Yama's Lieutenant by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
From certain internal stories and Hindu myths brought to life, I really wanted to like this work a lot more than I did.
It is ambitious and a great deal happens in both plot and character progression, but for the most part, it's generally only two-directions. Most of the concerns are with the underworld where all the undesirables are sent, Agni, and Yama and Yami's problems with a prophesied marraige, and an epic scale prolonged conflict with the necromancer.
The action scenes are highly amusing, and like I said, I wanted to love the deep immersion in the realm of the Hindu gods, the Three Worlds, and everything.
Even though I know a bit about the gods and the culture, I stumbled across the whole issue of the Uncanny Valley. The kinds of interpersonal conflicts are understandable on one level, but the level of vitriol on one side and the level of devotion on the other just rubbed me wrong. Sometimes, I just caught myself squirming in discomfort. Things were happening that I understood fine on so many levels, and then they mismatched or misfired, and then I was kicked out of the tale at the most inopportune times. Which was a shame. The novel is rather ambitious and impressive, otherwise, and it reads like a very unique and deep epic fantasy with lots of blood and guts and really evil characters and thwarted romance and even just the desire to prevent romance (because it is preordained or otherwise arranged, and badly so).
I think my problem is mainly cultural. If I had been steeped in the world that this story had grown out of, or had at least read tons and tons of similar mythological works, I might have been able to get more out of it. As it was, I only recognized about a dozen of the big names, including Yama and Agni, of course, but other than knowing the basics about them, I was kind of lost as to whether this was a complicated discourse on all the legends that the author grew up with or whether this was a purely original work that only happened to borrow from some of the names and the general situations, such as Yama being the king of the underworld and Agni begin the god of fire.
Was Agni supposed to be a retelling of the original with some differences, or was he supposed to be a separate entity that just happened to share the name and all that fire? Well, I had to table that question and just try to enjoy the story, which I did for the most part.
Unfortunately, I feel like the book kinda defeated me. It's hard to admit, but there it is. Maybe if I eventually come back to it after learning a ton more or find a pocket concordance to trace both themes and names and significance, it wouldn't matter that my sense of the Uncanny Valley was in play. :)
Thanks to the author for providing me this ARC for review! Good luck!
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