In Serjana Caelum’s world, gods exist. So do goddesses. Sera knows this because she is one of them. A secret long concealed by her parents, Sera is Lakshmi reborn, the human avatar of an immortal Indian goddess rumored to control all the planes of existence. Marked by the sigils of both heaven and hell, Sera’s avatar is meant to bring balance to the mortal world, but all she creates is chaos. A chaos that Azrath, the Asura Lord of Death, hopes to use to unleash hell on earth.
Torn between reconciling her past and present, Sera must figure out how to stop Azrath before the Mortal Realm is destroyed. But trust doesn’t come easy in a world fissured by lies and betrayal. Her best friend Kyle is hiding his own dark secrets, and her mysterious new neighbor, Devendra, seems to know a lot more than he’s telling. Struggling between her opposing halves and her attraction to the boys tied to each of them, Sera must become the goddess she was meant to be, or risk failing, which means sacrificing the world she was born to protect.
I was a bit wary to start this book – I have read only one another book adapted from Hindu mythology (Tiger’s Curse) and since that pretty much ruined Hindu mythology for me, you can see where I was coming from. Also, that cover does’t do it ANY favors, okay? At a basic level, I can say I had mixed reactions to the book. It had an awful start (never do that okay? Most people DNF at the end of their patience. I don’t) but it got progressively better till the end, which actually rocked. Since it started off bad, I will start with what I DID NOT like about it.
First, the cliche at the start. Young teen girl wakes up with powers she didn’t know about, was getting bad dreams about it but dismissed it as – eh, nothing – and then later on finds out that everybody knew it except she and her best friend. Said best friend was also hiding a lot of secrets and shocker, he belongs to the bad side. Mysterious boy-next-door seems familiar. See where I am going with this? I bet you can already map out the story in your head and come to the conclusion – yep, it’s going to be a bad overwhelming, you-love-him-more (that line actually appeared) love triangle. I am not against love triangle, but time and place (that appeared too), dude, time and place. The fabric of the universe is about to unravel, and Kyle is more worried about her loving said boy-next-door and him never having a chance. She even pointed out the same to him (you go, Sera!). Secondly, the weird names – I am Indian and they sounded strange to me too. Also, for a book based on Hindu mythology, it barely only takes the characters – the world isn’t anything based on it. How, you ask me? Hinduism is based on rebirth so there is no exact hell and heaven. I wouldn’t go into the theological details but it borrowed heavily from other religions as well, making it a blend of all rather than based on one. Now, this isn’t really a bad point since authors have creative liberties, but freaking names! How is Sophia in any way related? Or Azrath for that matter? Besides, it conveniently forgot that Yama is the god of death. So, based off characters from Hindu mythology, but not Hindu mythology. Next, and how to put this delicately – whitewashing. Seriously, for people descended or beings from Hindu mythology, there are not many of them around. Only Dev looks something like that and even he has golden eyes, which I tell you is extremely rare here. Laxmi is described as having red hair. Last I checked, she did not.
That being said, it got better (as I said before). Divide it into three – first was a cliche, second was oh, what’s that and third was yay! it’s good. It achieved a sort of balance in the end (see what I did there?). If you ignore the mythology and view it as something entirely new in fantasy, it really is quite good. The seven levels of hell, Illysia (see?) and the Mortal Realm constructed with the Trimurtas as the reigning deities. Other gods are various incarnations and there is a hierarchy between the gods. The rules of the Hell realm, who are basically like gods and different from demons – good work on that too. Plot was quite great too – though a little more intricacy would have been appreciated. For a dual POV, it fails – the story focuses on only one plot-line when it could have had more. It would have as easily been explained all only in Sera’s POV, but good effort nevertheless. I liked Sera’s character once I got through the first third of the book – she was fierce, strong and did what was needed. She wasn’t stuck on the love triangle (thankfully) even though the other male POV was going on and on about it. The way she fearlessly faces down all the demon and the Azura is admirable, even with her being more powerful than any of them. It takes serious guts to face down legions of demons in one place – there is only so much one person can do. Kyle had a good role to play in the plot but I disliked his poor-me routine and all-around misogynistic behavior. Dev, in contrast, was cool as a cucumber, confident in his love, but seriously living under a rock if he didn’t even know about the demon’s movements. Am I supposed to believe he ran to Sera’s side when he found out who she was but didn’t even notice the whole demon-plotting going around? Azrath was another interesting character – I applaud the author for actually giving him a valid reason to take over the world, which even seemed logical. I could almost empathize with him.
So, in summary, a good plot, okay characters, meh world-building, good pace – this book is a solid 3. It hits the median – go for it if a diehard fan of mythological re-tellings but I would warn of the love triangle.
Received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.