From chudails and peris to jinn and goddesses, this lush collection of South Asian folklore, legends, and epics reimagines stories of old for a modern audience.
This fantasy and science fiction teen anthology edited by Samira Ahmed and Sona Charaipotra contains a wide range of stories from fourteen bestselling, award-winning, and emerging writers from the South Asian diaspora that will surprise, delight, and move you. So read on, for after all, magic has no borders.
A pair of star-crossed lovers search for a way back to one another against all odds . . .
A girl fights for her life against a malignant, generations-old evil . . .
A peri seeks to reclaim her lost powers . . .
A warrior rebels against her foretold destiny . . .
With stories by:
- Sabaa Tahir, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Ember in the Ashes series, and winner of the National Book Award and Printz Award for All My Rage
- Sayantani DasGupta, New York Times bestselling author of the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series
- Preeti Chhibber, author of Spider-Man’s Social Dilemma
- Sona Charaipotra, author of Symptoms of a Heartbreak and How Maya Got Fierce, and coauthor of The Rumor Game and Tiny Pretty Things, now a Netflix original series.
- Tanaz Bhathena, award-winning author of Hunted by the Sky and Of Light and Shadow
- Sangu Mandanna, bestselling author of The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches and the Celestial Trilogy
- Olivia Chadha, author of Rise of the Red Hand
- Nafiza Azad, author of William C. Morris Award nominee, The Candle and the Flame
- Tracey Baptiste, New York Times bestselling author of The Jumbies series and Minecraft: The Crash
- Naz Kutub, author of The Loophole
- Nikita Gill, bestselling author of Wild Embers and Fierce Fairytales
- Swati Teerdhala, author of the Tiger at Midnight trilogy
- Shreya Ila Anasuya, New Voices selection
- Tahir Abrar, New Voices selection
Release date: May 23, 2023
Print pages: 352
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Listen to a sample
Magic Has No Borders
A goddess should not have to do her own assassinations. But if you want something done correctly, better do it yourself. So here we are again, for maybe the thousandth time. I say “maybe” because I stopped counting after about the three-hundredth reincarnation—a lot of them are a blur. But it always plays out pretty much the same. I awake into a new life and a new body, just in time to figure out who the target is, find all the traps that have been laid, foil them, kill the guy, and then go back to sleep until the next time the world forgets who I am.
It’s the forgetting I can’t stand. The whole point of being a goddess is the active worship. People need to remember and pay me my due respect. Sometimes that means I need to remind them by taking a life. It’s honor me or be killed. Simple. If people didn’t forget, we wouldn’t have to play this out over and over again, would we? So whose fault is that, huh? I refuse to be forgotten, to fall into the undignified realm of myth and legend or worse . . . superhero action movies.
Meanwhile, this host body is a little . . . let’s say, feisty. I can feel her fighting me, trying to regain control. Frankly, it’s sapping my energy and hella irritating. But it’s also what made her a good host in the first place.
Don’t worry, little host. You’ll have your body back as soon as I’m done with my mission. It’ll ruin your life, sure, but what’s one human life when we’re talking about the needs of a goddess? Shh.
“Kala? Kala! Are you listening?”
It’s my mother. This girl’s mother. It always takes a few hours to get used to the host’s name.
“Yes, Ma,” I say.
“I asked what time I’m picking you up today.”
I catch a glimpse of myself in the sun shield mirror. I’ve clearly just rolled out of bed. My dark curls are a mess and my eyes are still puffy.
“Don’t you have rehearsal?”
“Right,” I tell Kala’s—my—mother. “That.”
I squeeze the memory out of the host. “Six thirty. We’ll be done by then.”
And with any luck, so will I.
It’s great when things are smooth. I figure out which host body has Lakhindar. I find the best and most efficient way to execute him. I’m out of the host before anyone realizes what’s happened. I’m usually long gone before the confusion sets in and the questions begin. Why did this happen? Why would they do this? They were always so quiet. So friendly. No one saw this coming.
But sometimes I stick around long enough for someone to remember my name. They say Manasa, and suddenly they all know who I am, and they understand that these deaths are a consequence of their forgetfulness. They promise to always remember. And then . . .
“Well, get going, then,” my mother says. “You’ll be late.”
I get out of the car, pull my backpack on, and head into the school building. I have never been a high school student before. In New Jersey, no less. Once, I was in New Orleans during Prohibition. Now that was a good time. America in the 1920s was also great for fashion. I look down at the ripped jeans and crop top I’m wearing. It’s no beaded flapper dress, but a lot more comfortable than most things I’ve had to put on. I lose myself in the stream of students headed to class. They are mostly much taller than me. Every single time, I hope I’ll find myself in the body of someone tall. But I’m an Indian woman. We’re on the shorter side. Facts.
At the lockers, a girl with a bright orange stripe of hair waves at me.
“Hey Nikole.” I pull at the combination lock and fiddle with it.
Nikole rolls her eyes. “Seriously? You’re going to stand there like everybody isn’t waiting to hear what happened yesterday?”
I look around the hallway. Nobody seems to be waiting for anything.
“The hell happened with Marcus?”
As I pull out my stuff for chemistry, math, and world literature, I evaluate potential weapons: binder rings, a clicky pen, a dull pencil. Not stellar choices. “Nothing,” I say.
She shoves her phone in my face. It takes me a second to adjust my eyes so I can read all the text messages. The one next to her perfectly manicured thumb reads she kicked his ass.
I snort. “I don’t kick, and he doesn’t have much of an ass.”
“You’re saying there wasn’t a whole fight?”
I show her my hand. “I didn’t even bruise myself. It was one hit. Heel of my hand to his nose. He went down. It was over.”
Her laugh surprises the kids closest to us, but only for a moment. “Want me to do damage control?”
“The damage has been controlled already,” I say, and hold up both fists.
My hosts tend to be a little on the violent side. Hot-tempered, quick to react. It makes things easier for me to have a little rage to draw from, but also to have someone who already knows how to land a blow. But I’ve never had a host who was so thoroughly nonchalant about it. There’s usually some adrenaline. A rush of dopamine. But not this girl. I could not have picked a better host.
“Damn,” Nikole says. “You are cold.”
She grins. “So what does this mean now, for the two of you?”
I slam my locker closed. “It means I’m done.”
Through the whole chem period, I look around waiting for Lakhindar to show up. I’m anxious to get this over with. Killing Lakhindar is rarely the problem. It’s Behula who makes everything a nightmare. Her never-ending attempts to save him are infuriating. She hasn’t made an appearance, either. As soon as I sit in my second-period world literature class, I feel him arrive. It’s just like all the other times. An electrical current coats my skin and my head turns like a compass. Before I even spot him, I’m thinking about how this idiot only has a few hours left to live.
Lakhindar walks in. Tall. Bronze. A jawline of cut granite. One of those smiles that can melt ice. He is an actual god. My body temperature rises. My pulse quickens. Everything about me feels suddenly soggy and rigid at the same time. He slips into the desk behind me.
Fuck his fucking deep beautiful voice. Fuck.
“Kala.” He whispers it like his tongue is heavy with honey. Like he is wrapping me in something soft.
“Yes.” It is more of a sigh than a word.
“I heard about what happened with you and Marcus.” He is leaning so close, the hairs on my neck strain toward him. “Did that have something to
do with me?”
I turn around. It’s like looking directly at the sun. “You are not the center of the universe, you know.” Except, he might be.
“Okay. I just thought that maybe because you and I . . .”
“At the moment, you and I aren’t anything, remember? We agreed.”
He frowns. He seems hurt by this. I feel an actual stab of pain. “I thought . . . never mind.”
I cannot stop looking at his mouth, at the rise and fall of his shoulders as he breathes, at the way the bit of sunlight from the windows plays on his dark hair.
It looks like Lakhindar hasn’t fully arrived in the body of this kid yet. I can sense him beneath the surface, but why he’s not emerging, I can’t tell. In the meantime, this kid is playing out a life I just don’t have the time for. Still, I lean in a little because he smells a bit spicy. I want to inhale him more deeply, when I should be focused on how exactly I am going to kill him. Because the moment Behula arrives, whatever this is between his breath and my own is not going to matter.
“I know we agreed, but you went ahead and punched Marcus in the face. So that means you two are done, right? And that also means that you and I . . .”
“I already said, this is not about you.”
He pulls back, and I focus on the front of the room. What are the available weapons in a literature class? Death by a million paper cuts? Inefficient. There’s the possibility of slamming his head into the corner of a desk, landing right at the temple. I gauge his height and the leverage I would need to execute this. The physics are against me. I have to wait for Behula, anyway. She has to see it.
The kid, who will very soon become Lakhindar—though I wish he would hurry up already—gives me a side-eye at the end of class. Even his side-eye is hot. I adjust my hair a little so it’s slightly over my face and fiddle with my notebooks so he’s way ahead by the time I get out into the hallway. He looks great from the back, too. Like a swimmer. All muscle sloping down to a V and a really, really tight—
“Dammit!” My books are all over the hallway, and someone hops over my chem lab notes and continues walking rather than helping me. I stoop to grab everything and look his way again, but Lakhindar is gone.
“You could say ‘excuse me,’” a girl says. She’s standing over me with something of a haughty look on her face.
“Why should I? It’s my stuff all over the floor.”
“If you were paying attention to where you were going instead of staring at Jay Hassan’s ass, it wouldn’t have happened.”
I grab at my lab notes, pinned under the heel of her sneaker. As I pull, she rocks back so the paper rips.
It’s then I catch the scent of her, like poison in the air. Sweet, cloying, covering something that would burn you from the inside out. Like floral-scented air freshener in a gas station toilet.
I bristle. “Behula.
She smiles. No matter how many times we’ve done this, or how many bodies she’s occupied, that smile—that smug, irritating, vicious smile—remains the same. It’s the kind of smile that makes you want to slap the teeth out of somebody’s face.
“Manasa.” She says my name as if there are shards of glass in her mouth.
“It’s Kala, actually.” I straighten up with the pieces of my lab notes.
“Get this,” she says. “My name’s Ronnie. Short for Veronica. Cute, huh?”
“Adorable,” I say. “Enjoy your little fun, because it’s not going to last.”
“Not this time,” she says. She looks back to where Lakhindar was before he turned the corner and applies some lipstick to her smirky mouth. “I think I might really enjoy this one.”
I could get this over with. I could run down the hallway, grab Lakhindar by the hair, and drag him back in front of her as I bludgeon him with a binder. I could stab him in the eye with a dull pencil and hold him down while he bleeds out. Behula will see it happen. But neither of these are efficient. Someone in one of these classrooms will stop me. Call for help before he’s good and dead. Plus, there are rules. Lakhindar has to be here, too. All the way in the body of his host. I have no choice but to wait. At least it gives me the opportunity to plan.
Meanwhile, the real Kala is trying so hard to assert herself. She does not want me to do this. I’ve never had a host fight me so hard.
“It’ll be quick. I promise,” I whisper to her.
“Ha, I don’t think so,” Behula says.
I guess I wasn’t as quiet as I thought.
“I think this time, you fail,” Behula continues. “Then nobody will remember who you are. Forever.”
As I turn to my next class, Behula runs a streak of her purple lipstick down my top.
“What. The actual. Fuck.”
“Just for fun,” she says.
“Oh, is it fun we’re trying to have?” I say. “All right, then. Let’s have fun.”
I watch Behula leave, then, instead of going to my next class, I return to the chemistry lab.
“Did you forget something, Kala?” the chemistry teacher asks.
I hold up my ripped lab notes.
“Need tape?” she asks.
“There’s some kind of gunk on the back of it, too,” I say. “I’m just going to write out a fresh one.”
“I need to go to the office,” she says. “You’ll be okay here by yourself?”
the door when you leave.”
Poison is an efficient way to kill a person. Simple. Bloodless. Doesn’t require brute force. Elegant. But no one ever calls me elegant. They hate me. They fear me. But if that means respect, I’ll take it. Plus, I understand poison. Venom, really. It’s one of the advantages of being birthed as a divine snake.
Another advantage is Kala’s relationship with her chemistry teacher. I can’t imagine most kids would be trusted enough to be left alone in a lab. Once again, I’m thrilled at my host selection, even as she fights against me. She actually stopped my hand when I reached for the 2,4-dinitrophenol. Which is why we’re going subtler. Less explosive. More in my wheelhouse.
I like whipping up a good poison. It’s all about creativity. Kind of like making a meal. There are plenty of combinations with potential. I could burn his skin off or make him puke until he bleeds . . . lots of ways to go. Kala hates each of these options. She makes the process painfully slow. I slip and spill all over the place. But I’m stronger. I’m in charge. And ultimately, it’s my decision, though it’s Behula who seals Lakhindar’s fate.
Behula, the dutiful wife from the stories, sworn to save her poor helpless husband Lakhindar from me, the vengeful snake goddess. Why vengeance? Because Lakhindar’s death was sealed by his family’s disrespect to me. Imagine, not giving a goddess her due—well, they paid for that. In the beginning, I almost felt bad for them, suffering for other people’s mistakes. But over the millennia, we sank into our roles, and a heated hatred grew between Behula and me.
This time, my vengeance is poetry, because she inspires the method of delivery.
At lunch, Nikole slides in next to me at the table. “He’s here, you know,” she says. “Marcus.”
“I do not give a shit about Marcus.” It is both me, Manasa, and host Kala who says this. The unison feels good. It feels right to be on the same side, to not fight each other.
“He’s your boyfriend,” Nikole says.
I roll my eyes. I don’t have time for the distraction. I need to get the job done.
It’s Kala. Shit. That moment of working together let her break through to the surface somehow, and now I can hear her clearly.
I feel her fear. Her desperation. Her wild despair over why this is happening to her. I feel sorry for her. Actually sorry. It’s not her fault. It’s none of the hosts’ faults. It’s just . . . this is bigger than three people. This is divine. Cosmic. Still . . .
I’m sorry, I tell her.
Marcus sits next to me and looks me in the eye. His are bruised from my hit. I turn away quickly. This is not like me, not facing up to someone. Kala is distracting me, making this whole ordeal harder than it needs to be. “Is this really about you and me, or is it a
bout you and Jay?” he asks.
I sigh. I do not want to be distracted by teenage love triangle drama. I don’t want to know about this kid’s feelings. Or what is going to happen after Lakhindar is dead, and Jay Hassan with him. I am not supposed to care that Kala is going to pay for my actions. I need to focus on my honor. I am only supposed to care about what I’m owed: respect, reverence, supplication.
“Tell me, Kala,” he continues. “What’s going on with you and Jay?”
I’ve had enough. It’s time to end this. I search the cafeteria, ...
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