Kalimpura: Frustrating close to frustrating series

fantasy book reviews Kalimpura by Jay LakeKalimpura by Jay Lake

Kalimpura is the third and supposedly concluding book in Jay Lake’s series about Green, the young girl who becomes enmeshed in both worldly and godly politics, much to her dismay. I had lots of issues with the first book, Green, fewer but still some issues with the follow-up, Endurance, and I have to say that Kalimpura, while better than Green, didn’t wrap up the series in any way that would have me recommend readers pick up the trilogy.

Kalimpura picks up soon after Green has given birth to twins, a son and daughter. Still unresolved from Endurance is the fate of the two girls stolen away and taken to Green’s homeland city of Kalimpura. After several attacks in Copper Downs, and attempts by Green to resolve her standing issues with the gods of that city, including Divine and Blackblood, Green takes ship with a small group of allies and heads across the ocean toward home. After facing down an unnatural storm, she finds things have gone from bad to worse in Kalimpura, as her old enemy — the Bittern Court — has corrupted the Temple of the Lily Goddess and set its sight on ruling the city entire, even if that means killing off the goddess herself.

As with the prior two books, the plotting of Kalimpura often felt arbitrary to me. Long stretches of time go by with no action and then there are bouts of feverish action, then more non-action — all of it feeling strangely disconnected, with little sense of rhyme or reason to it. We’re told all the way through this series of plots and conspiracies, but I never felt I fully understood the plotters: what they sought to gain, why they chose these methods to gain them, why they did or (often more frustrating) didn’t do certain things. It’s all quite episodic with little sense of unity; I often felt I was reading a sketch or outline for a novel that the author kept coming back to over a long period of time, jotting down ideas or events, but then never filling in the connective tissue or fleshing out the necessary backstory details. New characters come and go with little sense of three-dimensionality and almost randomly affect (or not) events. To give one example, Green learns of assassins called “Quiet Men” from Kalimpura and tells us “I had never heard of this order.” But it’s nearly impossible to believe that the Blades/Temple of the Lily Goddess, who patrolled the city and handed out the Death Right, had never heard of these people. It becomes more than impossible to believe though when we’re told in that same sentence that it is the beggars of Kalimpura who call them “Quiet Men” and we find out the Temple has been using the beggars as their eyes and ears for years.

Once again, Green feels oddly disengaged from events and the people around her, despite her statements to the contrary. And once again, the sexuality feels awkwardly shoehorned in, as for instance when the mother of one of the kidnapped girls breaks down weeping in fear and despair and horror at what might be happening to her daughter, and Green, holding her as she sobs, tells us “In a different time and place, we might have found more ways to banish her pain, but this would have to do for now.” Really? Only a few months a new mother herself, and after frequently reminding us of her fierce and single-minded protectiveness over her children, while comforting this grieving, lost mother Green’s thoughts go to “I still wish we could have sex like I’ve wanted to since we first met”?

Once again, Green suffers from a bit too much of the superwoman abilities, or from the convenient incompetence of her enemies, who all too often attack with too few people (despite prior experience and despite knowing Green is a danger even to gods), or attack without full force and commitment, or wait and wait and wait.

There are some points to praise. Like Endurance, the pace is much improved over Green. And like both earlier books, there are intriguing questions raised about religion, responsibility, gender. But mostly I found Kalimpura, and the trilogy as a whole, to be a frustrating and disappointing read. Not recommended.

Release date: January 29, 2013. This sequel to Green and Endurance takes Green back to the city of Kalimpura and the service of the Lily Goddess. Green is hounded by the gods of Copper Downs and the gods of Kalimpura, who have laid claim to her and her children. She never wanted to be a conduit for the supernatural, but when she killed the Immortal Duke and created the Ox god with the power she released, she came to their notice. Now she has sworn to retrieve the two girls taken hostage by the Bittern Court, one of Kalimpura’s rival guilds. But the Temple of the Lily Goddess is playing politics with her life.

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BILL CAPOSSERE lives in Rochester NY, where he is lately spending much of his time trying to finish a book-length collection of essays and a full-length play. His prior work has appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other journals and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of several Best American Essay anthologies. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, co-writing the Malazan Empire re-read at Tor.com, or working as an English adjunct, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course, the ultimate frisbee field, or trying to keep up with his wife's flute and his son's trumpet on the clarinet he just picked up this month.

View all posts by Bill Capossere

One comment

  1. I thought this was a beautifully described world, and I loved the idea of Green and the gods, but I had the same problems you did with the first two books. It just feels like the pieces don’t all come together.

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