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A fantasy thriller about two modern teens in Mumbai who are caught up in a quest, one which sees them embroiled in an ancient struggle from Indian mythology, and helps them discover their true selves. A fast-paced adventure written by a teenage author, Kaalchakra also serves to get modern teens closer to their roots and cultural heritage.
Drawing on Hindu mythology, this spirited, swaggering fantasy finds two contemporary Mumbai teens, the rivals Abhay and Ira, wrenched from their schooldays and the intimate problems of growing up only to be swept up in an epic adventure. They’ll face vicious beasts, unearthly weather, ancient prophecies, wild action, and nothing less than “the ghastliest cosmic beings of malice,” including Kalki incarnate, poised to usher in the end of the world. As brainy black-belt Abhay falls into a mysterious sleep after encountering a tablet of his grandfather’s, Ira, an athlete, hears a voice in her mind urging her to “find” Abhay, whom she considers a “douchebag.” Before she can make sense of that, apocalyptic horror strikes her own home and family, and after the first of many breathless escapes she’s stunned to find herself in the presence of Parashuram, the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu.

From there, Dhar swiftly raises the stakes—personal, spiritual, global—as Abhay and Ira, facing loss and terrifying visions, find themselves on a quest to “the gateway between Heaven and Earth on Mount Kailash,” guided by the riddling text on the tablet and pursued by the deadly forces of Kali Asura. Helping them along is each teen’s prophetic role as an incarnation of Kalki—Abhay has powers of destruction, and Ira has inherited powers of illusion, eventually discovering, in a clever inversion, that dispelling can be as powerful as conjuring.

As they master these skills, the action is fast, inventive, touched with poetry (“the time was ripe for unleashing her primal beast, her inner vigor and wrath and restlessness”) and occasional convoluted prose (the eyes of a parrot who is more than just a bird “whirl like a cyclone, before spiraling into a furious rotation like a spiral galaxy.”) But there’s much inventive vigor here, a deep engagement with demons both mythological and interior, and a rousing spiritualism. The characters burst with heart, and the storytelling is clear and exciting.

Takeaway: Epic fantasy of Hindu mythology, bursting with heart and invention.

Comparable Titles:Shveta Thakrar, Shiulie Ghosh

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: B+
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A