Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Kara Dalkey demonstrated her ability to write historical fantasy with her third novel, Euryale (1988), set during Republican Rome. With Goa, the first of the "Blood of the Goddess" trilogy, Dalkey returns to the genre with her most ambitious work so far.
Dalkey has several storylines weaving their way through this first book, all of which intermingle as the novel progresses. Central to the story as a whole is Thomas Chinerry, an apprentice apothecary who is traveling to the Far East to try to learn more about healing and gain more efficacious remedies for his master. At various times, his adventures bring him into contact with Brother Timoteo of the Goan Casa Santa, Sri Aditi, an Indian witch and Andrew Lockheart, an English scoundrel whose fate seems to be linked to Thomas's own.
Throughout the 250 pages of Goa, Dalkey is basically setting the scene for future books. The characters move through the novel as if in a dream, never knowing what is happening or where they are going. Because of this, Goa does not, cannot, stand on its own. Without reading the remaining two books in the series, it is difficult to tell if Goa is important of itself or if it could have simply been background information Dalkey filtered in to the two other novels, or one large novel.
Dalkey's portrayal of the priests and inquisitors of the Casa Santa is interesting, and I would have liked to have seen them fleshed out some more. Although the Casa was notoriously corrupt, Dalkey's priests almost give the impression that they truly believe their torture is for the benefit of their "guests."
In fact, most of Dalkey's characters seem to suffer the fate of not being entirely fleshed out, perhaps a bi-product of this being only one third of the entire work. However, I found that at the end of the book I hardly knew Lockheart, Aditi and several of the other characters. Perhaps the most fully realized character was Brother Timoteo. The youngest character, Timoteo was the only character who seemed to have a purpose in life. He was sincerely devout although his situation had placed him among corrupt priests. On the other hand, Dalkey's main character, Thomas Chinnery, is sailing through life with a specific mission to gather medicinal knowledge, but without any clear personal purpose. This isn't to say Chinnery's character and his fate are not interesting, but they are not compelling.
In the final chapter of the novel, the story seems to be about to get underway as all the major characters are convened for a trek from Goa to Bijapur and then on to search for the fabulous Rasa Mahadevi, the blood of the goddess which can kill the living and resurrect the dead.
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