Sunday, June 9, 2013

Book Review: The Secrets of the Dark - Arka Chakrabarti

They say not every man that eats can make a good cook. Likewise, not every man that watches mythology can make an epic writer. And I learnt it the hard way.

I'd say the worst part about being a reader and a book reviewer is that you are sometimes forced to read stuff you'd never otherwise have spent any effort or time on. Also given my propensity not to put down a book halfway, once I've picked it up, causes me a lot of torment at times. I completed reading one such book tonight.

Now my regular readers would know I am never really hard upon any book. There's always something new or unique about each piece of writing and I appreciate the pros as much as I highlight the cons (usually fewer). But The Secrets of the Dark by newbie writer Arka Chakrabarti, all of 25 years, has left me disappointed on many levels. I received the book about a month and a half ago, and I like to believe that I am professional enough not to take too long in reading a book I have received from a kind publisher. The title and a reading of a few initial pages, however, made me put it down and consciously keep stalling reading it till I possibly could. But I couldn't go on like that forever - so I read it over the last two weeks and here I am, reviewing it immediately after putting it down.


The plot: Agni, a prince, is forced to be taken away from his kingdom in the face of impending death, and is brought up as the ward of the King of Himadri with the king's son and his own foster family. He grows up not knowing to where he belongs or what his real destiny is. But the merciless killing of his lady love and her father throws him into a whirlwind of unexpected events that slowly guide him towards his true identity and exacting revenge upon those responsible for his loved ones' deaths. At the heart of all these events are three ancient prophecies that bind together the East and the West and form the foundation of the beliefs of the world. How Agni unravels the third prophecy and assumes his true role in the larger scheme of things is the central theme of book.

For a first, the very title of the book has been poorly selected. It is slightly childish. The tagline even more so (which goes like: '...the debt of blood is never repaid'). For any average or above-average reader, the title and the tagline would be hard to connect with the actual plot. Even uncannier is the fact that the book is apparently the first in a series of books titled 'The Saga of Agni'. I find that too much of an assuming nature on part of the writer, publisher and the book itself. I mean, to be able to write the first part of a series, one must be clear on his vision for the entire series, especially how the first book would introduce the story and the characters and then seamlessly merge into the next and even further. I found that approach lacking here. The book ends very abruptly, leaving the reader confused as to what really happened and what to expect in the next part. The ending of a book is just like the last course of a meal - if you screw it up, the entire meal risks having been for nothing. I felt the ending should have been clearer. After all, what's the point of creating so much of a mystery around your story and characters that the reader loses their mind AND their interest? The turn of events and the way parallelism has been achieved between two so far unconnected stories, is also confusing and hard to follow at times.

Another lesser, but equally vexing, flaw in the book is its language and editing. I agree, simple language is the order of the day when it comes to young newbie writers of our generation, and understandably so. But there is absolutely no excuse for such bad editing. I was faced with so many outrightly visible grammatical and printing errors throughout the book, that it made me feel I can be a much better editor if these publishing houses ever gave me a chance at it. Whoever uses the pronoun 'her' for a man, in a published novel, and that too, at more places than one? I even discovered the writer's favorite word - curt. I'd like to make a note here, for the writer's perusal if he ever comes across this review - the words 'curt' and 'curtly' may have been used in ancient or classic literature with some other, non-negative connotations, but in modern English language, these words are associated with quite negative connotations, such as rude, short and terse. The frequency and the manner in which the word has been used throughout the book forced me to make a mention here. It was nauseating, almost.

I guess not everyone can write great mythology. Amish Tripathi is a genius for having succeeded at it so beautifully, and I am all praise and respect for him. But the amounts of experience, research and hard work that must have gone into creating the Shiva series are unimaginable. Merely watching The Lord of the Rings, Kingdom of Heaven and The Chronicles of Narnia does not endow one with enough ammo to write down an entire fantasy novel, let alone a saga. I hope the writer's listening. A reviewer's job is to judge a book on all levels. No hard feelings - you have a way with words, put it to better use and I'm sure your next book shall find an applauding review on my humble blog.


Disclaimer:
The views expressed in my book reviews are solely my personal opinion, and I wish not to influence the readers' judgement in finally deciding whether to read a book or not. My review is one of the many available on the WWW. The readers know better, whether to take my advice seriously or to throw it out the window. I shall leave it to their discretion, therefore, to be the final judge.

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