After the surprising ending of the last novel, Ash and Parvati find themselves trapped in an alternate timeline which began when Lord Savage used his newly gained magical powers to travel back in time and change the past. Here, Savage is seen as a generous and benevolent philanthropist who has used his immense fortune to try and solve some of the world’s problems. However, Ash’s intuition is that this Savage is just as evil as the Savage of his own world. In this world, Ash meets another version of himself. Ashoka is like Ash before the events of the first novel. He is geeky, awkward, unfit, overweight and with very few battle-worthy skills. There is also another version of Parvati in the timeline, as well as doubles of a whole host of other characters. It is down to Ashoka, Ash and Parvati and her double Rani to uncover Savage’s plans to take over the world and, if it is possible, to defeat him once and for all. The problem is, however, that Ash’s superhero, Kali-bestowed powers have disappeared.
The third instalment of the Ash Mistry series delivers serious action. Chadda’s writing is as engaging and exciting as ever and the colossal nature of the final war between Savage and Ash is a literary tour de force. The ending gives the reader everything that he or she wants from the novel. The usual touches of humour are there and there is more delving into the nature of death and its meaning; the theme of death was, of course, what held together the first two novels.
The story is mostly split between the separate adventures of Ash and Ashoka who meet again towards the end for the final war. Each moves towards fulfilling his destiny and his own understanding of himself and others. We learn more about the demons and the motivations of figures such as Parvati and delve deeper into the mind of Savage, who believes in the ‘virtues’ of slavery and deludes himself into thinking that he is the saviour of the world, not its wrecker. The ultimate philosophy of the novel and the series emerges, which appears to be that every life is great and charged with meaning and importance.
At the end of this series of three novels, I will survey what is good and bad about the trilogy. It goes without saying that there is exciting action and tight plotting. There never seems to be a wasted moment in the storyline. There is ultra-violence, which may or may not be appealing, and the constant confrontation with death. The character of Parvati is fascinating and Savage is also worth some attention. However, I did not find the other characters as interesting, particularly the hero, Ash Mistry. Aside from knowing about his status as one of the ‘Nerd Herd’, there is no complexity in the characterisation. Also, having mentioned complexity, it has to be said that the works lacks something in this. Comparing it to Harry Potter (a comparison which it makes itself in this last novel, by having Asoka compare himself to Ron Weasley), there is a lack of intriguing details. Some opportunities for building relationships and character depth in the novel have been missed – we only get a fleeting glimpse of the family in Ash’s life and his relations towards them. I would have liked to know more about Savage as well: as I have said before, he was one of the more interesting characters.
But in conclusion, despite its faults, this is a satisfying read. It features a British Asian hero, which is what drew me to it in the first place, and is a good reinvention of some interesting Hindu mythological figures. The writing style is very good and the storyline is able to sustain the interest across three novels. The only niggling thought is that the novels could have been better and more satisfying if only more work and thought had been put into them.