Today we're excited to bring to you the cover reveal for the fantasy novel, The Underworld King by Ranjit More. While this is an adult fantasy, it is appropriate for YA readers.
60,000 miles below the surface of the earth thrives a kingdom inhabited by daityas – giant, fanged beings of the night who sometimes travel to the surface above and eat humans in the hearts of grim forests. Their four-armed king, Drumila, faces a new peril, and this time it is advancing upon him not from the heavens, where his eternal enemies reside, but from the darkest depths of creation. The naagas –giant, flame-breathing serpents– are traveling towards the capital of daityas, intent upon reducing them to ashes, and Drumila must do everything in his power to thwart them. For no matter how strongly he detests his subjects' lifestyle and nature, it is his duty to protect them as king.
Moved by Drumila's plight, the powerful sage, Shukracharya, swims down into the underworld upon the back of his giant crocodile and convinces his disciple-king to migrate to the surface of the earth.
What follows is an epic exodus to the world above and a strange encounter with a beautiful girl thereupon. Nandini seems to be human, but all signs point towards her having descended from the heavens, the least of which are a delicate waist and long eyes extending up to her ears. But is this a trick of the gods? Drumila will find out soon enough, when the battle begins.THE UNDERWORLD KING is the tale of the emperor of Paataal, the Hindu underworld, and the goddess of Svarg, the Hindu heaven, and their quest for endless power, lust and each other's destruction.
Here's an excerpt for your enjoyment:
A sage called Shukracharya emerged from the limpid waters of a lake upon the back of a giant, green crocodile. Swiftly had they shot through the reservoir, the sage and the crocodile, like a divine shaft released by Shambhu from the underworld, and had arrived on the banks of the lake, which lay within a myterious island. Yet, it was early, as far as their fixed arrivals at the secret site were concerned, for the sun-globe was still visible in the sky and had yet to redden the earthly firmament.
Churning the life airs within his body, Shukracharya heated the surface of his skin and dried off the water running over it. Then he got down from the crocodile upon the golden sands of the bank and surveyed the forest around him.
A thousand times over had he seen these woods, which were the residence of his beloved deity, Nataraj, Who produced blazing fires from His third eye and scorched the cosmos until it became devoid of life and matter. Fanning those flames with His destructive dance, Nataraj then destroyed the twelve worlds and their denizens at the end of every divine millenium, and created the worlds anew.
A thrill ran across Shukracharya’s body as he recalled his Lord’s destructive activities, which, although terrific and frightening to most living beings, were necessary for the balance of nature. It produced in him a great desire to see the white Lord immediately, but alas, it was not possible. There were rules to be followed, regulations to be observed, in the divine jungle of Shiva-Shankara. Shukracharya controlled the urge, and turned the other way, for Nataraj didn’t expect his services for one and a half muhurt yet.
Of course, idols normally didn’t expect anything, seeing as how they were made of gold, stone, wood or jewels (Shukra’s idol was made of jewels) but this particular statue managed to express such things nevertheless, and more. Shukra believed it was due to the divine mystic power of the forest-island than any miraculous result of his own devotion, but he was glad about it either way. Only, whenever Damstra, the crocodile, accompanied him to His sacred grove, did the deity remain lifeless. Otherwise He talked and laughed with Shukra in the most astonishing way.
Since he had time to spend, Shukracharya looked in the direction of south, where he hoped to find something that would occupy him. As though in response, a cool breeze imbrued with many sweet fragrances blew from the direction, beckoning him.
‘I can smell the scent of the champaka flower in there somewhere,’ he thought, as the fragrances passed him by. ‘And even a hint of bilva!’ Both trees were exceedingly dear to Nataraja; with their flowers and leaves finding extensive use in His worship.
‘If not, he thought, at least I’ll get some fresh flowers to tuck in my hair.’
Like most divine sages, Shukracharya had matted hair upon his head, tied in a manner that resembled a large beehive. Due to swimming so rapidly through the waters of the lake, all the flowers and leaves had washed away from it.
Shukracharya turned to his crocodile. “Damstra,” he said, “stay here.”
The crocodile nodded his heavy, green head but Shukra continued to look upon him. “Last time I saw you, you were holding one of the reptiles from the forest in your mouth.” He narrowed his eyes. “It looked like you were about to swallow the poor creature. May I ask why? At the time I had some important matter pressing on my mind, and I didn’t say anything to you. But now that I remember, I demand to know the meaning of such behavior.”
The giant crocodile tossed his scaly head as though shaking it in denial. “I never was going to eat it, maharaj,” he said in a heavy voice, looking grumpily at the spot where this event had occurred. “But the crocodiles took me to be an ordinary reptile like themselves and came to challenge me. I had to expand my body and display my strength. Would you rather me sit still and do nothing? Your mount?”
“Of course not,” Shukra said at once. “You must defend yourself and your self-respect at all times… I only ask that you don’t kill anything here, on this sacred island.”
“Of course, maharaj,” Damstra said. “I won’t.”
“Very well. Rest awhile.”
Damstra then nodded and began to lumber away lazily on his four, bent legs.
Shukracharya gripped his golden stick firmly and began to walk towards the southern forest, treading upon fine gravel in his wooden sandals. He passed palash trees laden with startling red flowers and groves of kadamb trees, which lent a sweet fragrance to the air, and caused fat bumblebees to buzz lazily around his matted hair.
He must’ve walked for a long time, because when he turned back, the lake, the crocodile and the forest had disappeared from view. As he looked around he only saw tiny shrubs and standing plants growing in large clusters here and there. It was a most wonderful thing.
Where trees had been at least a yojan tall near the lake, now appeared to be of the mere size of his thumb... If he wanted, Shukra could’ve uprooted a tree with his two fingers by exerting only a bit of force, but he restrained himself.
‘What strange wonder is this?’ he thought. ‘Everything is so small!’
Shukra looked closer and was astonished even further. Verily, surrounding him on all sides, were hills and mountains…growing to the height of his waist!
He could have sat upon them like a throne, or beat them to crumbling rocks with his stick.
There was no mistaking it.
Shukracharya had entered the dimension of the humans.
This cover reveal was organized and put together by CBB Book Promotions.