Book Review: The Wall by Gautam Bhatia (Sumer #1)

Genre : Fantasy

Publisher : HarperCollins India

Length : 420 pages

Format : ebook

Rating : 4 stars

Publication Date : August 13th 2020


Mithila’s world is bound by a Wall enclosing the city of Sumer—nobody goes out, nothing comes in. The days pass as they have for two thousand years: just enough to eat for just enough people, living by the rules. Within the city, everyone knows their place.

But when Mithila tries to cross the Wall, every power in Sumer comes together to stop her. To break the rules is to risk all of civilization collapsing. But to follow them is to never know: who built the Wall? Why? And what would the world look like if it didn’t exist?

As Mithila and her friends search for the truth, they must risk losing their families, the ones they love, and even their lives. Is a world they can’t imagine worth the only world they have?


The city of Sumer has been surrounded by a Wall for more than two thousand years. Some people think that the Wall was built in order to protect the citizens of Sumer, others think that it’s a divine retribution.

The people of Sumer are so used to this Wall that they can’t imagine a life without it. From Wallrise to Wallset, the citizens fulfill their duties dictated by their Mandalas, the caste system of the city. People from lower Mandalas have leadership roles, live in the heart of the city and have access to rare goods like the precious and rare indigo pigment. The other citizens live in the outer edge of the city, near the Wall and they have to perform more menial tasks than their counterparts.

This rigid system has been in place for centuries and, the majority of citizens can’t imagine a Sumer without the Mandalas and the Wall. However, some people can, like Mithilda and her friends who call themselves the Young Tarafians. They are united by the same wish: to live in a different world, a world without the Wall, a world with a horizon.

However, Mithilda’s quest is not without risk, the only people who strived for a life beyond the Wall – like Taraf, a revolutionary scholar whose name inspired the Young Tarafians, or Garuda, Mithilda’s own brother – all died because of their ideas. Indeed, leaving the Wall behind would mean that their entire society is based on lies and every power in the city is willing to stop the spreading of revolutionary ideas.

The Shoortans are the members of a religious organization based on the principle that the Wall was created to punish the humans who didn’t follow the command of the Builders. They claim that it will disappear when the people of Sumer will atone for their original sin and, they are ready for anything to protect their beliefs. If the Young Tarafians persist with their quest, they might end up losing everything and everyone they care about. But how can they stop searching for the truth?

This book is one of the most surprising debuts I have read this year. The Wall is a quiet and contemplative coming of age story following a large cast of characters as they try to do what they feel is right for them, their loved-ones and for Sumer. It is about breaking away from expectations and question the governing bodies when they are in the wrong.

If I hadn’t known beforehand that The Wall was Bhatia’s first novel, I wouldn’t have guessed it. The writing is excellent and it transported me into the world of Sumer. Some passages are so beautifully written that they deserve to be read out loud to fully appreciate them.

Learning about Sumer, a city created in order to provide exactly what is needed to its citizens, nothing more and nothing less, was fascinating. I was especially interested by the caste system, the Shoortan cult and the Select, the body of scientists who is supposed to find out more about the Wall.  The whole discussion surrounding the possible consequences of breaching it was fascinating to me. Indeed, the Young Tarafians are in favor of destroying it or finding ways to bypass it without knowing the possible consequences of such actions. However, for most people, it is more convenient to ignore the problem and to remain in Plato’s cave, even if it means living forever trapped by the Wall.

I had a great time reading this novel but I have to say that the character work could be improved. The main characters were a bit one dimensional, especially Mithilda. I understand that her main motivation is to be free of the Wall but, by the end of the book, I didn’t feel like I knew her outside of her role as the leader of the Young Tarafians. Some characters with a lot less “page-time” like Mankala or Maji felt way more fleshed out than her. Also, it was a bit hard to distinguish some characters at first because they had similar names and the cast of characters was big enough that it was a tad confusing (like Malati, Minashki, Marwana, Mankala…). I have to say that the Dramatis Personae at beginning of the novel was very helpful and I referred to it a number of times!

If you are looking for a thought-provoking read about revolution, friendship and questioning the establishment, I definitely recommend The Wall. I’m looking forward to the sequel, I wonder if it will have a stronger focus on the science fiction elements or not (some things hinted at the possibility! :D).

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Gautam Bhatia and Harper Collins India . All opinions are my own.


6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Wall by Gautam Bhatia (Sumer #1)

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