by Kara Dalkey
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
In Bhagavhati, the third and final novel in Kara Dalkey's "Blood of the Goddess" series, Dalkey returns her protagonist, Thomas Chinnery, back to his own land of England. The novel opens as Chinnery's companions leave Bijapur in their search for the life-giving "Blood of the Goddess." Dalkey also increases the cultural mixture. To her Indians, Poruguese and English, she has added a strong element of Greek culture, hinted at in earlier novels, which includes a tenuous tie to Dalkey's earlier novel Euryale (Ace, 1988).
More than the earlier books in the series, Bhagavati focuses on the differences between cultures, not merely the Hindu and Catholic religions, but the various Protestant and Muslim sects and European nations. Dalkey has taken on a great deal in trying to relate the various groups and showing their interactions, however, she is successful in their depictions. Thomas, the erstwhile hero, is as untrusted by the Portuguese as he is by the Indians who surround him. Lockheart, the Scot, is even more untrusted. The Poruguese wonder about the Hindus and Muslims and vice versa.
Although Chinnery is very definitely the protagonist in Goa and Bijapur, he loses his centrality in Bhagavati as Dalkey turns her focus and attentions to the Goddess and her minions. The Indian Mirza and the Portuguese Padre Gonscao also play larger roles than in the earlier books. This arrangement permits Dalkey to look at events from several different points of view, however it also causes the book to lose some of the focus of the earlier novels.
Her characters' language is still a little too flowery, although it gives a feel for the period during which the adventures take place. Dalkey's descriptions are lush when her characters first attain Bhagavati, but familiarity quickly moves them into the background. Nevertheless, the Indian atmosphere is maintained throughout the novel.
In my earlier reviews of Goa and Bijapur, I speculated that the entire series could probably have fit into two volumes. After reading Bhagavati, I maintain that opinion. The first two books set the scene for the denouement presented in the third volume. Bhagavati, however, has more of the feel of a complete novel, although it fails to stand on its own, requiring knowledge of the events of earlier books to make it completely intelligable.
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