I was so, so excited when I saw this book, because the heroine shares my name, and that almost never happens! I spent my whole childhood hoping to see my name pop up somewhere, anywhere, but it’s taken this long for my wish to be fulfilled. Between this and The Last Namsara, my heart is full. Two wonderful heroines to add to the list of Ashas!
Book: Asha and the Spirit Bird by Jasbinder Bilan
Read before: No
Ownership: Review copy sent by Chicken House for fair review. All opinions my own.
Publication date: 7th February 2019. Available to pre-order from Amazon here (affiliate link).
Okay, first things first, look at that beautiful cover and tell me you wouldn’t be instantly tempted! This book is so gorgeous. Each of the chapter headings also has one of the figures from the cover in black and white illustration, which really helps set the mood for the beautifully descriptive writing. And the setting sings just as much as the cover – I could visualise every scene in minute detail, whether it was the bustle of a busy train station, or the depths of a snowy forest, or a temple high in the mountains.
When I started the book, I was expecting it to be filled with magic, and it was, but not in the way I had imagined! There are subtle, wonderful touches of magic laced throughout the story, but ultimately this is a tale of real-world bravery and strength, as Asha journeys across the Himalayas with her friend Jeevan to find her father and bring him home. It’s magical realism at its finest – that kind of writing where everything has an ethereal glow and it makes you look at the world around you differently. Nobody has any flashy powers, but that really doesn’t mean that the world isn’t magical and amazing.
Family and friendship are at the very heart of this book, which makes for an incredibly touching read. I loved the spirit bird, which Asha believes to be her grandmother’s soul returned to guide her – the comfort she draws from this is almost palpable. Asha’s friendship with Jeevan, too, is beautifully drawn, showing a realistic and deeply felt bond of trust even in the darkest moments of their journey. When they encounter others who help them in their journey, it restores their faith in humanity, and the reader’s – and the ending, though I knew it was coming, made me genuinely cry happy, heartfelt tears. (I have a real weakness for fathers coming home to their children – I once welled up while channel-hopping when I landed on the end of a film where a returning soldier woke up his sleeping son. That little face of disbelief and happiness. Oh, here I go again..!) That moment is captured so perfectly.
This book feels rich and beautiful and emotional and magical. I could talk about the plot or the characters or the themes for ages, but that wouldn’t compare to the experience of reading it, so I’m just going to recommend you pick it up as soon as possible! It’s a let-your-bath-go-cold, miss-your-bus-stop kind of read. There’s adventure and peril and excitement and tests, but also so much love. Five out of five cats.