Sidge is the lone bugman, an insectoid humans look down on, adopted and raised by his human master at the Stormblade Temple. The whole story has a melancholy undertone stemming from this theme. Poor Sidge is treated terribly by most people, his race is considered inferior and bestial, he knows nothing of his heritage and bloodline, and he goes on the arduous pilgrimage journey with his semi absent-minded master Izhar. A good part of the book takes place on the road, where Sidge and his master join the pilgrimage caravan headed to the Stronghold. Sidge discovers mysteries and finds more questions as he finds some answers along the way.
The story is overall decent, but has a few rough edges, especially in the beginning chapters. The pilgrimage journey is slow-paced for the most part, nothing much happens except for a few scary moments, the encounter with a troll and Sidge's spiritual vision. The most interesting character of the whole story is introduced in the earlier part of the journey: Mistress Kaaliya, a street-wise woman who has a big mouth and a colorful personality. Sidge is the main character, and has the potential to be interesting since he is a non-human, but the emotional depth is greatly lacking. Kaaliya steals the show for a good part of the book. The undertone of melancholy is well done, but the whole thing falls flat since there is too much emphasis on Sidge's insect organs and not enough on his inner world. The only notable emotional aspects are Sidge having a crush on Kaaliya and his "Oh crap, now we are screwed!" moments.
I noticed a few spelling errors and the excessive emphasis on Sidge's insect features made some scenes rather comical (the author trying too hard to show us Sidge has four hands, for example,which resulted in some of Sidge's gestures looking like a caricature) but it eases up in later chapters and the story becomes a smooth read.
Things get interesting once the small party consisting of Sidge, Master Izhar, Kaaliya and the mysterious mentally challenged giant they named Chuman reach the final destination, the story picks up pace and becomes truly entertaining. The ending lacked the climax I expected and fell flat, a bit too cliche if you will. The whole concept of otherness and trying to find one's place in the world, as well as the India inspired setting and neat mythology are the highlights of the story. I think its target audience is young readers rather than adults, and despite the lack of epic quests and massive stakes, it is overall a decent read with a cool setting.
There is a teaser for the second book in the end, which I found quite engaging and I think I would pick up the second book of the series to see where it goes.