Vishesh Unni Raghunathan
GRAVEPYRES SCHOOL FOR THE RECENTLY DECEASED by Anita Roy Westland/Red Panda, 2020, 225 pp., 499.00
November 2020, volume 44, No 11

Joseph Srinivas wakes up one day to find that things aren’t quite right. He hasn’t jumped through a closet door, nor got a special letter—he just happens to find himself in a strange new place. He is greeted by Mishi, a fellow transitioner who guides him through Gravepyres, a school for children recently deceased. Joseph unsure of how to unlearn all that he has known his entire life, wants to find a way to get back home to his family. He discovers that the vultures can travel between the world of the living and the dead, and wants them to take him back. However, the lake through which they travel between the worlds is drying up because the River of Time which feeds it isn’t flowing as it used to, and no one knows why.

Joseph and Mishi embark on an adventure, following the River of Time up the Kozitsthereistan mountains to its source where they discover the reason for the river drying up. Along with the help of an eccentric baba, and creatures thought not to exist, Joseph and Mishi restore the flow of the River of Time. Every adventure comes to an end, and Joseph’s ends with the Final Test.

Anita Roy is an experienced storyteller and the book has all the essential elements which make a good fantasy adventure novel.  She combines a familiar world of a castle like school, quirky teachers and seemingly nonsensical subjects, all with a bit of Indian-ness. The wordplays while not everyone’s cup of tea, work well enough.

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