Read an Excerpt From Of Light and Shadow

When they don’t give us our birthright, we steal it.

We’re thrilled to share an excerpt from young adult fantasy Of Light and Shadow by Tanaz Bhathena, out from Farrar, Straus and Giroux on May 23.

Roshan Chaya is out for justice. Abandoned by her parents at birth and adopted by the kingdom of Jwala’s most notorious bandit before his brutal murder, she is now leader of the Shadow Clan, a gang of farmers-turned-bandits impoverished by the provincial governor’s atrocities and corruption. Roshan’s goal: to avenge her adoptive father and earn back rights and dignity for her people.

Prince Navin has always felt like an outcast. Second in line for the throne, he has never been close to his grandmother, Queen Bhairavi of Jwala. When a night out drinking with friends leads to his capture by the infamous Shadow Clan, Navin schemes to befriend Roshan and use her as a means to escape. His ploy, however, brings Navin closer to the corruption and poverty at the heart of Roshan’s province, raising questions about its governor and Navin’s own family.

To further complicate things, the closer Roshan and Navin get, the harder it becomes to fight their growing attraction. But how can they trust each other when the world as they know it starts to fall apart?



As a prince of Jwala, Navin was used to being greeted with flower garlands. With servile bows, honorifics, and false compliments about his “blindingly gold” eyes, wherever he went.

The Shadow Bandit of Ashvamaidan didn’t care for such formalities. She had wielded her magic with cold brutality, her spell painfully icing his vocal cords in a way that reminded him of the palace hakim, who’d been asked to examine Navin’s throat when he’d abruptly stopped singing as a child.

Navin knew who the Shadow Bandit was, of course. Everyone in Jwala did. When she’d first appeared on the scene last year, looting a branch of the Ministry of Treasure in Surag and then disappearing without a trace, every news scroll in the kingdom, including the widely circulated Jwala Khabri, had tried to uncover her identity. This mysterious, masked daughter of the bandit Bhim Chaya—a young woman notoriously good at killing people, usually with magic meant for healing. Hakims in Jwala called the Shadow Bandit an abomination—someone who clearly did not care about the sanctity of life magic, someone whose soul had rotted through and through.

She watched him now with dark brown eyes that could skewer, a look that burned like a hand stuck in a tandoor. Even the colors of her aura, which should have been distinctly visible to him, had faded, but that was probably the effect of binge drinking with Shera earlier that night. Alcohol always dimmed Navin’s soul magic to a degree—not that he’d ever listened to anyone who’d warned him against consuming it. The roof of his mouth was blistered over with tiny bumps—a side effect of using soul magic—blood now added to the rotting mix of flavors in his mouth.

Yet, as painful as the blisters could be when he overexerted his powers, Navin preferred them to the dizzy spells or incapacitating stomachaches his brother, Farhad, got. While all kinds of magic drained energy, the magic that drew the most power from a person—soul magic, in Navin and Farhad’s case—always had the worst effect. His blisters were a reminder of this, one of the rare times he envied Jwala’s small non-magus population.

Tonight, Navin hadn’t even expected to use magic. His morning had been spent racing horses with Shera across the Aspa haveli grounds in Ashvamaidan and the evening at a tavern in the nearby port city of Surag, where they both downed glass after glass of strong tharra.

Later, while Shera had slipped off somewhere with a giggling maid, Navin had spent an hour conversing with a beautiful young Suragi man and woman. Their hands had brushed Navin’s fingers, his arm, and his cheeks in an unmistakable suggestion. Unfortunately, by then, all the alcohol he’d drunk began churning in Navin’s belly, threatening to expel itself from his mouth.

He’d declined the couple’s invitation to get a room and, for reasons he could no longer recall, bypassed the Aspa haveli altogether to head for the docks. There he clambered onto the first dhow headed to the capital. It didn’t matter that it was a cargo boat, or that Governor Yazad Aspa’s guards had fretted over Navin’s presence and security. Once Navin had turned on the magic in his voice, their eyes had glazed over like puppets, and all he’d had to do was pull the strings.

Should’ve just had the threesome, Navin thought now as he examined his captors.

Dressed in shades of brown and black, the bandits wore turbans wrapped on a hard angle in the manner of provincial farmers, the coiled fabric nearly covering their left ears. Unlike the farmers, though, who tucked in every stray bit of fabric, the bandits had purposefully left one end of their turbans longer than the other, using the spare cloth to mask their features.

Navin held still, though every inch of his body ached to move. Hung over as he was, he knew what folly it would be to try to push past a healer’s magic, to strain his powers when he was this weak. Navin hadn’t spoken to nor seen his father in a decade, but in this moment, he couldn’t help but wish he’d taken more after the peri: especially when it came to the power of song and making human ears bleed.

A boatful of ear bleeds would be so damned convenient right now. “What happened, Roshan Didi?” someone murmured. A small boy of ten or eleven looked up at Navin, his brown eyes wide.

Curiosity stirred. Navin watched as the Shadow Bandit stiffened. So her name was Roshan, then.

In Paras, the word could mean both light and fame, and, strangely enough, it suited her. She was both bright and famous—in all the wrong ways.

“He’s a soul magus, Chotu.” Roshan’s voice was like sandpaper, raspy and oddly pleasing to the ear. Navin had to give her credit for not snapping at the boy or scolding him for giving her away.

“What does that mean?” the boy asked, more curious than afraid. “It means he can use his voice to magically manipulate your emotions and make you do exactly what he wants. It is why we’re going to gag him now.”

A rag that smelled like stale grass-oil and piss was promptly stuffed into his mouth. Roshan touched Navin’s numbed throat again.

Heat rushed back in pinpricks of pain. His voice—thank goddess, his voice—emerged in muffled sounds and grunts of retribution.

“Don’t worry, Rajkumar,” the Shadow Bandit said, her brown eyes glinting. “You’ll end up home with the parasmani. Eventually.”

“Are you sure?” another man asked. He carried an old-fashioned atashban on one shoulder and assessed Navin in the way one did a target, deciding which part to shoot first. “Maybe we should get rid of him.”

“Not yet. He’s more valuable alive at the moment. Parcel him up.”

It was the last Navin would see and hear of the Shadow Bandit before someone bludgeoned him over the head and darkness fell all over again.


Excerpted from Of Light and Shadow, copyright © 2023 by Tanaz Bhathena.


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