Realm of the Goddess by Sabina Khan

For the next in my series of indie and small press highlights, I picked Realm of the Goddess, a good opportunity to read a book which has been sitting on my Kindle for a while now.

Realm of the GoddessThe demon’s eyes were wide open, staring up at me in surprise as blood dripped from my sword and pooled at my feet around his severed head. I looked over to where the rest of his corpse lay, arms outstretched, the right hand still clutching the curved scimitar with which he had planned to finish me off.

Well, who’s laughing now? Never underestimate a pissed-off girl with a sword.

I surveyed the battleground on which I stood. Corpses littered the field, demons and mortals alike. In the distance I could see the flames, their smoke turning the air into a thick haze that carried the stench of burning flesh. There was still fighting and I could hear the sounds of battle coming from beyond the hills in the north. I turned around just in time to see another demon heading toward me, clutching a long dagger in his right hand. When he was close enough I caught my reflection in his shield in the split second before he raised his weapon.

Callie has been plagued by bad dreams for years, off and on, but she thought moving from Kolkata to Seattle had put an end to the torment. It turns out that was only a temporary reprieve: as the story begins, Callie’s nights are again disturbed by violent scenes from ancient battles.

I started reading Realm of the Goddess without any particular expectations, and after the first couple of chapters, I had a feeling this was going to be Twilight with an Indian American heroine. An American high school, a mysterious too-good-to-be-true new boy, and hints of something paranormal in the background. And that would have been fine — it’s not like the world is overrun with culturally diverse paranormal romance.

And then Callie finds out she’s actually a reincarnation of Kali, with a whole secret organisation dedicated to protecting her and defending the world against the evil Mahisha and his army of demons. Her parents are kidnapped, and the cuteness of the new boy is relegated to the back of her mind as she comes to terms with her new role and responsibilities. And Shiv turns out to be not just handsome but useful in a pinch, as he’s a member of the Rakshakari, combat trained and sworn to protect Kali.

Callie is an ordinary girl pushed into an extraordinary position by some accident of birth, but she steps up to become a competent and powerful heroine in her own right. Being Kali incarnate gives her bad dreams and some latent powers, but the goddess doesn’t take over. Ultimately it’s still “just Callie” making the calls, with her own strengths and weaknesses determining her path. I loved the way that she puts family and friends first, willing to sacrifice any chance at a normal life to rescue her parents and take on the demons.

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