Reviewed by Steven H Silver
As I mentioned in my review of Goa, the first novel of this series does not stand alone. On the other hand, Dalkey needs to make sure that a person who picks up Bijapur without having read the first book, or a person who has not read Goa for a while, can figure out the back story. By ensuring this is possible, Dalkey reintroduces much of the plot of Goa throughout the first several chapters of Bijapur. Having read Goa, I can not be entirely sure, but I get the feeling that someone beginning this trilogy with Bijapur will find that they have not missed much be skipping the introductory volume.
One change Dalkey has made is in the language of the characters. In Goa, the characters spoke in rich Elizabethan phrases which, while giving a sense of time and place to the story, detracted by making their words too ornate. In Bijapur, the Elizabethanisms are toned down, although still present. They do not intrude on the action quite so much as they have previously.
Bijapur picks up a day or so after Thomas Chinnery's caravan has left Goa for Bijapur. En route, Chinnery begins to fall in love, or at least in lust, with Sri Aditi, traveling in the guise of Domina Agnihotra. The Indian witch's interest in Thomas seems to have increased since Goa as well. By this time, however, Thomas has finally acquired a goal, although not the one which he seemed to be aiming for in the first book. He merely wishes to leave India and return to England.
Just as Dalkey set several scenes in the Casa Santa in Goa, the political mechanizations of a variety of Indian princes form interludes in the story of Thomas and Aditi. In addition to straight politics, many of these Indian princes are struggling between beliefs in Islam or in more traditional Indian religions. Chief among these is the Sultan of Bijapur, Ibrahim 'Adilshah, whose daughter was brought back from the dead under the auspices of the Mahadevi, whose blood forms the quest in this trilogy.
One area in which Dalkey has not improved since the first novel in the series is in the realm of characterization, although she has proven in previous novels that she can write realistic characters. Most of the characters in Bijapur, especially, but not limited to Thomas Chinnery and Aditi behave in ways which are not consistent with the general character Dalkey has established. Naturally, being the primary male and female characters, Thomas and Aditi fall in love, although Dalkey does not manage to convey any passion in their love, nor do the characters demonstrate their love for each other. Their whole relationship seems to be merely a literary device.
Because Dalkey did not build a particularly strong relationship between Thomas and Aditi, many of the decisions to two characters make in light of each other do not a whole lot of sense. Although Aditi replaces Thomas's master's daughter in the apprentice's affections, the change is sudden and Dalkey does not show Thomas's feelings change or become more distant to her. Granted, he hardly thinks of her, but he hardly thought of her in the previous book as well.
Dalkey has a chance to show tremendous character growth for Timoteo, the boy who is growing up in the Casa Santa. Unfortunately, she forgoes that line of character development and he remains an innocent at the end of the novel. She does, however, lay groundwork for his enlightenment in the final volume. We are also finally given some insight into the secret which Andrew Lockheart, Thomas's self-proclaimed guardian, harbors, a secret which puts Thomas's quest for the Mahavedi in an whole new light.
Dalkey leaves several storylines unresolved, although there should be no problem in tying up the loose threads in the final book of the trilogy. Judging from the second book of the trilogy, I find myself agreeing with my earlier suggestion that Dalkey does not really have enough material to fill out an entire trilogy, although a duology may have been supportable.
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