When my favorite character is a skinny talking horse, who also happens to be a flesh-eating demon, you know it’s a memorable book!Mythology retelling! Indian folklore! Harem backstabbing! Lush and colorful settings! Strange creatures and hungry demons!
What’s not to love???
The book seems to be partially based on the legends about god Yama:
The version we see here is quite different, though we still have the water buffalo. I got to ride one too: Princess Mayavati’s horoscope is a disaster
– she’ll be partnered with death itself. But the real disaster is people’s interpretation. Everyone blames her for everything that happens in the palace. A child gets sick? Maya’s fault! A wife dies in childbirth? Maya’s fault! A wife’s slippers disappear! Okay, that one was really Maya’s fault.
But then she’s swept in a magical adventure
, like one from the bedtime stories she tells her little sister, and she must learn that there are many ways to interpret a horoscope. In a world of reincarnations, death is not just a natural part of the circle of life – it’s also a new beginning.
Before she find herself, Maya goes through being an ignored princess, a confused queen, and even an unwilling sadhvi
is an ascetic, who is simultaneously respected as a holy person and ostracized for being an outcast and a beggar): Maya’s characterization shows some inconsistencies, which is why I’m deducting a star.
At the very beginning, her father informs her that in order to avoid a war, he needs to wed her. Maya will have the choice among a pool of possible husbands. Instead, she decides to run away. Her choice is somewhat selfish – this could mean war and would surely bring lots of trouble to her people. But this is selfishness I can accept and understand. What has her family done for her, after all? What does she owe them? The choice is still self-centered but it would have made for an interesting, flawed character. But it was not to be...
Once her escape fails, her father tells her his plan has been different all along. There will be war anyway, so his plan is to lure in her suitors and kill them off. However, they would be protected by guest rights, which is why Maya needs to kill herself; after her death, the foreign nobles will no longer be protected.
And Maya’s reaction is... okay, sure
. She never tried to fight her fate and obediently starts drinking the poison until a random stranger stops her. Supposedly, she does it to protect her people, in particular her half-sister, but she never spares them any thought before. So she is unwilling to marry someone of her choice to protect her people, but is fine with dying?
From that point on, Maya shows next to none independent thoughts. She just blindly follows whatever random people tell her, without putting much thinking into it. I’ve seen many reviewers complain she makes a stupid choice, but I didn’t really have a problem with the choice itself. Honestly, she doesn’t have enough information to make the choice, and she’s right not to trust Amar at this stage. The bigger problem is, she never really thinks
about her choices and seems to decide at random. And, given how insane her life becomes all of a sudden, she doesn’t ask enough questions. Why is Amar so unconditionally in love with her, without even knowing her? He is willing to forgive her anything and overlook all the messes she makes. He claims he needs her insight, but we’ve never seen this insight. The reasons are revealed later on, and they are not hard to guess even before that, but Maya never guesses what’s happening
. She doesn’t even wonder about it.
Also, it doesn’t look good when we see how in a previous life she makes EXACTLY the same mistake! Listening to Nritti now is somewhat understandable, if random, but listening to Nritti in the past??? After Maya already knows Amar and all his secrets? After she knows Nrittin has a reason to hate them? Also, I’m not a fan of the trope where friends turn against each other because of a lover .
There are some other minor inconsistencies, e.g. in the beginning we see Maya’s mother dies when Maya is young, but later the book claims she dies in childbirth. Also, Amar waits for one specific event to happen after “sixty turns of the moon” in the mortal realm, which is roughly five years, and yet at one point we see ten years have passed and yet nothing has happened. Overall, the book would have benefited from a stronger editor.One small thing is bugging me – can someone with a better knowledge of Indian names help out?
Isn’t Gupta a surname? I was quite surprised to see it as a first name here, so I got curious and looked it up. I work in a large multinational company, and I did a search in our internal directory to find I have 448 colleagues with the surname Gupta, but not a single one who has it as a first name. A quick Google search confirms my thoughts. Then why is it a first name here? I’ve seen some very high profile authors mess up first name / surname conventions of cultures they’re unfamiliar with, but this author seems very knowledgeable, so I’m sure that’s not the case here.
Please don’t let my complains discourage you, this book is epic and beautiful
! If you’ve read my other reviews, you’ve probably noticed I tend to nitpick the most about books I love the most. Also, guys, there’s a talking horse
! And it’s not really a horse, but a pishacha
: a demon that haunts cremation grounds and eats flesh. It’s absolutely ugly and terrifying, but so, so cool! Reply