Saturday, 2 February 2013

Review: The Destiny of Shaitan



The Destiny of Shaitan
By Laxmi Hariharan

From Goodreads:
When Yudi, Tiina & Rai embark on a mission to save the universe, they come up against the ruthless Shaitan who is determined to stop them at any cost. But they soon realise they have a bigger enemy - themselves. So they must learn to trust each other and overcome their fears as they fight their way towards the ultimate showdown.

Partially set in a dystopian Bombay of the future, The Destiny of Shaitan is a coming of age story, painted against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world.

Yudi, Tiina and Rai are destined to come together, for they are the Chosen Ones. It falls to them to save the universe from the powerful Shaitan, who is terrifying, and utterly merciless. Driven by greed, and fear for his own survival, Shaitan bulldozes his way through the galaxy, destroying anything that gets in his path, including his lovers and his own children. The battle between the Chosen Ones and Shaitan is a classic, epic encounter. Hated and feared by all, Shaitan must win this fight to keep his power. The stakes are high, the combatants are determined, and no matter what the outcome their lives will be changed for all time.

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The Destiny of Shaitan, or TDOS in short is the first science fiction and fantasy combination I have read which builds on Indian mythology. This, by itself is a big draw for me.  However, I’ll try to not let my review be coloured by this fact too much. Also, like most fantasy stories, this one too is a fight between good and evil.

The story of TDOS is set in the year 3000 and beyond, where the solar system as we know it has been restructured. There are a few new planets which have come into the picture, and all the planets in the solar system are now habitable with species of all kinds. Earth is still considered to be the mother planet, and humans have mated with the sentient beings of other planets to create genetically mixed Halfings. This is the story of four of these Halflings, and how they impact the future of the universe.

This might be an epic story, but the beauty of the book is in the characters. There are four main characters, and a number of side characters in the book. Each of the four main characters’ lives is explored over a period of time. A sequence of events brings them together, and then tears them apart. Each of these characters’ lives is defined by their painful loss of a loved one. This loss is what pushes them to the brink from which they are able to come back. They all go through life alone, not knowing true love. I am amazed by how the author is able to bring out perfectly how these defining moments tie the entire story together. Just for this perfection, I would recommend this book.

Among the characters, I really liked Tiina and Rai’s characters. However, I could not really stand Yudi’s character. He is extremely selfish and does not care about anyone but himself. Shaitan comes across as more human than I expected. He has his own flaws, which, in the end result in his downfall. All the characters grow immensely during the story, which I think is a standard feature in most YA novels.

The author explores a number of issues, some of which are a staple in YA novels. Friendship, love, hate and betrayal are all part of the story. They permeate every aspect of the relationships between the characters. One interesting thing was that the author decided to make one of the characters gay. This however does not impact the story one bit. I don’t know the reasoning behind the decision for this, but it is something which I find unique and nice.

There are a couple of things which made it difficult for me to enjoy the story as much as I could have. The author has written a part of the book in present tense, and another part in past tense. The past tense makes sense when the author is narrating the history of each character, but I did not find this consistent. There were sentences in past tense even when we are at a point in the story which is happening right now, in the present. These kinds of tense changes, sometimes within the same paragraph, threw me off. I really believe that better editing and consistency would have helped me enjoy the book a lot more.

There is a huge build up to the entire showdown with Shaitan. And there is a lot of action towards the end of the book. These are both really well executed. But, when it comes to a one-on-one fight, it ends without so much as a whimper. This results in all those expectations of an epic battle to be dashed. I think that part of the book could be better than what it is at present. 

Overall, this is a great start to the series, and I am really looking forward to reading the second installment. I would recommend the Destiny of Shaitan to anyone who likes the fantasy and/or SF genre.




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