Book review: Mahimata by Rati Mehrotra

Note: This review is based on an advance review copy obtained from the author. 

Markswoman, Rati Mehtrotra’s debut novel, introduced a unique world, a post-apocalyptic fantasy-Asia that was a bewitching blend of science fiction and fantasy. In the aftermath of a distant Great War, five Orders keep peace among the numerous clans of Asiana—Orders of warriors telepathically bonded with their magical knives, which are made of a metal called kalishium left behind by a mysterious alien race.  But the outlaw Kai Tau threatens Asiana’s peace; he has stolen terrible dark weapons—guns made of kalishium. Kai Tau has raised an army and means to destroy the Orders and take Asiana for himself.

The first book was a strong debut, with engaging characters and a fast-paced, twisty plot. The sequel, Mahimata, is even better.

Mehrotra carefully set up her game pieces in Markswoman. Now the game begins in earnest, and the plot flies. There are twists and turns, and revelations within revelations. There is a major plot point in Markswoman which seemed just slightly “off” to me. Here, it’s explained in a way that makes utter sense. The pieces fall into place with a satisfying click, even as the revelations remain a surprise.

The world of Asiana is also expanded; our main protagonist, Kyra, finds new friends and allies. Her true love, the Marksman Rustan, also finds new friends and mysteries as he goes on a personal quest for penance. His journey and experiences in a mysterious monastery in the mountains were some of my favorite scenes; here we find intriguing glimpses of answers to the history of Asiana, of who the mysterious alien Ones actually were, and how this world came to be.

In the end, of course, Kyra and Rustan’s journeys intersect, and a number of different Orders, clans, and allies rally for the climactic battle against Kai Tau and his dark weapons. The battle scenes are full of action; I particularly appreciate the way in which the Markswomen and Marksmen use a combination of telepathic Mental Arts and knives in what would seem a hopeless battle against an enemy armed with guns.

And yet I find myself thinking of the quiet scenes as some of my favorite in the book. Those scenes of friendship and tenderness, which show the bonds that Kyra has to her Order, and Rustan to his. I love the development of secondary characters; I love seeing the reunion of old friends. And although not all characters are able to achieve redemption, I’m glad to see that some do.

Even toward the end, there are some final twists. I won’t spoil them here. Let’s just say that the world expands yet again for our protagonists, and that though there is a bittersweetness to the last pages, there is also new wonder. Mahimata is a wonderful, thrilling conclusion to the journey started in Markswoman.


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