Hunted by the Sky by Tanaz Bhathena (The Wrath of Ambar #1)
Gul has spent her life running. She has a star-shaped birthmark on her arm, and in the kingdom of Ambar, girls with such birthmarks have been disappearing for years. Gul's mark is what caused her parents' murder at the hand of King Lohar's ruthless soldiers and forced her into hiding to protect her own life. So when a group of rebel women called the Sisters of the Golden Lotus rescue her, take her in, and train her in warrior magic, Gul wants only one thing: revenge.
Cavas lives in the tenements, and he's just about ready to sign his life over to the king's army. His father is terminally ill, and Cavas will do anything to save him. But sparks fly when he meets a mysterious girl--Gul--in the capital's bazaar, and as the chemistry between them undeniably grows, he becomes entangled in a mission of vengeance--and discovers a magic he never expected to find.
Dangerous circumstances have brought Gul and Cavas together at the king's domain in Ambar Fort . . . a world with secrets deadlier than their own. Exploring identity, class struggles, and high-stakes romance, Hunted by the Sky is a gripping adventure set in a world inspired by medieval India.
TITLE: Hunted by the Sky
AUTHOR: Tanaz Bhathena with Soneela Nankani (Narrator), Neil Shah (Narrator)
PUBLISHER: Recorded Books, Inc.
LENGTH: 384 pages (13 hours 40 minutes)
AGE: Young Adult
Partial Queer Rep Summary: Lesbian/Sapphic Secondary Character(s).
DNF 7 hours 32 minutes in (55%).
I like the narrator for Gul's portion. This isn't the first audiobook performance I've listened to by her and I like her style. What kills it for me is the male narrator. The performer for Cavas has a voice which sounds like he came straight from working on a Trump impression to do this audiobook. It's annoying during the main narration when he's portraying Cavas's thoughts and speech. Then, it becomes even worse when any female characters speak, as he gives them grating falsettos which are only barely differentiated. Luckily, Gul narrates much more of the book than Cavas does, and if I had access to a printed edition of the book I would have switched to that as soon as he first spoke.
Setting aside the audio for a moment, I can't stand Gul. She was fine but a bit annoying, then midway through she shamed a girl for what she thought was a history of sex work but turned to actually have been rape and other abuses while a small child. Gul ended up apologizing and the only thing I liked about it is that the other person didn't accept the apology. Even if she'd been correct that it was sex work and consensual, that still would have been awful to try and shame her for it. In terms of the writing for the other girl, she was wielding that history of sexual abuse to try and say Gul wasn't ready or tough enough because she hadn't suffered enough as someone who'd "only" had her parents murdered in front of her.
The oppression olympics are noxious, I have zero emotional investment in Cavas (supposedly the love interest but at over halfway through I'm not seeing that yet, he's just a boy who's there), and I don't like Gul.
Partial CW for sexual content (brief), cursing (brief mention), grief, xenophobia, bullying, emotional abuse, sexual assault (backstory), child abuse (backstory), excrement (brief), fire/fire injury, gore, blood, violence, terminal illness (backstory), war (backstory), trafficking, slavery (brief mention), torture (backstory), parental death, child death (backstory), death.