In the third entry in Mayers’ (Violet Sapphire, 2016, etc.) fantasy series, a woman who belongs to a line of shape-shifting Hindu demons tells a story to her half-human offspring.
In a letter to her daughter Supriya, Shanti Patel hopes to reveal her child’s rather unorthodox beginnings. Supriya already knows that her mother is a Rakshasa—a demon—but she knows little about her human father, who left the family before she was born. Shanti’s tale, continued from the previous novel, begins in 1961, when her first daughter, Neha, was born. Shanti, afraid that she couldn’t control her fire-generating ability, left Neha and Neha’s 5,000-year-old, immortal father, Vibhishana, in India. She went to live in San Francisco with her mom, Sabrina, and worked as a doctor. Neha, meanwhile, traveled the world pursuing various studies, including anthropology, and ultimately came to the conclusion that a visit to Venus could explain the genesis of the Rakshasas to her. Later, Shanti reunited with her family but soon endured a great tragedy. She went on to meet a human, Raghav Ramachandran, whom she thought could help her escape her years of despair. She had a love for Raghav, especially for his pure soul—something that’s atypical in humans and contrasted with Shanti’s perpetual battle against a “dark voice” that stoked her fiery anger (and fiery powers). But Raghav refused to accept what she truly was, leading to a decision that had potentially lethal consequences. Although Mayers dives right into this third installment, her meticulous prose will slowly ease readers into the series, whether they’re new or returning. Shanti is a complex protagonist who uses her demon skills for good (her ability to understand all languages, for example, allows her to communicate with all her patients), but she’s also burdened with human struggles, such as sexual harassment at work. The lengthy section on Shanti and Raghav’s relationship slows the pace considerably, but it does effectively explain the bizarre circumstances surrounding Supriya’s birth. However, Mayers’ mostly solid prose occasionally slips in redundant descriptions (“incredibly epic”). As this novel is inspired by the Indian narrative poem, the Ramayana, the author graciously closes it, like the preceding two, with a glossary of Hindu references.
A series installment that further develops its sturdy characters, but still leaves a bounty of curious subplots unresolved.