After the death of his grandmother, 11-year old Vikram and his family leave their home in California and head to a small village in India to see Vikram’s grandfather. Here, instead of the boring trip that Vikram expected, Vikram discovers magic, creatures and the richness and value of his life and culture.
On his trip to the tiny village where he will meet his grandfather, Vikram reads his comic book depicting the Ramayana, an Indian legend about good and evil, about a war between humans and evil demons called the Rakshasas. Suddenly a disheveled old man runs in front of their car, declaring, “Rakshasas have returned!” Later, Vikram’s grandfather gives him a 3,000 year old enchanted seal (not the mammal, but a stamp) to keep safe. Vikram quickly discovers that this is not the only seal in existence, and all these enchanted seals are actually very powerful. Vikram also discovers what he is keeping the seal safe from: the Rakshasas!
Vikram and the Enchanted Seals dives right into the story with action and mystery, and for the most part, is filled with wonderfully detailed descriptions that fully engage the senses: “He had already surrendered to the other discomforts of his tiny compartment: the sticky filth, the smell of burnet straw, the buzzing mosquitoes, and the annoying rattles of the loose windowpane…”
The vivid descriptions of the creatures and the fighting scenes will appeal to a child’s sense of wonder and adventure: “Pasty green skin stretched tight over her thick, muscular frame. An evening breeze caught the tresses of her coarse, blue hair and swept them from her face. Sharp, curved canine teeth, nearly six inches long, hung over a plump bottom lip, and gleamed in the light of the hovering moon.”
Author Sanjiv Behera also weaves cultural information and valuable messages and lessons about developing one’s integrity, the importance and richness of cultural heritage, and respect for one’s elders and community, in addition to making parallels between the demons and mankind. For example, after being chastised by a human, one of the Rakshasas admits: “Most of us are violent, sure. Not unlike many of your kind.”
The vivid descriptions wane towards the end of the book, becoming a little generalized and repetitive. Behera describes Vikram during a moment of enlightenment: “He was to uphold all that was good. Euphoria blanketed his entire body.” Not much later, he describes Vikram in a very similar way: “A sense of euphoria engulfed him. His purpose, his dharma, became known; he was a custodian of humanity.”
Despite some decline in the vividness and power of the descriptions, Behera continues to send out his ‘messages’ and lessons about growing up and fighting for what is important in life: “Vikram realized then that . . . he could either sit there on the banks and flounder about in his present circumstance, or do something about it.”
Vikram and the Enchanted Seals has all the winning elements for a young reader’s book – eight to eleven-year old heroes and heroines battling mythological creatures in a dangerous jungle setting in a faraway land; in addition to valuable lessons on integrity and cultural heritage.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader