With The Key of Chaos getting close to publication, perhaps the time is right to quickly recap the story and learn a little more about the main characters.
Here is the story so far, without giving away too many spoilers:
When Maya is taken to the Halvard Castle in the Eternal City under mysterious circumstances, she learns to her shock that she must train to be a Halvard of the Sands of Time. Under the hawk-eyes of her Watcher, Noah, she is plunged into an odd sort of double life, having to go to school in the morning and to the Castle at night.
As a Preferred, which is what they call Halvard Castle trainees, Maya learns a lot of things about the world she lives in and about time. She also finds out things about herself she had never been aware of. She meets a number of interesting people, and becomes fast friends with Lev—another Preferred like herself, a few years older.
Just when everything starts looking ridiculously easy—her parents still clueless about Maya’s night-time activities—Maya and Lev accidentally stumble upon a conspiracy. Such is the nature of the information they have, they cannot go to the authorities with it. Predictably, it makes Noah as well as Lev’s Watcher, Chiyo, jumpy, and when Lev suffers a brutal attack, Noah decides it is time to enlighten Maya’s parents about her.
After some resistance from her parents, Noah brings Maya to stay with him at the Castle, hoping to keep an eye on her. But as things turn out, they find out much more than they would have liked to about the aforementioned conspiracy, and also realize that Lev is more closely connected to it than they could have guessed. And if they have to save the Sands of Time from falling under the control of the Sai’adyin, they must retreive an ancient artefact called the Key of Chaos before the Sai’adyin can.
With no other alternative, the two Watchers reluctantly agree to undertake a quest to find the Key. So Noah and Maya, Chiyo and Lev set off on a dangerous journey, with no idea exactly what they are looking for or how they will find it. After a difficult few days that puts their lives at risk, they finally find themselves on the trail of the Key. But when they finally find it, it is with a horrible realization that all their assumptions had been way off the mark, and the truth is more terrible than they could have imagined.
The question is, if they get out alive, how are they going to go on with the rest of their lives?
And here’s a quick recap of some of the major characters.
Maya Subramaniam: The main protagonist of the books, most of the story is from her perspective. At the start of A Shadow in Eternity she is a twelve-year-old schoolgirl living in Bangalore, India, with her parents and older brother. Rather skinny, about five feet all, with shoulder length hair, Maya would never have imagined that she had any special abilities. While generally friendly, Maya isn’t particularly outgoing, but she and her fellow-Preferred Lev strike up an almost instant friendship. She is very wary of her Watcher, Noah, at first, but they slowly warm to each other. (For the record, Maya was inspired by a young woman I met when I used to go swimming at the Kendriya Vidyalaya pool in Andrews Ganj, Delhi!)
Noah Jarryd: What immediately strikes you about Noah is that he is insanely tall—201 centimetres, according to his personnel records file in the Halvard Castle! Add to that his ghostly paleness and whitish blond hair, not to mention the dark blue eyes, and he is likely to make you take a step or two backwards. He has a cold, stand-offish manner to go with his expressionless countenance, and it is no wonder Maya was terrified when she first met him. Swedish-Norwegian by origin and thirty-seven years old at the start of the book, Noah is a highly reputed Logician. He specializes in “Network Security”. There seem to be a number of unanswered questions about his past. (Of course, Noah was mostly inspired by Spock from Star Trek!)
Lev Karenin: Maya’s best friend, Lev is fifteen years old when the story gets under way. He is from Russia, and we later find out that his father—his only parent—is ailing and likely to die very soon. Tall and painfully thin, with grey eyes and dark brown hair, Lev can be a little unpredictable. At times he seems unusually reticent and prefers his own company; at others he can be warm and friendly. His father’s illness preoccupies him, and he is grateful for Maya’s friendship, especially when he discovers that he may have a bigger role to play in the Sai’adyin conspiracy than he would have chosen to.
Chiyo Miyazaki: Legend has it that Chiyo is an expert at eleven different martial art forms. Noah describes her as being able to break his neck faster than he could blink! While Chiyo looks rather innocuous—medium height, dark hair and eyes, and slender—she has super-normal strength, is supremely fit and… well, let’s just say Noah is right. Japanese by origin, Chiyo lives with her husband and son in Kyoto when she is not at the Castle with Lev. As to how her family feels about her being away for long periods with Lev, well, there’s more in The Key of Chaos.
Yazid Kassem: A thirteen-year-old Syrian boy, another young Preferred like Maya and Lev, we don’t really get to know much of him in the first book. The first thing you notice about him is that he has eyes of two different colours—rather, one eye is darker. He starts off apparently friendly, though a bit shy, but as time passes, Yazid becomes increasingly sullen, and later on he and his Watcher desert the Halvard Castle and High Council. As to why, and for what happens to him, I can’t say much more without revealing spoilers. Rest assured that he has a very important role in the second book.
Kilyana: An Inshai native (a province in the Eternal world), Kilyana is Yazid’s Watcher. She is tall and powerfully built, and has dark spiky hair. She also has an odd sort of scar above her left eye, bisecting her eyebrow in two, but that, we discover, is just an Inshain mark. Once again, relatively little is known about Kilyana, apart from that fact that she deserts along with her Preferred.
Some important characters in the second book:
Stephen Fuller: A senior Halvard and in charge of the Halvard Centenary Dispensary, Stephen is a household name in the Eternal world for being a Healer of exceptional ability. He is as popular for his Healing skills as for his good looks—which make him an object of fantasy for many young Preferred! British by origin, he subsequently opted for Eternal City citizenship, and lives there permanently. That doesn’t stop him from following the fortunes of Liverpool Football Club, though. Stephen is a very close friend of Noah’s, to the point that there are unsubstantiated rumours about the two of them among the Preferred. His is also Maya’s Healing instructor. Stephen has a cat called Anfield!
Lian Yeo: Apart from being an old flame of Noah’s, Lian is the Logician called in to replace him at his job after he left to train Maya. On her part, Maya takes an immediate dislike to Lian, though she tries hard to hide it for Noah’s sake. Lian and her Watcher, Jan Carlsson, have a small but significant role in The Key of Chaos. Stay tuned!