Starred Review, School Library Journal
On vacation in India with his aunt, uncle, and younger sister, pudgy Ash Mistry can’t wait to get back home to his video games and London friends. But when his uncle is offered a million pounds to assist mysterious Lord Savage with translations from an archaeological find, Ash becomes embroiled in an overwhelming and deadly real-life battle. He realizes that Lord Savage is not an ordinary mortal and that his minions are rakshasas (demons). Determined to save his uncle, Ash unwittingly betrays himself and becomes the rakshasas’s target. When he falls into a collapsing pit, he discovers a golden arrowhead–the aastra (weapon) of the ancient goddess Kali. With a splinter of it lodged in his thumb, Ash is able to channel Kali’s power. But it is not enough to save his uncle and aunt, and, when they are killed, he sets out to save his sister–and the world–from Ravana, the all-powerful demon king, and his gruesome forces of evil. Chadda weaves Hindu mythology into an engrossing story of a shy, overweight gamer who becomes transformed into one of his own comic-book superheroes. Plot-driven, fast paced, exciting, and sometimes terrifying, The Savage Fortress is the ideal next step for readers who loved Rick Riordan’s books about the Olympian heroes and Anthony Horowitz’s “Gatekeepers” series (Scholastic). Vivid descriptions of contemporary India and flashbacks to the mythological battles of Rama and Ravana enrich this tale of a nerd’s metamorphosis. Make time for this novel, because it is very hard to put down.–Jane Barrer, United Nations International School, New York City
"This fantasy riffs on events from the Ramayana—the takeoff point for a knock-down, drag-out adventure that draws a 13-year-old into the unfinished business of the Indian gods.
A Londoner visiting his uncle and aunt in India, Ash Mistry’s first mistake is picking up an ancient gold arrowhead that involves him and his younger sister Lucky in business left from India’s legendary past; his second mistake is refusing to surrender the ancient weapon to the (very obvious) villain, Alexander Savage, and his rakshashas (demons). As is often true in fantasy quests, characters appear and disappear after helping or hindering the hero. The narrative arc is carried forward at first by the direct unfolding of Ash’s discovery and Savage’s hunt for the arrowhead. In addition, there are flashbacks that key readers in to Rama’s story. These provide vital information in a highly palatable way but also take some liberties with the original legend. A rousing and breathtaking climax supports the tied-up threads of the ending. Nonstop action and likable teen characters will attract fans of fantasy quests such as the Percy Jackson books and the saga of Nicholas Flamel.
There are hints that Ash may have unfinished business with India and its gods—let’s hope so." - Kirkus reviews
"If the heat and the crowded streets of Varanasi weren’t bad enough, thirteen-year-old Ash Mistry finds out that India’s holiest city is home to a fortress of demons, effectively putting the kibosh on what he though would be a fun summer vacation. Pudgy Londoner Ash discovers that Lord Savage, a wealthy businessman leading an archeological dig in Varanasi with the help of Ash’s uncle, is actually marshaling an army of rakshashas (demons) to take over the world, but his plans hit a snag after Ash picks up a legendary arrowhead and begins to suspect that he may be the reincarnated soul of Rama, India’s greatest warrior king. With the help of a former demon and several other reincarnated souls, Ash prepares to take on Savage and perhaps even the gods themselves. A classic hero’s quest, this action-packed story has its protagonist making the transformation from portly, brainy everyday kid to courageous, physically strong warrior with relative ease. Chadda wisely keeps his hero’s mental state the same, however, so even after Ash has proven his abilities, the boy is racked with self doubt and frankly resentful that this lot has fallen on his shoulders, two traits that will make him immediately relatable to a young reader. Graphic fight scenes leave little to the imagination, describing in cinematic clarity just what happens when one is attacked by a twenty-foot crocodile-demon hybrid. The incorporation of the Ramayana legend serves as a basic introduction to Indian deities; fans of Riordan’s Kane Chronicles, Indiana Jones, and the like will appreciate this non-Western take on fantasy adventure." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books