Tuesday, March 6, 2012

KALI-MA!

From the original Deities & Demigods to The Path of the Eclipse to Indiana Jones & the Temple of Doom to Death in Delhi, the image of the bloodthirsty goddess and her thuggee cultists persists in our dark fantasies.  I ran across this again in Goa, the first of the Blood of the Goddess trilogy.*  I've been holding off reading this for some time, hoping to pick up the next two books, but I gave in and decided to read this before Zelazny's Lord of Light. 



Writing historical fantasy is a tricky business, both in terms of avoiding what we might call the Steven Spielberg/Heidi Klum offense when related historic communities depicted still exist and in terms of historical accuracy.  Dalkey seems to have concentrated her research in this period of Goan history and the Goan Inquisition.  While I am not an expert in the Inquisition, much less its history in Goa, I have at least done work in English Reformation and Hinduism, and these are areas (particularly the latter area) where Dalkey hits several notes of historical tone-deafness.  If you won't tell the difference or don't care, then you can enjoy the flavor, plot, and characters.  If you know a good deal about these areas, you might best be warned away if you can't grit your teeth and say "this India in 1597 is different from ours in more ways than just 'magic is real.'"  I'm on the fence here, but Dalkey's characters and plot may tug at me enough for me to grit my teeth and continue with the next volume at some point.  She certainly makes me wonder what is going to happen to the characters on their way to Bijapur, and if they will fall into the clutches of a goddess whose name is strength or men whose character is ruthless.

Heidi Klum may have gotten in trouble for this, but she does capture something of the duality involved.

* For a Kara Dalkey lovefest, see here.

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