Monday, September 27, 2010

Review: Battle for Bittora

Anuja Chauhan’s first book The Zoya Factor was a runaway hit, and, is soon going to be released as a movie by none other than Shahrukh Khan’s production house Red Chillies Entertainment. The book was a brilliant love story between Zoya Solanki, an advertising professional and Nikhil Khoda the captain of the Indian cricket team. The book made you laugh, make you go all mushy and awww on reading it. So as is obvious her second book was eagerly anticipated and looked forward to ,especially going by the buzz, that it would be a politician's love story!

Battle for Bittora is her second book which again has full movie-in-the making potential. It is a love story between two young, dynamic, good looking politicians. The only hitch, despite knowing each other since childhood and being in love is, that they are going to be at loggerheads soon as they battle for Bittora as candidates for opposing parties.

The story is of 25 year old Jinni (Sarojini) who lives and works in Mumbai is perfectly happy with her carefree and happy existence. Until one day her grandmother, a veteran politician herself, asks or rather expects Jinni to drop everything and contest from their hometown Bittora. The grandmother is bossy and she is just not used to hearing a no. Jinni’s life is soon to change from a hip career woman in Mumbai to  a cotton sari clad wannabe MP campaigning as the candidate for Pragati party in Bittora.

Though she is reluctant she soon finds herself swathed in cotton saris and frumpy blouses, battling prickly heat, accusations of nymphomania and corruption in her battle to uphold the illustrious Pande dynasty of Pavit Pradesh. She is soon to learn that everything in politics is not as easy as it seems from outside right from the voters to her so-called friends, to understanding how her campaign is funded.

It definitely doesn’t help to know that her main rival in the election is going to be her friend from childhood Zain Altaf Khan. Zain is an ex-Royal of Bittora who is a candidate of IJP, a pro-hindu party, which by fielding a Muslim candidate is trying to signal a change of its party ideologies.

The book takes you through the battle royale. It is commendable that the author has attempted a light hearted love story between two politicians something which is so difficult to imagine keeping the Indian politicians in mind. The book is a laughathon most of the times but also tends to drag at places. What is interesting is her generous use of hinglish and hindi words which an Indian reader can connect with instantly. Words like Saakshaat fart to describe a person, kitaanu animator to describe Jinni’s job profile and her grandmother’s liberal use of broken English in the typical Pavit Pradesh accent will keep the reader laughing.

Obviously no marks for guessing which parties she means when she says Pragati, IJP or, for that matter, the place, Pavit Pradesh is also not too difficult a guess.  But the author in her own hilarious, fun way manages to give a reader an insight into what it takes to fight an election in India… it surely is not for the faint-hearted!

The book has an interesting premise but unfortunately it doesn’t keep the reader interested enough to read till the very end.  Coming after The Zoya Factor as a reader you may be disappointed since it is not as engrossing as her first.

But as a standalone it is a total value for money, entertainment guaranteed kind of a book! 

About the Author:

Anuja Chauhan was born in Meerut and went to school in Meerut, Delhi and Melbourne. Anuja lives in Gurgaon with her husband Niret Alva and their three children, and works in Advertising. Her contribution to the nation’s real politik is mostly limited to serving tea and being seen and not heard in her mother-in-law’s drawing room. (Her mother -in-law being veteran and respected politician Margaret Alva).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Review: Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling of The Mahabharata

The Mahabharata is an ancient Hindu epic where:
A son renounces sex so that his old father can remarry
A daughter is a prize in an archery contest
A teacher demands half a kingdom as his tuition fee
A student is turned away because of his caste
A mother asks her sons to share a wife
A father curses his son-in-law to be old and impotent
A husband lets another man make his wife pregnant
A wife blinds herself to share her husband’s blindness
A forest is destroyed for a new city
A family is divided over inheritance
A king gambles away his kingdom
A queen is forced to serve as a maid
A man is stripped of his manhood for a year
A woman is publicly disrobed
A war is fought where all rules are broken
A shift in sexuality secures victory
The vanquished go to paradise
The victors lose their children
The earth is bathed in blood
God is cursed
Until wisdom prevails.

The story of Mahabharata continues to intrigue, fascinate, mesmerize and captivate us till date. This is one epic from which many have learnt the art of war, art of business, the art of living and is as relevant in today’s times as it was 3000 years back.In his book Jaya, Devdutt Pattanaik takes us into a fascinating journey and retells the story in his own brilliant way.

In this enthralling retelling of India’s greatest epic, The Mahabharata, originally titled as Jaya, Devdutt Pattanaik, seamlessly weaves the Sanskrit classic as well as its many folk and regional variants into a single narrative plot. Most of us broadly know the story of Mahabharata through BR Chopra’s magnum opus on Doordarshan and through various story books such as Amar Chitra Kathas that we read as children. But Pattanaik’s book gives a fairly detailed description of the various plots and sub plots of the grand epic. He also provides explanations linking these stories to other Hindu texts such as Puranas. Mahabharata in itself has been interpreted and written in various different versions and till date no common consensus exists about this great epic.

The book is a very engrossing read. It gives a reader amazing insights into the Mahabharata and its various twists and turns. The book is a must read for any reader interested in mythology or just for a good and spellbinding read.

About the Author:

Devdutt Pattanaik is a medical doctor by education, a leadership consultant by profession, and a mythologist by passion. He has written and lectured extensively on the nature of sacred stories, symbols and rituals and their relevance in modern times. His books include The Book of Ram, Myth=Mithya: A Handbook of Hindu Mythology and The Pregnant King. The Book of Kali is based on his talks. Devdutt’s unconventional approach and engaging style is evident in his lectures, books and articles.

Review: Pyre of Queens

David Hair’s book Pyre of Queens is an extremely interesting and riveting book. A book which will keep you hooked to the very end with its various twists and turns. Hair has managed to pack horror, reincarnation, mythology, ritual of Sati, history all in one book!

The book alternates between two periods one is in 769 AD in Mandore, Rajasthan and the other is current day Jodhpur, Rajasthan. When you have a horror, mystery, intrigues set in a place like Rajasthan you have a sure winner in your hands. So is this book.

The story starts with Ravindra-Raj, the evil sorcerer-king of Mandore in Rajasthan, devises a
deadly secret ritual, where he and his seven queens will burn on his pyre, and he will rise again with the powers of Ravana, demon-king of the epic Ramayana. But things go wrong when one queen, the beautiful, spirited Darya, escapes with the help of Aram Dhoop, the court poet. Aram Dhoop loves Darya but she is in love with Shastri, the commander of king’s soldiers. Theirs is an unfulfilled love story and they are to be re born till the time they do not put their demons to rest.

So  after many re-incarnations they meet again in Jodhpur, Rajasthan in 2010. At the site of ancient Mandore, teenagers Vikram, Amanjit,  Deepika and Rasita meet and realize that the deathless king and his ghostly brides are hunting them down. As vicious forces from the past come alive, they need to unlock truths that have been hidden for centuries, and
fight an ancient battle . . . one more time.

The book falters in its plot at times. It also gets a bit confusing when the teenagers fight with their past life demons.  The love story between Shastri and Darya is a bit unconvincing.

Some characters that stand out are Ravindra Raj, the man is particularly evil and gory. Aram Dhoop the poet is also an endearing character but the decision he takes in the end will make him suffer till his death.

Will they manage to set all things right and go back to live a life more normal without being haunted by their past lives? What happens to Ravindra Raj and his brides? Read the book to know more.

Very fascinating read. Look forward to his next!

About the author :

David Hair is a New Zealander, who has worked primarily in financial services. He has a degree in History and Classical Studies. He has lived from 2007 to 2010 in New Delhi, India, but usually resides in Wellington, New Zealand. Apart from writing, he is interested in folklore, history and has a passion for football.

Review : The Wolf At The Door

Jack Higgins is back with his brand new book The Wolf at the Door. The book also brings back the old protagonist Sean Dillon, General Charles Ferguson and his team of operatives.

So this time someone is targeting the members of the elite Intelligence Unit known as ‘the Prime Minister’s private army’ and all those who work with them. For Sean Dillon the hunt is on. A very well-connected old nemesis has clearly become tired of the private army’s interference in his schemes. But proving it is going to be a difficult task and surviving it the hardest task of all..

The story is about murder attempts on Fergusson and his team members both in London and New York. Each of the assailants in the attempt is found to carry a catholic prayer card with a specific Irish prayer. The story takes you through how the Russian GRU activates a sleeper provisional IRA cell in London to take revenge on General Ferguson since he was involved in the breakup of GRU/Russian Secret Services covertly operating in London.

Although the premise is good the book fails to build up the plot and catch the reader’s attention like previous Jack Higgins’ books. The pace of the book slackens in the middle and even the climax does not build up as a reader would have anticipated.

The book is a good read for someone who is looking for a thriller but do not expect the usual high standards of Jack Higgins.

About the Author:

Jack Higgins (born 27 July 1929) is the principal pseudonym of UK novelist Harry Patterson. Patterson is the author of more than 60 novels. As Higgins, most have been thrillers of various types and, since his breakthrough novel The Eagle Has Landed in 1975, nearly all have been bestsellers. The Eagle Has Landed sold tens of millions of copies worldwide.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Review: Radiant Shadows

Review for Radiant Shadows
Author: Melissa Marr

Radiant Shadows is not what you call a fairy tale romance – it’s a faerie tale romance. It is the fourth installment in the Wicked Lovely series. Devlin, a faerie who was created by Order and Discord - Sorcha and Bananache, is sent to the mortal world to see how the newly formed faerie Seth is doing. Meanwhile, the Summer King Keenan is missing, and there is chaos in the Summer courts. Devlin did expect a fight or two with Bananache who creates discord, but what he didn’t expect was to find love. And the girl who steals his heart was one who was to be killed.

Ani is a halfling. She is part hound and part faerie, which makes her liable to the hunger of both creatures. Her short temper and beauty are what attract Devlin to her. But Bananache orders her to do a terrible thing which involves killing Ani’s loved ones and give her blood to her. With Devlin’s help, Ani flees her home in an attempt to get away from Bananache. But it’s not all that easy. Bananache kills Ani’s sister, for which Ani is determined to find her and kill her.

Another essential character is Rae, who is a dreamwalker. She can combine the threads of people’s dreams and interact with them. Meanwhile, Sorcha is unwell because of the absence of her son Seth. When she finds out about Rae’s abilities, she orders her to show her Seth in her dreams. This causes the Queen of Order to go into a deep slumber just so that she can see what her son is doing. Due to this, there is discord in Faerie. Everything slowly starts disappearing, and unless Sorcha wakes up, the land will disappear into nothing. It is only Devlin and Seth who are capable of waking her up. Thus Devlin and Ani’s plans to flee come to a standstill as Devlin needs to go back to Faerie.

The book’s ending is one that leaves the reader knowing that they haven’t seen the last of Devlin, Ani and Faerie. Together they have a future fraught with danger, but they are prepared to face it since they have new powers.

The book has been very imaginatively written. Melissa Marr’s unique writing style and cheek make it a fun read. This book is recommended for reading only for those who’ve read the previous books, since there is a huge connection to the previous books. A good read.

Reviewed by Shivani Singh

Monday, September 20, 2010

Review: Mini Shopaholic

Becky Bloomwood is back and how!! If you are a huge fan of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series this is a book you must read! As usual brilliantly written, a book which will keep you laughing from page to page and make you wonder how, just how does Becky (Rebecca) Bloomwood manage to pack in so much action in her life without meaning to! Also how does her husband, Luke Brandon, quietly and calmly handle her shopping ways! Another fabulously funny book by Sophie Kinsella!

So our favourite heroine Becky returns two years after she's given birth to Minnie. Minnie is as bratty as they come. A feisty two year old who knows her mind and can express her attitude with no qualms.

Becky who thought motherhood would be a breeze and that having a daughter was a dream come true- a shopping friend for life will soon learn that is not as easy as she thinks! As Minnie, the 2 year old Ms. Smarty Pants, has an absolutely different approach to shopping. She can manage to create havoc everywhere from Harrods to Harvey Nicks and her favorite word is Miiiiinnnnneeeeee this again is hilariously narrated!

While the country is in a huge financial crisis after Bank of London has gone bust and everyone is talking of cut backs our dear Becky is busy preparing a huge surprise event for her husband. Cut backs et al is just not her style! She finds a way to work around those issues not just for herself but also her clients at The Look. She is the only person at work who is managing to make money for the company with her innovative shopping ideas!

Becky soon finds herself in a series of unfortunate events that she is determined to solve in her own special way – so whether it is Luke's birthday party or Minnie's tantrum prone behavior and her job she knows or rather thinks she can manage it single handedly! Though she manages to get herself in a million tricky situations, she always finds the way out leading to various laugh- out- loud moments! Becky can unintentionally manage to crack you up like no one else in this world!

There are some really jaw aching laughter moments in the book. Some really funny ones are when she introduces Minnie to the concept of pocket money, Minnie’s christening ceremony or when she buys Minnie a birthday dress for her 21st birthday.

The book is highly recommended to all the women who have a bit of a Becky streak in them. Of course for all the men this book should be compulsory reading so that they can try to be like the uber cool Luke Brandon and learn to let their women indulge in shopping!

A fun book all the way!

About the Author:

Sophie Kinsella is an internationally bestselling writer and former financial journalist. She is the author of the number one bestsellers Can You Keep A Secret?, The Undomestic Goddess,Remember Me? and Twenties Girl as well as the hugely popular Shopaholic novels, the first of which is now the hit Hollywood movie Confessions of a Shopaholic.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Review : Saraswati Park

Anjali Joseph’s debut novel Saraswati Park is a fascinating story about a family residing in Bombay. The book is a vivid and detailed description of Bombay and manages to capture the essence of the city brilliantly. The book is almost an ode to the city. Saraswati Park, the colony where the protagonists reside will transport you to the lanes and by lanes of quiet areas of Matunga, Dadar or rather any old colony of Bombay. It is totally nostalgic at times right from its old colonies to the almost dying profession of letter writing which the protagonist Mohan does for a living.

This book is Mohan’s story. Mohan Karekar is by profession a letter writer who sits outside the post office in Bombay, he has helped put other people’s thoughts and feelings into words day on day. He is also a closet writer who also loves to read. Residing in a quiet suburban colony with his wife at Saraswati Park his life is pretty ordinary and mundane. Though on the surface all looks well between the two but underneath it all their marriage is thawing. Mohan’s lack of engagement and his contemplative attitude is pushing him further and further apart from his wife, Lakshmi. This again he does not notice or realize.

Soon they are joined by Ashish,a diffident, sexually uncertain  19-year-old nephew who is studying English literature. The book then takes us on a journey of these three different individuals who are deeply unsettled with their existence and are constantly striving to better it but are unable to do so.
So we have Mohan who would much rather read his books or attempt to write ignoring the tensions in his own marriage, his wife struggling to salvage the marriage and their relationship and Ashish who is coming to terms with his own problems. Though they are all battling their personal demons they intentionally or unintentionally end up being a support system for each other.

When Lakshmi loses her only brother she decides to leave Bombay under the pretext of helping an ailing relative, to mourn not only the death of a sibling but also the vital force of her marriage.  Mohan finally realizes the cracks in his marriage which he had been ignoring all along when there is no sign of Lakshmi returning; he finally manages to take a few decisive steps to salvage it. Meanwhile Ashish jumps from one failed relationship with his school friend into another with his English tutor who ends up breaking Ashish’s heart yet again but it also helps him find his peace. Mohan‘s dreams of turning into a writer also soon start taking shape.

The writer manages to breathe life into each character with her detailed description. Though every character is well thought of and characterized it is Ashish’s story which is the most interesting.

The book which is initially very slow paced ends up being very vague and hurried at the end. The book meandering at times.and  is agonizingly slow paced in places, even if you skip a few pages you don’t really end up missing anything.

But all in all an interesting and promising debut.

About the Author

Anjali Joseph was born in Bombay in 1978. She read English at Trinity College, Cambridge, and has taught at the Sorbonne, written for The Times of India in Bombay and has been a Commissioning Editor for ELLE (India)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Book review:SPELLS

By Aprilynne Pike

'Spells', the sequel to 'Wings', is the story of a young fairy, Laurel, her boyfriend, David and another fairy, Tamani. In this stunning book by Aprilynne Pike, Laurel comes to know of a disturbing truth - she is a fairy, not a human. Once she comes to know of her true identity, Laurel knows that her life is in danger and that she must leave her adopted, human family and go to the magical land of Avalon. She stays there for a while and her feelings for Tamani increase. But then situations arise and she has to go back to the regular, human world. She is more than happy to go back but she does not realise that she is putting all her loved ones in danger.

Just when Laurel thinks that her life will go back to normal, things start happening which stir up unpleasant memories of what Laurel had tried to forget a year ago. Jeremiah Barnes, Laurel's living nightmare, is on the move again and he will not rest until he tastes the sweet taste of revenge. He has set out to seek Laurel.
For the most part, Pike's writing is free flowing, descriptive and magnetic. Pike has described the scenes of Avalon in such a beautiful way that one will forget everything else and picture only Avalon.
Even the passionate moments Laurel shares with David are very emotive. But all the characters are not very well described. How exactly Laurel, David and Laurel's parents look, of that the reader has no idea. Pike has only paid attention to Tamani' s appearance. Pike seems not to have her own signature style and her writing sometimes seems ordinary. The climax of the book is supposed to be full of tension and panic. The author has successfully made the reader feel the same suspense, terror and dread that Laurel feels. The story is very engaging. The ingenious setting up is intriguing for aficionados who have been hungry to know what will happen next. The end of the villain is very dramatic though not as much as J.K.Rowling's.
Laurel's reunion with her mother is magnificently written and is very heartwarming. All-in-all, I must say that Aprilynne Pike is one of the finest authors and has handled the romance, suspense and action in the book very nicely. Spells will keep you spellbound well after the final page.
Reviewed by Ishika Chatterjee, a 11 year old student of Lokhandwala Foundation School and Junior College

Monday, September 6, 2010

Review:Besieged Voices from Delhi 1857

The 1857 uprising has been described as a Sepoy Mutiny by the Britishers , Gadhar (a time of turbulence) by Indians and post Independence historians as first war of Indian Independence. 1857 was an epoch event in the Indian history.  Howsoever these events are known as and described one thing that comes clearly out of it is that this event was the turning point that changed the dynamics of the British rule in India. After this uprising India became a direct colony of the British crown rather than being governed by the East India Company. Nowhere was this event more impactful than in the city of Delhi. Delhi was the most affected as it was the seat of the erstwhile Mughal Empire. The Mughal Empire was a pale shadow of its former glory and was ruled by the almost 80 year old Bahadur Shah Zafar whose writ ran within the four walls of the Red Fort (Lal Qilla) .The mutinies soldiers camped in Delhi and Zafar became the rallying point of these mutineers.

Mahmood Farooqui in his book presents the first extensive translations into English of the Mutiny Papers –documents dating from Delhi’s 1857 siege, originally written in Persian and Shikastah Urdu. The translations include such fascinating pieces as the constitution of the Court of Mutineers, letters from soldiers threatening to leave Delhi if they were not paid their salaries, complaints to the police about unruly soldiers, and reports of troublesome courtesans, spies, faqirs, doctors, volunteers and harassed policemen. The book manages to shift the focus away from the conventional understanding of the events that took place in 1857.

The 1857 Uprising is widely written about by British historians from their point of view but there has been no definite account from the Indian perspective. This book is a very successful attempt by Mahmood Farooqui to bridge that gap.The book has been extensively researched  managing to give the reader a glimpse of the daily life & times in the city of Delhi during that period. The book gives the reader interesting insights such as the largely unacknowledged Sikh participation in the mutiny, Bahadur Shah Zafar’s defence trial in 1858 after being arrested when the mutiny came to an end and also how the uprising affected the residents of Delhi, the common people who suffered the most.

A definite, interesting and marvelous guide for anyone interested in history especially the history of Delhi.

About the Author:

Mahmood Farooqui studied history at St. Stephen’s College,Delhi, and at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. He has been a journalist and a newspaper columnist and, over the last few years, has effected a major revival of dastangoi, the art of storytelling. Farooqui is the co-director of the Hindi feature film, Peepli Live, and lives in Delhi with his wife Anusha Rizvi.

The Book Lovers Book Club Meet

The third Book Lovers Club meeting was held at Crossword, Linking Road on Sunday,5th September. This was our first meet at the store and I would like to thank the Crossword staff and Tanaz for their whole hearted support and co-operation to ensure the meet went off smoothly. The Calcutta Chromosome by Amitav Ghosh was discussed, debated and reviewed since it was our pick as the book of the month. After reading Indian authors back to back it was decided to pick an international writer and since most of the members have not yet read Stieg Larsson’s trilogy we decided to start with his first book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as the book of the month!
Parul Sharma joined us to read from her yet to be released book ‘By the Water Cooler’ which will be out in the market soon. If the first chapter, which she read for the members, is anything to go by this is one book which will turn out to be a good read!

Parul also sportingly answered a lot of questions about her new book and her first book ‘Bringing up Vasu: The First Year’.
Thank you Parul for joining us at the meet & reading excerpts from your new book we'd also like to wish you all the very best for the same!
The Book Lovers book club's next meeting will be on Sunday 3rd October. Will post more details soon.
If you would like to join the book club in Bombay do write in to us as at bookwelove (at) gmail (dot) com.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Review : Secrets and Sins

Jaishree Misra’s book Secrets & Sins is her second book in a series of three novels exploring love and relationships. The book is a simple, well written romantic novel. This is a book which while being heartwarming is also a heartbreaking read. Aman and Riva’s story will for sure manage to strike a chord with many women.

Riva is an Indian brought up in London and Aman a student from India. While in college, fifteen years back, they had a passionate love affair. But despite the attraction Riva ended up choosing Ben the man who became her husband. Though Aman and Riva  went their separate ways their passion for each other stayed alive and they kept track of each other’s progress.

Now, Riva is a bestselling novelist and Aman is a Bollywood superstar (sweet dreams are made of these!) A lot has changed in the fifteen years while Riva is a huge success story with things going well for her professionally her husband Ben is laid off from his high paying bank job and he is now a struggling writer. His failure ends up frustrating him and soon their marriage starts showing the strain because of these reasons. Aman though still in love with Riva marries Salma. His marriage to Salma is equally unhappy. So when fate brings them together at the Cannes Film Festival Aman and Riva are torn between their desires for each other and the love for their families.  

What will Riva and Aman do will they follow their hearts or their heads. Read the book to know more!

The book is so breathtaking in its simplicity and the relationships beautifully handled. As a reader there is never a dull moment. It manages to keep the reader hooked to the very end to know what will happen next in Aman and Riva’s love story.  An enjoyable read.

If you love reading romance this is a book you must pick up.

You can read the first two chapters of the book here

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Review: Black Light

Black Light

By Rimi B Chatterjee

This has been a novel that has been sometime in the making. A decade, to be precise, and in the interim, it has got itself a title different from what it was born with.

The story is deceptively simple at the outset. Satyasandha Sarkar, a 30 year old desk editor with a newspaper, is informed by his mother that his maternal aunt, Medhashri Sen, has been found dead. Medhashri is his mother’s elder sister, and the maverick of the family. The death is a suicide, which could be a blot on the family’s reputation and needs to be hushed up. Medha is the eccentric who was never really understood by her family. As the author says, Medha's  "Life is in conflict with her art which leads her to implode." Her husband left her, taking one of their daughters with him to the US while leaving the second daughter, the one afflcted by cerebral palsy behind with Medha. Medha was an artist and she leaves a series of clues to her internal mind, through a letter addressed to Satya. Through the clues left behind for Satya to piece together, he sets out on a cross country trip which leads him to five different places, where he unearths the artistic genius his aunt was, and the secrets behind her eccentric life and her self inflicted death. Through his search, he comes a little closer to understanding himself and the questions that he has been grappling with.

This novel takes an incisive look at what constitutes the social stereotype, and how people who defy being stereotyped get branded as being different, eccentric and therefore, people who are viewed as threats to society.

Published by Harper Collins

Price Rs.299

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Prologue: An excerpt from Pyre of Queens

Book:Pyre of Queens
Author:David Hair
Puffin Rs.225

.Mandore, Rajasthan, 769 AD:

Ravindra-Raj, the evil sorcerer-king, devises a deadly secret ritual, where he and his seven queens will burn on his pyre,and he will rise again with the powers of Ravana, demon-king of the epic Ramayana.

But things go wrong when one queen, the beautiful, spirited Darya,escapes with the help of Aram Dhoop, the court poet.

Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 2010:

At the site of ancient Mandore, teenagers Vikram,Amanjit, Deepika and Rasita meet and realize that the deathless king and his ghostly brides are hunting them down. As vicious forces from the past come alive, they need to unlock truths that have been hidden for centuries, and fight an ancient battle . . . one more time.


The Lost Journal

Jodhpur, Rajasthan, June 2010

The journal was right where he remembered putting it over eighty years ago—two feet below the distinctive stone tablet. It was wrapped in waterproof greased paper and leathers, in a painted wooden box that crumbled with dry-rot when he dug it out. To his considerable relief, it appeared no one had touched it since its burial. The pages smelt musty, tainted by preservatives, and the binding was frail. Some of the oldest pages, the ones at the front, were more than one thousand years old. It was to the first page, the oldest of them all, that he turned. The script was ancient, but he found he knew it, translated it mentally as he traced the lines with one trembling finger that dared not quite touch the page.

If you are reading this work, then you are very likely me. You know what I mean.

I have come to believe that certain stories develop a life of their own. They are so powerful, so widely known, so much a part of our culture, indeed of our daily lives, that they become more than mere words.

Imagine, if you will, a tale that defines a people. It has heroes and villains, good and evil deeds, its very words are sacred to us. It is like a chess set, its pieces inhabited by the same souls, game after game. Or perhaps this tale is a living thing, a script that constantly seeks actors, and when it finds them, it inhabits those actors and possesses them utterly, finding new ways to express and re-express itself, time and time again.

What must it be like, to be one of those souls, doomed time and again to live the same life, over and over? Acting out the tale, glorifying it, enhancing it, though at great cost to themselves. Their whole existence a prison sentence, their fate to again and again live as a play-thing of an idea.

But then, you know what it’s like, don’t you?

Such a story is a tyrannical god, inflicting itself upon its unwilling worshippers.

Can such a thing be? Yes it can, and I know, for I am living such a tale, and am doomed to live it over and over, forever more. And so are you.

Over and over. Again and again.

And again.

And yet again.

He focused on the brief verse that followed, and felt a thrill of unease and excitement which made him almost gasp aloud.

Time is water from the well of life

And I must draw that water with only my hands to bear it

My thin and frail fingers cupped to receive it, every drop precious

But ere I have raised it to my lips, it has drained away

One day I will learn not to spill it and I will drink my fill

And finally be free

Aram Dhoop, Poet of Mandore.

He blinked twice, and realized he’d not drawn breath since beginning to read. He panted now, refilling his lungs though they seemed to be constricting in his chest. The words were exactly those of a poem he had written a year ago in English class that had won him the Poetry Cup for that year. Even though he’d not been able to explain properly to the teachers what he had meant. ‘It’s about reincarnation,’ was as close as he’d come.

Finally he put the book down. He knew though that he would read it fully that night, cover to cover, if he could stay awake that long. Just as surely he knew that each word in it would be as familiar as if he had written them yesterday.

There was one other thing, hidden with the journal. It was a small leather pouch. He opened it, but it was empty. Still empty, after all these years. Strange, he had almost expected it to be full. His hand still remembered what should have been there—a tarnished pendant bearing a pale crystal, veined with burgundy streaks. He remembered the way it used to pulse queasily to the touch. Where the stone was now, he had no idea.

The journal was a history scholar’s dream, but he would never show it to anyone. He himself had begun writing it, over a thousand years ago. He had buried it many times too, most recently only thirty years back. It had been part of his life for centuries, though he was only seventeen years old.

(Excerpted with permission from Penguin Books India from Pyre of Queens
by David Hair)