Overlords, which has colonized the Kingdom Beyond, preventing the rakkosh from enjoying traditional cultural pastimes. Pinki’s unconventional first meeting with Prince Sesha, the son of the Serpentine Governor, does not inspire hope, but he offers her a deal: if she steals him a weapon he needs to quash the resistance, he will help her learn to control her fire. Pinki’s acceptance leads her into a journey that forces her to reassess her own priorities and loyalties. Though the novel at times leans on dialogue over description, making it difficult to visualize the complex world, its dramatic action and fast-paced plot propel the story line at breakneck speed, while its engagingly cynical heroine and hints of romance make for an entertaining read. Ages 8–12. Agent: Brent Taylor, TriadaUS. (May)

Correction: A previous version of this review misstated the author's last name and a character's name.