Explore new worlds with a diverse array of characters and magical creatures in remarkable middle grade fantasy debut

EDINA, MN – Payal Doshi offers young readers a new world in her debut novel, “Rea and the Blood of the Nectar” (June 15, 2021, Mango and Marigold Press). This fast-paced middle grade fantasy is full of adventure, excitement, and unforgettable characters fighting together for family and freedom. Doshi’s lyrical, quick-witted writing is sure to leave every reader yearning for more!

It all begins on the night Rea turns twelve. After a big fight with her twin brother Rohan on their birthday, Rea’s life in the small village of Darjeeling, India, gets turned on its head. It’s four in the morning and Rohan is nowhere to be found.

It hasn’t even been a day and Amma acts like Rohan’s gone forever. Her grandmother, too, is behaving strangely. Unwilling to give up on her brother, Rea and her friend Leela meet Mishti Daadi, a wrinkly old fortune-teller whose powers of divination set them off on a thrilling and secret quest. In the shade of night, they portal to an otherworldly realm and travel to Astranthia, a land full of magic and whimsy. There with the help of Xeranther, an Astranthian barrow boy, and Flula, a pari, Rea learns that Rohan has been captured. She also discovers that she is a princess with magic. Only she has no idea how to use it.

Struggling with the truth her Amma has kept hidden from her, Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan, find a way to rescue him and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can she rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is Payal Doshi’s heartwarming and thrilling debut novel about learning to make friends, fighting for what is right, discovering oneself, and understanding complex family dynamics.

“Rea and the Blood of the Nectar: The Chronicles of Astranthia”
Payal Doshi | June 15, 2021 | Mango and Marigold Press
Hardcover | 978-1-64543-763-5 | $19.95 | middle grade fantasy

Praise for Rea and the Blood of the Nectar

“A highly inventive, magic-filled fantasy.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“An extravagant and rewarding fantasy novel involving floral world building and childhood bravery.”
— Foreword Reviews

“With a spunky pari and eccentric creatures like a ‘cow-monkey dressed in jewels reciting poetry,’ Doshi kicks her series off on a high note.”
— Booklist

“Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is a gateway into pure imagination, with a fast-paced plot that will hook you and characters that will endear you. A wonderful debut.”
— KACEN CALLENDER, National Book Award winner for King and the Dragonflies and bestselling author of Hurricane Child

“From the tea plantations of Darjeeling to the flower-filled land of Astranthia, Rea and the Blood of the Nectar is an adventure filled with mythical monsters and marvelous creatures, magic and mayhem, friendship and family struggles. Rea is a fierce heroine whose courage and determination carry her forward to save her twin brother even when the path seems dark.”
– RAJANI LAROCCA, author of Midsummer’s Mayhem, Red, White, and Whole, and
Much Ado About Baseball

More about Payal Doshi

Payal Doshi has a Masters in Creative Writing (Fiction) from The New School, New York. Having lived in the UK and US, she noticed a lack of Indian protagonists in global children’s fiction and one day wrote the opening paragraph to what would become her first children’s novel.

She was born and raised in Mumbai, India, and currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and three-year-old daughter. When she isn’t writing or spending time with her family, you can find her nose deep in a book with a cup of coffee or daydreaming of fantasy realms to send her characters off into. She loves the smell of old, yellowed books. Rea and the Blood of the Nectar, Book 1 in The Chronicles of Astranthia series is her debut middle grade novel.

For more information, visit her website, www.payaldoshiauthor.com, or follow her on Instagram: @payaldoshiauthor and on Twitter: @payaldwrites.

In an interview, Payal can discuss:

  • Writing as a South Asian author and her experiences getting her book published
  • Championing joyful stories about diverse voices
  • The process of writing during a pandemic
  • How Darjeeling inspired settings in her book
  • Growing up without seeing herself represented in literature
  • How she created the magical world of Astranthi

An Interview with Payal Doshi

1. What was your inspiration for Rea and the Blood of the Nectar?

I wanted to write a fantasy story rooted in Indian culture and setting that had kids from India who went off on thrilling adventures and became heroes. I wanted to write a story I would have loved to read as a kid and one in which I saw myself in. I also wanted that story to portray these diverse characters having joyful and empowering experiences since often times that narrative gets overlooked when writing about underrepresented minorities. At the same time, I wanted to write a story that all kids would love. So, there’s a mystery that needs solving along with an exciting quest, a ticking clock, dark family secrets, unforgettable friendships, a fantastical world, and my favorite, magic!

I love reading books in which the setting feels like a character in itself and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to portray a region of India that was beautiful and underrated with respect to its landscape and people. The city of Darjeeling is a stunning hill station in the northeast part of the country ensconced within hills, the view of the majestic Himalayas and rolling tea plantations. I was inspired by its unique beauty and knew instantly that’s where I wanted to set my book.

2. Why is it important to you to write stories for diverse voices?

When I first drafted this book, all my characters were white, and they lived in the English countryside. It wasn’t until my writing teacher pointed out my lack of Indian characters that I realized how the books I had read (and loved) growing up had subconsciously trained my mind into thinking those were the only types of stories people wanted to read. I was a voracious reader as a kid, but I’d never read a children’s book with a protagonist who was Indian or South Asian. I simply never saw myself in the books I read and loved. So, when I decided to write my book, I wanted to change that statistic. I wanted South Asian kids to not only see themselves in books but also see themselves as the main characters of the stories they read. Diverse representation is incredibly important because kids from underrepresented minorities should grow up knowing that their stories deserve to be shared and celebrated and that they, too, can be the heroes of novels. It is equally important to show kids from other countries that they can relate with characters from different backgrounds since they, too, share the same hopes, dreams, and fears as them.

3. What is your favorite thing about Astranthia and why?

What I love about Astranthia is that you can’t pin down exactly where, or in which culture I’ve rooted the fantastical land in. Astranthia is an East-meets-West utopia where people from all cultures, races, and lands live together in harmony. I drew from my experiences growing up in Mumbai, India, where I was surrounded by Indian culture and tradition but also exposed to pop culture and media from the West. So, the reader will find several references to Indian, British, and Celtic folklore.

Astranthia is also steeped in the magic of the Som, a sacred and immortal flower, in which flows the elixir of nectar that keeps the realm alive. I love nature and I wanted to weave that lushness into the history and descriptions of Astranthia. I hope that readers will find Astranthia immersive, beautiful, and a magical escape.

4. How is the first draft of the book different from the final draft?

Oh, night and day! Especially the first chapter. I’ve probably rewritten it at least fifteen times! The first draft was a loosely held story in which the characters meandered their way through the plot while the final draft is a fast-paced adventure with complex characters and an exciting adventure. My mantra when tackling drafts is ‘Rewrite, Revise, and Repeat!’ It is true what they say: Writing is rewriting.

5. Did your writing process change during the pandemic?

To be honest, my writing process changed ever since I had a kid! I no longer had hours at my disposal. In that way, the pandemic has been similar since my husband and three-year-old are at home with me and between managing them and the household, I get pockets of time where I can squeeze in my writing. Before I had my daughter, I would sit at my laptop and ponder over how to approach the next chapter or scene. Nowadays, as soon as I get a chance to write, it’s go, go, go! Most of my rumination happens right before I fall asleep, while I’m cooking, or when I’m in the shower!