Book Review: Skyserpents
In Skyserpents, Jash Sen has proved once again that a background of Hindu mythology and ancient lore, gods, demi-gods and asuras can form an arresting and deadly cast of characters when thrown together with her creative ingenuity.
The second book in the trilogy, Skyserpents starts out with one of the most well known and pivotal moments in Hindu mythology – the churning of the ocean to produce amrit—the nectar of immortality—which was one of the rare occasions when the gods and the asuras joined forces towards a common goal. We know that this is also the moment when Lord Vishnu took on the form of the devastatingly beautiful Mohini who mesmerized the asuras, while the gods drank amrit, to achieve immortality.
Jash has delved deeper as she describes the churning, to talk about the creation of Rahu and Ketu, who were created when Swarbhanu, the asura disguised as a god, was caught red handed in his deception and cleft in two by Lord Vishnu. The harnessing of Rahu and Ketu—who resemble serpents in the cosmos as a result of Swarbhanu being hacked in two—to form an invincible weapon of devastating proportions and formidable force, gives the book its title.
Of course the villain of the piece continues to be Kali, who in his quest for domination of planet earth, both by enticing humans by promise of power and greed, rules their hearts, giving rise to the term Kaliyug, the age we live in today.
The Wordkeepers ended at a cliff hanger, when Bilal and Anya, also called Balram and Kalki, twins born of the same mother, narrowly escape death at the hands of the deceptive Ashwatthama, and aided by the surviving wordkeepers, a Yaksha and Dhoomavati, get ready to enter the portal to planet Vishasha, the domain of Kali. Their mother, Tanya Sharma—a Wordkeeper herself—is held captive and tortured mentally and physically, to release the secrets that will give Kali access to all the amulets that hold the ultimate secret to all consuming and eternal power in his megalomania fueled quest.
Several other characters both on the sides of the two children Bilal and Anya, and Kali, representing good and evil, carry the story forward, but the reader will have to discover their role in making this book a page turner. Needless to say, lies, deception, bravery, revenge, sacrifice, great love and fight for justice abound in generous proportions in Skyserpents.
One area where Jash could have focused attention, is the context and background of this book. As in all books that are part of a series and continue on from what happened before, a little Epilogue or section titled “What happened in the last episode” goes a long way in helping the reader engage fully from the start. I was a little confused and it took me quite a bit of referencing the first book, before I could orient myself. In books of this nature, with names and characters that can be unfamiliar to the reader, and yet similar to each other it would have been great if I did not have to do some groundwork before I could start enjoying the story.
Another theme that has not fully been developed is the description of futuristic technology in Skyserpents. As in The Wordkeepers, the technology still has a retro feel to it that is not consistently applied. One example is of tapes being viewed like they are on news channels today, showing images captured by security cameras. If Kali’s memory can be transformed into three dimensional, holographic like re-creation of events for his advisers to view with capabilities of image enhancement and zoom-in, then surely they would not resort to outdated technologies like tapes that need manual scanning.
I will not spoil the readers’ experience by describing the second half of the book. The book ends with an unexpected series of twists and turns and caught me by surprise to say the least with an unforeseen heart-stopping finale. I will just say that the book is a blend of superb story telling with pearls of great wisdom and philosophy thrown in by Jash. They deliver a message for all of us caught in the travails of life today that constitute the experience of living in Kaliyug, just as prophesied in ancient Hindu texts.
Look out for these gems, and reflect on them, before reading the final book in the trilogy. Perhaps we still can impact the future of the planet.
Browse through the full list of book reviews in the depths of the Pensieve.
Fastest way to read this