Sensational six

Giti Chandra’s Book of Guardians series could easily have been tedious. The fantasy plot borrows from the story of the truthful king Harish Chandra, Hindu and Irish mythology, with a healthy dose of astronomy thrown in. What’s more, it is set in places like New Delhi’s Khan Market and in Gurgaon, Haryana—there’s even a “tooth fairy"-cum-fang-collector who lives in Greater Kailash in south Delhi.

All of this is perhaps too close to home, unlike J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth in The Lord of the Rings trilogy or Westeros in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. But Chandra doesn’t give her readers time to roll their eyes at how a fight between the undying army of Edasich and six children with superpowers goes unnoticed by passers-by—even in the diplomatic enclave off Shanti Path in Delhi.

Harish Chandra has for the past many births been a guardian of one of the three starstones of Elrai, the snake god. The evil Edasich is after the starstones to imbibe the life force preserved in them to make him powerful again. In Book 1, The Fang of Summoning, Harish Chandra’s fight against evil had grown to involve his grandchildren when they started manifesting superpowers. Tarini, a four-year-old, is one of the starstones incarnate; her sister, Noor, can bring her crayon drawings to life; when Aman plays music on the piano or even an iPod, he can make metal armour and weapons appear; Ananya can ask people to do her bidding without protest; and the twins, Akshat and Adit, can read each other’s minds, see through each other’s eyes, and are consummate warriors.

In Book 2, The Bones of Stars, the action travels to Yellowstone Park, US. The count of magical characters goes up to include three witches and the queen of elves. The war between Elrai (good) and Edasich (evil) carries on unmitigated, with subplots thrown in to explain why Edasich wasn’t completely vanquished at the end of Book 1; freeing the elf queen from her pact with the cursed Edasich; and the vindication of one of the witches, Yvonne, who, in the past, had hampered the cause of good by losing hope.

At the end of Book 2, evil is defeated but not entirely vanquished. The children have helped find the third starstone, which was apparently lost to the human world ages ago. And the twins, who fight the final battle against Edasich at Yellowstone Park, know that despite putting up a great fight, they’ve only just bought more time till the Adversary returns to make another desperate bid to corner a starstone.

When Chandra writes about the Chandler Wobble—a deviation in the Earth’s rotation around its axis—and about the Yellowstone Park super volcano, she is truly able to meld the stranger-than-fiction science with the plot. The science is not in any way incidental, and reading the books makes you think back to what you know about these phenomena and to google them to learn more—and all this without killing the enjoyment of reading.

This is partly because the protagonists are learning the science of volcanic eruptions and planetary movements as the plot unfolds. There are riddles in rhymes in both the books, and the occasional break to research the real science stuff doesn’t seem like a break at all. The reader is tempted to participate in the decoding of the rhyme, to help unfold its meaning, and find ways of defeating the Adversary.

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