The winner of the Best Children Book of the Year in 2019 for the book The Hidden Children, which was also longlisted for the NEEV award, Reshma K Barshikar is back with Book 2 in the series, The Lost Prisoner (Two Ravens Publishing Private Limited), another magical YA fantasy set in Mumbai.
In this dark and breathtaking adventure, Barshikar takes us back to the fantastical world of witches, magic, and a beautiful friendship between four friends who are standing at the crossroads of their lives, again.
An Indian YA fantasy with a very global theme The Hidden Children series is an Indian Harry Potter coming-of-age fantasy series filled with themes of friendship, magic, romance, and mystery.
Excerpts from the book (Pg 165-171)
A dull ache flooded my insides as we reached the apartment. I wondered if I could ask him for a ride around the block but then he parked and two pairs of feet walked into the building together. When we reached the apartment, I opened the door and he walked past me without saying a word. Minutes later we entered my room and I scrambled for the lights, trying to control the tremble in my fingers.
‘Your parents are asleep?’ he asked quietly. ‘I think so,’ I said.
‘Your brother?’ Akiva leaned against the window ledge.
‘Probably out with the band.’ I said, looking at him looking at me. ‘Will you get into trouble if they find me in here?’
‘Probably,’ I said, walking up to the window. He sidestepped for me and I rummaged behind the curtain for the matchsticks. ‘Sometimes I wish I was pitta,’ I muttered and he reached across and took my finger in his hand. He brought it to his lips and blew on it and a flame danced on the tip. ‘Show oR,’ I said but my knees felt weak. He lit the three candles I kept on the ledge one after the other with my finger. He then lifted it to his mouth and blew it out.
He stepped backwards creating space between us. He reached for my study chair and sat down, hands on his lap, as awkward as I felt, no casualness now. ‘What do your parents think of all of this?’
‘My father hates it and my mother tolerates it.’ I went to sit on the bed. ‘Are you nervous?’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I think I am. I haven’t really been in a girl’s bedroom-’
I lunged and snatched him by the wrist and shoved him into the bathroom before he could utter a word. Łe handle turned and Mom walked in carrying the book.
‘Hey,’ I said, heat rushing to my head.
‘For something you lost so much for, you are treating this with a lot of disdain,’ she said, reaching for the silver box on my study desk. She placed it inside and sat down on the bed. ‘You came in late,’ she smiled.
‘Mom, I am really tired.’
‘Of course! I will tuck you in while you tell me all about coRee. How was the date? Tell me everything! How handsome is he? Did you take a picture on your phone? A selfie? Wait? Who dropped you? It’s pretty late for him to drop you, no?’
‘Sorry,’ I muttered.
‘It’s fine. You’re home now and you turn 17 next month. God, you’ve grown up so fast.’ She covered her mouth with her hand.
‘I have basketball practice tomorrow, Mom,’ I said.
‘You look a bit flushed in the face. Are you getting your period?’ ‘Mom!’
‘So cranky.’ She cupped my face and kissed me on my forehead. ‘We will have a nice family breakfast before you go to practice tomorrow.’
Another knock on my door and before I could react, Baba walked
in wearing a white kurta pyjama. Łey had chosen tonight to check up on me. ‘I heard you went on a date!’
‘It wasn’t a date, Baba. He was just helping me out with the Bile Rath stuR.’
‘He’s from the Bile Rath, huh?’ Baba pushed his glasses up on his nose.
‘Yes,’ I said, digging my heels into the floor. ‘How old?
‘I don’t know actually,’ I said, and I didn’t. ‘Maybe 18 or 19? I think he is taking a gap year from uni.’
‘Łat is old,’ he was looking at Mom. Mom nodded. ‘A little old, yes.
I wanted to die. ‘I turn 17 next month,’ I said. ‘Can we please discuss this tomorrow?’
‘Yes,’ she tapped Baba’s arm. ‘She’s about to get her period I think.’
‘Oh poor child.’ Heat rushed to my face like I’d opened the oven door. ‘Ok, ok,’ he floundered and ruAed my hair. ‘Good night. Basketball
tomorrow, no? I will wake you.’
I waited for them to leave, locked the door as soon as they were out and suddenly felt weak. ‘Łey’re gone,’ I called out quietly.
He stepped out, a large smile on his face. ‘I am a little hurt that you didn’t think it was a date,’ he said, clutching his chest with one hand. He didn’t wear humor well, but I liked that he tried. ‘I see why you don’t need the Bile Rath. You have everything here,’ he looked around like he was in a cathedral with a beautiful dome instead of my bedroom that had silver cobwebs hanging oR the oR-white fan. He sat down on the floor with his back resting against the bed. I slid down next to him and a wave of exhaustion hit me. I had Akiva in my room, alone, and yet all I wanted to do was sleep. I resisted leaning my head against his shoulder. He had picked up the book and was examining the cover. ‘It is small,’ he said. ‘Most buyu kitab are much larger.’
‘Like kala kitab? Łat’s what we call grimoires in Hindi I think.’ I said
He nodded. ‘I have seen a few because of my mother, she was well known in the arts of high magic.’
‘Calling demons and Gods?’
He snorted, ‘More like spells but definitely communing with the
Umara. She was an exceptional borrower.’
‘Grimoires are keys,’ he said, his voice sunk an octave as he opened the book to the centre where the leaf lay. ‘Łey unlock your power.’
‘Mine or like anyone’s?’
‘Anyone’s. A Grimoire is two things. It can be a magic manual-’ ‘-like Ikea instructions?’
‘Yes. Some are like that. Very step by step, put this here, make that circle there. Łis is especially good for borrowers because we are not
from the shaman. A shaman could probably look at a cup and go – rise great cup and kill the sun.’
I laughed. ‘You seem to be in good humour today!’
‘I have had a very good day, I mean I went on a date,’ he chuckled and I punched his arm, ‘Anyway. Łese books are very important to borrowers so this is very cool. I am touching a great woman’s Grimoire and a leaf from an Athsava.’
‘Łe Bile Rath tree?’ I asked, ‘Łen I think it’s the Howrah tree in
His brows furrowed. “You do know stuR.”
I returned the look. ‘I know stuR. So, do you know Abha?’ ‘Everyone knows Abha.’
‘I think she was bless-sed. Well, she was from Cal and I think she was my great, great a few more greats grandmother. See,’ I showed him a doodle of the ouroboros on the left.
‘You really say too much,’ he sighed. ‘You just told me everything about your lineage. I want you to concentrate and use this,’ he tapped gently on the book. ‘Łis is not just your family Grimoire. A large part of your latent power can be unlocked with what is in here. Her ideas. Her thoughts. Łis Grimoire is a piece of the person who wrote it. It is power handed down through memory.’
I twirled a finger at him and yawned. ‘You’ve got a very cryptic wise man thing going you know.’
‘You like making jokes when things get serious.’ ‘Yes, I have facetious personality disorder.’
‘People who do that are usually scared of something. What are you scared of?’
I scowled and sucked my lips and made a popping sound. ‘Let’s see,’ I began to count on my fingers. ‘One dead, one kidnapped, one pissed oR God that still gives me nightmares, one Siddhi that hates me and oh … I have a psychotic birth Mom who left me when I was
a toddler. Also, everyone knows who I am and they expect something from me. It’s not fair –’
‘-life’s not fair.’ ‘Łat’s mean.’
‘I am sorry. No one’s Mom should leave them,’ he said quietly. ‘But sometimes people have no choice about what happens to them. But it doesn’t look like anyone has left you. Look at them,’ he pointed to the door and smiled. ‘A dad who is okay talking about your period is very cool.’
I stared at him in disbelief. He brought his knees to his chest, resting his chin on them. He looked like a little boy now, one errant strand curling into his eye. I ached to set it straight.
‘I want to see you do something,’ I said. ‘I did show you something.’
‘Something else,’ I said. ‘Can you do anything?’
‘You are obsessed with doing,’ he scoRed, head still nestled on his knees. ‘Łeoretically, I can do anything. But because it is not innate, like yours, it is not for free, so I must be careful.’
‘What is the price?’ I asked. ‘Energy, sometimes more,’ he said.
‘Do something,’ I ordered, sitting up straight.
His eyes darted over my face even as he remained still. Łen the light went out and something glowed and all the candles came on one by one. He hadn’t even flinched. My heart was beating so fast.
A butterfly flitted past me, it’s blue wings iridescent in the slant of the flame. It flew to the tip of his nose.
‘It’s reckless,’ he said, looking at me. ‘Like you.’ ‘People say beautiful,’ I scowled.
A horn blew on the road and our eyes lost contact. ‘I need to go,’ he blurted.
NO! His eyes widened. ‘Wait a while,’ my words felt brittle. I pressed my palms into the floor, rocked forward, and kissed a dimple below his cheek. His eyes were so near I could count his eyelashes. I rocked back, ‘Łank you for today.’
He looked lost for a moment then stood up and I couldn’t help but smile. ‘I think my parents are watching TV so unless you want to say good night to them or jump out of the window, you will have to wait. Or you could fly like Rumna. Can you fly?’
‘I will wait till they sleep,’ he pointed to the chair. He lifted the book and put it back into the trunk and pressed his fingers on it. ‘So here is the book of Abha,’ he whispered, mostly to himself.
When I woke up, it was dark and the smell of oranges lingered in the air. He was gone. I fell back on my pillow and let my thoughts play tag with each other. As sleep ebbed and flowed, I realised I’d never told Akiva my brother owned a bike. A shiver slid down my spine like an ice cube and without thinking I reached for the bag of salt; she was here. My eyes flickered to the book and I lunged across the bed and grabbed the box. I sprayed a circle of salt around me.
‘I know you’re here, Spidey, and I’m not afraid of you,’ I lied.