Rummanah Aasi
  I needed a mini break from reading a string of YA books. Don't get me wrong, I love YA but sometimes after reading them back to back everything tends to blur into one big mass and I have a hard time separating titles. Thanks to Joseph Lewis, I was able to escape to a different world momentarily by reading his short story collection called Tales of Asha, Volume 1: Death. I was given the book in an exchange for an honest review.

Description: The Tale of Asha series is a collection of fantasy short stories following the strange adventures of the herbalist Asha and the nun Priya as they travel across India. The collection is composed of three short stories. In the first story called "Lotus Cave", the title character Asha is introduced. She is a traveling herbalist, who is investigating a local legend about a demon who once drank up a river and the young Buddhist nun who helped restore the river but never returned from the loctus cave.  As Joesph mentioned in his post yesterday, the first story establishes the setting as well as introduces the main characters, Asha and Priya. In the second story, "The Fever Mist", Asha and Priya tend to a sick boy who is sensitive to light and sound. Only the boy's father's mysterious past can help cure his son, but the only cure could be death. The third and final story in this volume is called "The Shinning Scales", where Asha is attracted to a man who has lost his wife and is willing to do anything to keep his wife's memory alive. 

Review:  I enjoyed reading the first volume of the Tales of Asha. I absolutely loved Lewis's description of Asha's world. The words he chooses are so precise and chosen with care. I could almost hear, see, and feel the heavy rain fall and the arduous climbing that Asha takes in "The Lotus Cave". The theme of death is present in each story and takes on a different meaning to each of the characters presented in the story.
  Asha and Priya are intriguing characters who come from different backgrounds. Asha is a herbalist with a special talent due to a childhood accident. Priya is a 200 year old Buddhist nun, who balances Asha's cynicism with her world. The two work well together and have good chemistry. I had a little bit of a hard time connecting to these characters because of the third person narrative writing style. Though we are given some background information about the lives of these two heroines, I wasn't able to get into the heads of these characters as much as I would have liked to.  I did, however, get the sense there is more than meets the eye to these characters in the last and my favorite story, "The Shinning Scales", where Asha is emotionally invested with her case due to her own loneliness despite the stoic face she tends to put on.
  While  the stories are a blend of historical fantasy and paranormal mystery that is set in India, I would have loved a more developed world building. India has a rich history and lots of mythology. Perhaps it was my mistake to think that these would be included in the short story. There were many times where I completely forgot I was in India until a sari or a village name was mentioned.
  Overall, I did enjoy reading this collection and would recommend it to readers who want to read about books in a different world or society. I'm definitely interested in the characters would love to learn more about them and their world. If you would like to get a taste of Lewis's writing and a feel for the story, you can read the first story for free on smashwords.   

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is a small sex scene in the third story, but it's not very graphic. I would recommend this title to high school students interested in fantasy short stories and to adults.

If you like this book try: Tales of Asha Volume 2 (coming Summer 2011) or Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor
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