I have always been a big fan of Rick Riordon, and have loved his original ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians series’ the best. Though I have read most of what Riordon has produced, the sense of humour, the pacy dangerous style, and the constant exposure to the impossible have all fused together to make the series extremely enjoyable.
Move over Rick Riordon, for our very own Jash Sen has come up with her own rendition of the Desi Pantheon…the erratic Dhoomvati, the vengeful Purandar, the evil Kali (not to be confused with the Goddess, this is the God of our times – ruling greed, passion, and inhumanness), and of course the saviour Kalki and his sidekick…the tomboy Balaram, who happens to be a little girl in addition to numerous other Gods, Goddesses, Humans and Monsters.
Though written for the 12-14 year olds (and I am introducing my own 14 year old daughter to the series), this could appeal to anyone in general and to me in particular – a mythology and history buff who loves to travel and read. I loved the ‘modern’ Vibhisan, felt immensely sorry for the Chiranjeevi (he who lives forever) Aswathama, empathized with the ageless ‘Parashuram’ and felt the despondency of Mahendra.
Baics first – Jash’s debut novel ‘The Wordkeepers’ and the follow up ‘Skyserpents’ are the first two of a proposed trilogy built around the story of Kalki – Vishnu’s modern avatar who is supposed to herald the arrival of the Armageddon – the ‘Hindu’ end of the world as we know it today (‘Kaliyug’ or the age of ‘Sin’) when evil finally gains dominancy over good and the ushering in of the new ‘Perfect’ world (‘Satyayug’ or the age of ‘Truth’). There is some debate on which of the first two books is better. While I loved the ‘The Wordkeepers’ because of the novelty of the idea and presentation, I somehow felt that the author is more mature in her writing and adds more depth to the scene and characters in the ‘Skyserpents’. The thing that I have a major grouse on is the introduction of the concept of ‘timetravel’ in the second book. This is something that I feel is contrary to the basic foundation of Hindu mythology where time (‘Kaal’) is the only thing that cannot be altered. Time moves onwards, never back, and there is an obsessive fixation on fate (‘vidhi’) in Hindu mythology where even the future is pre-destined and almost impossible to change, forget about the past. If I had a time machine today, I would go back to the past and request the author not to use that concept in ‘Skyserpents’, but what is done is done.
All said, I think Jash Sen has shown immense promise and verve in her two books so far. I had loved Amish Tripathi’s first (‘The Immortals of Meluha’) and was moderately OK with the second (‘The secret of the Nagas’). The third (‘The oath of the Vayuputras’) however, came as a big disappointment. So my advice to Jash is to take a bit of time and come up with another superlative effort.