Aug 30, 2016

The Sinister Silence- Book Review

Book Title: The Sinister Silence
Author: Moitrayee Bhaduri
Publisher: Srishti Publishers
My Rating: ***
About the Author:
This is Moitrayee Bhaduri's debut as a novelist. A content specialist by profession, the author has graduated with History Honours and has completed M.A. too. Moitrayee loves animals, and singing travelling and watching Cricket are her spare time interests.

I have more than many times expressed my interest and love for book cover designs. And I have come across more than many good books purely because of the book cover design. So much against the greatly popular belief that one should not judge a book by its cover, I do!

Last month, a contest was organised in one of the Facebook groups called FWBA- For Writers by Authors and the Top 3 book cover designs were to be picked. Being a professionally qualified graphic designer for more than a decade now and an active member of the group, I was asked to pick my favourites from the 40+ entrants.And rest is history!

I picked 'The Sinister Silence' as a winner because this cover design emotes like a back blurb talks for the book. Though the individual elements used on the cover are undoubtedly clich├ęd, one cannot deny that the treatment has rendered them indeed effective, as a whole. Where there's a blood splatter a murder mystery is inevitable and where there's mystery, aren't finger prints integral to the investigation? The subtle watermarked fingerprint on the cover creates the awe and intrigue for the 'Sinister'. The silhouette of the buildings suggest the corporate sector and that the story must start in the wee hours. Once the back blurb is read, you would now how apt the cover design  is! +1 star for the great book cover design by Raja T.

I gravitated towards the book and the author drew me in with a great Prologue. The book starts with a charmer of a man called Saahil Kerkar driving home through another of Mumbai's torrential rains on the evening of 4th of July 2014. The good Samaritan that he is, he also offers a lift to his colleagues from Zarine Software. The story takes on the avatar of a murder mystery when Saahil is found in a pool of blood inside his car, in the wee hours of the next day- 5th July 2014.

Ex-super-cop-turned-detective Mili Ray has founded a new private detective agency called Kwest and her team comprises of Advocate Gatha & an ex-army officer called Anubhav. The trio dive into the case headlong and manage to 'crack the motive' before the police officer in charge ACP Purab Trehan. As the book progresses, a string of murders are committed and they all seem to be linked to the first case. 

The treat for me in the book, were the choice of names of the various characters. The author has obviously taken some pains in selecting the names and also researched the backgrounds on it. My favourite character was the next in lead- Morena Dave. She not only has a unique name, she has some cute nicknames too like Mornie. This is yet another major score from my point of view. As a reader I appreciate the intelligence and attention to detail shown by the author. It helps us distinguish the characters one from another, and visualise them along with their physicality, their traits, etc. By the end of the book, we read about a very interesting hobby inculcated by Morena. It added flavour to the book, or must I say 'fragrance', in this case?

Mili Ray a very keen detective has one healthy habit and a vice too to make her real as ever, in the reader's minds. Mili chomps on apples and smokes too! I would like to find out that the author has plans of expanding this character over a series of murder mystery books.

It has been quite a while since I last read a good Indian murder mystery story. With stalwarts like Ashwin Sanghi having published a book in the same genre, and him being one of my favourite authors, Moitrayee Bhaduri's 'The SInister Silence' did have a lot to stand up against. So I must applaud this book as a good read and a great book by a debutante author.

One of my pet peeves that I spotted in this book was direct Hindi-English translated phrases seeping into the narration. At one instance, one of the investigators comments something like, " I think he had a hand in this." A little tighter editing could have brought this book closer to being flawless, as far as Grammar is concerned.However it is indeed a relief to read a book where bombastic words have not been force-fed between some good prose. 

The twists in the tales are aplenty and the plot in fact thickens during the unraveling of the mystery at the end. That's what I think will set the book apart from the rest. What I sorely did miss was the 'Sinister Silence' as the title had promised. I was really looking forward to some eerie or close to paranormal experiences woven into the storytelling. Or maybe it was wrong on my part to presume that this murder mystery would have so much hidden between its 271 pages. 

Like the back blurb states, this book is indeed an edge-of-the-seat thriller that I enjoyed reading.

* This is an author requested book review but I promise that this is a genuine book review for my blog's followers, posted at my own free will. 

I have read and reviewed this book as a part of my #BrunchBookChallenge for 2016. This book also checks off as Book#9 as per my  own Book Reading/Reviewing Challenge 2016

Aug 5, 2016

The Conspiracy at Meru (VikramadityaVeergatha # 2) Curtain Raiser

For all those who had read

The Guardians of the Halahala- Book Review

Here's the curtain raiser on the much-awaited sequel. I take the liberty of comparing this to the 'Bahubali' movie series because the euphoria and wait for the sequel has been quite equal!

The Conspiracy at Meru(VikramadityaVeergatha # 2)

You can watch the Book Trailer At: 


Vikramaditya and his Council of Nine have fought valiantly to repel the rampaging hordes from Devaloka and Patala – but Avanti has been brought to its knees. Ujjayini lies battered its citizens are scared and morale is badly shaken. Meanwhile, the barbaric Hunas and Sakas are gathering on the horizon and cracks are emerging between the allied kingdoms of Sindhuvarta.

The only silver lining is that the deadly Halahala is safe. For now.

Bent on vengeance, Indra is already scheming to destroy Vikramaditya, while Shukracharya has a plan that can spell the doom for the Guardians of the Halahala. How long can the human army hold out against the ferocity and cunning of the devas and asuras? And will Vikramaditya’s love for his queen come in the way of his promise to Shiva?

     Goodreads * Amazon

The deadly Halahala, the all-devouring poison churned from the depths of the White Lake by the devas and asuras, was swallowed by Shiva to save the universe from extinction.
But was the Halahala truly destroyed?
A small portion still remains – a weapon powerful enough to guarantee victory to whoever possesses it. And both asuras and devas, locked in battle for supremacy, will stop at nothing to claim it.
As the forces of Devaloka and Patala, led by Indra and Shukracharya, plot to possess the Halahala, Shiva turns to mankind to guard it from their murderous clutches. It is now up to SamratVikramaditya and his Council of Nine to quell the supernatural hordes – and prevent the universe from tumbling into chaos!
A sweeping tale of honour and courage in the face of infinite danger, greed and deceit, The Guardians of the Halahala is a fantastical journey into a time of myth and legend.

About the Author
Door-to-door salesman, copywriter, business journalist & assistant editor at The Economic Times; Shatrujeet Nath was all this before he took to writing fiction full-time. He debuted with The Karachi Deception in 2013, followed by The Guardians of the Halahala and The Conspiracy at Meru, the first two books in the VikramadityaVeergatha series. At present, he is writing volume three of the series. Shatrujeet lives in Mumbai, but spends much of his time in the fantasy worlds of his stories.

Another book by the same author on my TO READ list:

(Click On the Cover for More Details)

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Jan 12, 2016

Collection of Chaos- Book Review

Author: Tikuli
Foreword by Kris Saknussemm 
Publisher: Leaky Boot Press

My Rating: ****
Available at: 
And all major online book sellers.

About the Author:Brought up in Delhi in a family of liberal educationists Tikuli is a mother of two sons. She is also a blogger and author. Some of her short stories and poems have appeared in print and in online journals and literary magazines including Le Zaparougue, MiCROW 8, Trobadour 21, The Smoking Book (Poets Wears Prada Press, US), The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Mnemosyne Literary Journal, Women's Web. Some of her print publications include poems in Guntur National Poetry Festival Anthology and much acclaimed Chicken Soup For The Indian Romantic Soul, Melange,and kaafiyana. Her work has also been featured on websites related to gender issues and child sexual abuse.

This Book Review was first published at DIFFERENT TRUTHS

We were all taught nursery rhymes at kindergarten and we grew up learning poems by heart but how many of us really found expression for our feelings in verse? Poetry is the voice of a soul. It cannot be adopted. It's born, somewhere deep in the warm cockles of the heart. Poetry is a maze of words, with routes going into and out of the heart.

I am glad I came across Tikuli's Collection of Chaos. And I am even happier that this will be the first collection of poems that I've read in 2016. I'm delighted with this book of verses because they are straight from the heart and yet the fluent poems are made of words that have been intelligently woven together. I have been reading Tikuli's poems and Haikus for almost a decade now and her inimitable style of saying so much within a few lines, a handful of words continues to enthrall me.

I have somehow always related the reading of poetry with the first rains that mark the beginning of the season- petrichor! And Tikuli also uncannily opens the collection with a beautiful simile to describe the predominant emotion that mingles with the petrichor, by saying,
'The solitude
the smell of rain
slaking the parched earth.'

Tikuli's collection of poems are a deluge of emotions, each separate piece a heavier thought than before. Her words definitely come from a lifetime of myriad experiences and jarring observations, from changing times. From the little understanding that I have of poetic meters and such, Tikuli has ventured to utilise very different forms of poetry, and yet maintained her voice in it. She has given expression to a whirlwind of emotions and yet Tikuli manages to maintain order in the usage of correctly chosen words.

While one poem is a poignant reminder of 'The Stoning of Soraya M.- a 2008 American Persian-language drama film; another describes mindless Indian rituals, and there are those poems that give us a heart-wrenching peek into the minds and lives of woebegone, torn women.

There's also a fresh whiff of romance now and then. My favourite being this short verse that captures a memory so skillfully.
At dawn
I gather the scent of the night jasmine
And with it
The scent of you
Encased between the white
And the vermilion

However while I kept sailing from one poem to the next, what I found sorely amiss was a befitting title for each piece. Or maybe that would be a stereotypical packaging for presenting one's gift to the world. I suppose Tikuli prefers to leave each story told between the rhyming lines, to grow on the reader and take on a title or maybe a moral of its own, as per the reader's personal connect with the piece?
Took me around, two days to finish reading each of the poems, couplets, verses and haikus. And I am a slow reader. I like to roll the words on my tongue as I read, feel their weight, wait for it to travel down and sink in. And that's appreciating poetry for me, much like enjoying the whiff and roll of a good wine.
If I'm not wrong, there are around 90 pieces in the book of 124 pages. And there is a different shade of known and unknown emotions to read about.

In the foreword given by Kris Saknussemm, the poetess is aptly described as a 'student heart', for she really seems to be curious and readily imbibing all the goings on around her.

Quoting Kris Saknussemm-
"Innocence isn’t something we begin with and then gradually lose through the
hardships of life experience, it’s a perspective and a state of mind
we may achieve—through perseverance, humility, and an unquenchable
curiosity about the world."

There's one more poem from the Collection of Chaos that brought a smile to my face. There couldn’t have been truer words.

Fantasy is reality
reality is fantasy
and in between
there is a poet
on a Ferris wheel

* This review has not been requested by the author and is a genuine book review for my blog's followers, posted at my own free will. 

I have read and reviewed this book as a part of my #BrunchBookChallenge for 2016. This book also checks off as Book#3 as per my  own Book Reading/Reviewing Challenge 2016

Jan 11, 2016

Book Reading/Reviewing Challenge 2016

This brand new year 2016 has brought with it an increased fervour to read more and varied books/authors. I have therefore been picking up book challenges that are doing the rounds on the virtual social circuit.

One of them being the Brunch Book Challenge Part-3 (Indian Writing Special  launched on twitter by Hindustan Times - HTBrunch. the target is to read 24 books this year. I'd read 20 in 2015, so a plus four seems extremely doable. 

However I came across another kind of book challenge on Facebook that specifies what kind of books to cover, and then I had this 'Aaha!' moment. That was just the thing I was looking for. 

I think I want to take the #BookBrunchChallenge a bit further by zeroing down on what kind of books will be included therein, ie. a list of the 24 books. Not the titles but the genre or what they mean to me. 

In the #BrunchBookChallenge I will read and review 24 books that tick off one of the following criteria each:-

1. Book of my most favourite genre
2. Book of my least favourite genre
3. A book of poetry
4. A book I've been meaning to read
5. A book you previously abandoned
6. A book I own but have never read
7. A book that intimidates me
8. A book published this year
9. A book recommended by an author/librarian/friend
10. A book I should have read when in school
11. A book published before I was born
12. A book that was banned once upon a time
13. A book you've already read at least once
14. A National Book Award winner
15. A book that has been adapted into a movie
16. A humorous book
17. An autobiography
18. A travelogue/a book based on a road trip
19. A book by an internationally acclaimed author
20. A book translated from a regional language
21. A book of collected short stories
22. A self-improvement book
23. A non-fiction book
24. A romantic bestseller

By the end of 2016 I hope to have checked off all of the above books, not necessarily following the same order.And I also hope to be able to review each of these books too..

Do please leave a suggestion in the comments, if any!

Jan 5, 2016

Emperor's Riddles - Book Review

Book Title: The Emperor's Riddles
Author: Satyarth Nayak
Publisher: Amaryllis
My Rating: ***1/2
About the Author:
Satyarth Nayak is an author, script-writer & journalist based in Delhi. Holding a Masters Degree in English Literature from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, writing has always been a prolific passion. His short story ‘Eve’ won the prestigious British Council Writers Circle Prize in 2006. 

The grand new year 2016 begins and I am posting the very first book review of the year. Now you may wonder why I refer to this year as 'grand' already? It is the effect of this book, I say! Open your eyes and see the numerology.
I have always been a great fan of the esoteric. The mystery and magic, the aura wrapped around it intrigues me to bits. So did this book with it's opening chapter that heightens the importance and the enigma around the magic number NINE!

Would you have imagined that it carries an ancient enigma so powerful that even gods would kill for it?
There have been not one but a string of savage murders!
Renowned historian Ram Mathur's face is carved with the symbol of an AUM on one cheek, an eye gouged out with acid but he still dies on the ghats of the mighty river Ganga with a beatific smile pasted on his face. What happens next is not only the investigation of the case by police officer Parag Suri but also Mathur's only daughter Sia's desperate quest to track the murderer. Sia believes her father had preempted his sordid end and indicated that she seek help from esoteric writer & friend -Om Patnaik. 

Except for the earliest gory description of Mathur's murder, there's no more gore as the book progresses. However, what follows is quite a brain wracking series of poetic riddles. Sia and Patnaik have set off to hunt the perpetrator down but find themselves traveling all over India, solving one puzzle after another set before them by a mysterious order. The settings are all icons from Indian history, the background of the nine primeval sciences that take the reader through multiple thrilling facts and figures. The storyline however is a strong reminder of Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code.

How Satyarth Nayak's book stands out for me from it's foreign predecessor is the narration of a parallel story within the same novel that's about an emperor who's story also links in with the same enigma that has our protagonist duo in a quandary.

My favourite character in the book is that of the grey haired Jasodhara with her OCD for a dust-free home. She seems to have drunk up Indian history like a vial of potion for she's like a walking talking encyclopedia! Jasodhara plays a pivotal role in solving the puzzles to the enigma, rattling off facts and figures faster than any one could ever expect. 

The only downside of this murder mystery for me is that that author has not given importance to descriptions and development of the primary characters. Everything is happening just too fast for me to swallow and digest. How I wish he had taken his time to unravel each puzzle, let Sia and Patnaik bond a little more through their struggle and strife. The present treatment leaves me pandering for more thrill and passion in the folds of the storytelling. 

Satyarth Nayak's The Emperor of Riddles flaunts the high praise received from my favourite author Ashwin Sanghi on the cover, and Nayak's style of writing also kept reminding me of the latter's style of narration too. 

To sum it up, this is definitely a great one time read for murder mystery lovers but for lovers of history there's a whole lot of thrilling facts to visit and revel in. Take a peek into the mind of a knowledgeable and intelligent Indian writer who shows much promise for the future of Indian literature. 


I received an author signed copy of this book as a prize for winning a short story writing competition organised in the last quarter of the bygone year. Satyarth Nayak's handwritten a sweet message to me probably after reading my story that was based on Buddhist mythological story- Angulimala which has also found mention in his book. He writes, "For reimagining, reinterpreting,retelling, reaffirming."
Thankyou for the inspiration Satyarth Nayak and also for penning such an entertaining novel. 
Kudos and good wishes for you too!

* This review has not been requested by the author and is a genuine book review for my blog's followers, posted at my own free will. 

I have read and reviewed this book as a part of my #BrunchBookChallenge for 2016. This book also checks off as Book#1 as per my  own Book Reading/Reviewing Challenge 2016

Dec 22, 2015

The Cheongsam Bombshell (A Frank Keegan Mystery #2)- Book Review

Book Title: The Cheongsam Bombshell
Author: Aki Liao & Al McDermid

Publisher: Red Betsy Press
My Rating: ****
About the Authors:

Aki Liao was born in Paris, France, but is a graduate of Yale University (1989) . He received his M.A. from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (1993).

Al McDermid was born in Michigan, where he spent most of his life until joining the U.S. Navy upon graduating high school. Remaining in Hawaii when his tour ended, he attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, receiving his B.A. (1990) and M.A. (1997) in History.

Their debut novel penned together- 'A Halo for Red Betsy' is the first book in this 'Frank Keegan Mystery' Series. 

The author-Al McDermid, now my virtual friend, sent me a Proof copy of this wonderful book sailing across the seas to me. I am hugely thankful not only because the author has been extremely generous in pampering the voracious reader in me (twice over) but also because there are so many things about this book that I connect with.
'Cheongsam'- this piece of Chinese garment is my personal favourite style of clothing and who knew it would feature on a book cover and in a mystery book series title some day. So that's one major reason why I was attracted to this book. 
Then the cover is once again beautifully hand-illustrated by Mark Anthony Taduran. Like book #1, I give another +1 * especially for the amazing book cover.
And the last but not the least reason that made me sit up and take interest in the mystery story was that Chapter One opens dated Sunday 25 December 1949. Christmas has a special place in my heart because its my birthday!!!
So with all these elements raising all my hopes and expectations from the book #2 in the Frank Keegan Mystery series, I must say that it did not fail me as a reader at all. 
Try as I might, I cannot stop myself from referring to the previous book in the series and comparing between the two books- #1 A Halo for Red Betsy & #2 The Cheongsam Bombshell. However I still cannot decide which I like better for each comes with its own flavour and page-turning intrigue.

The previous book had a slew of characters, each more interesting than the other, each etched more creatively than the other. The main protagonist- U.S. Navy Gunner's Mate and former San Diego Police detective Frank Keegan found himself unexpectedly involved in solving the murder of Navy Lieutenant Elizabeth "Betsy" Vale.  By the end of book #1, right after Frank Keegan, I was drawn and enamoured by one particular not-so-ladylike lady in the book- Julie Flynn. I had a hunch that the foul-mouthed young hooker who was apparently a less important character in the story, could easily keep the readers mesmerised if developed into a full blown central protagonist. And like they'd read my mind, Al McDermid and Aki Liao brought out book #2 of The Frank Keegan Mystery with my favourite character in the spotlight. 

 Julie Flynn has given up her raunchy lifestyle as a taxi-dancer. Still clad in her trademark Cheongsams that accentuate the curves on her body, Julie with her height,good looks and brook-no-bullshit attitude made for the perfect bartender at 'The Golden Lotus'. Just as she was getting comfortable in this new role, and also as Frank Keegan's steady girlfriend, Julie's estranged grifter mother-Elsa shows up out of the blue on Christmas Day. The very next day Elsa is found murdered in her hotel room and Julie inadvertently being the only witness to the crime is first attacked, and then framed for murder. Frank has to keep the head-strong girl under wraps while clearing her name. His efforts take him from the seedy world of Honolulu’s Chinatown to the home of one the island’s wealthy patriarchs, who may be shipping contraband arms to Communist rebels in the Philippines.

The Cheongsam Bombshell is also a fast paced and kind of racy murder mystery. The storytelling transports you to a very different world in Hawaii. If you are not able to build mental pictures of the locales, if you haven't watched enough of the Hollywood cop movies for reference then you just got to log onto the Facebook page launched for Red Betsy Press and feast your eyes on some gorgeous B/w images. Such is social media, a boon for the authors and their readers! 

What I have come to enjoy the most about the pennings of this author duo is the language used in the dialogues. It has an old world quality to it that definitely brings to the readers the quintessential flavour of the 40s'. Frank Keegan is an ex- Naval officer and the whole book is spiced with the lingo, probably used by the officers in those days. Not once do the authors let the present century slip into the storytelling and that is quite a feat! Also I have heard a lot of authors discuss how the first person POV is a difficult style to adopt for narrating an entire novel. I think, Aki Liao and Al McDermid seem to have pulled it off pretty neatly. They have not only employed a challenging style of narration but also maintained it, flawlessly, through both the books. 

The one and only downside of this particular book#2 is the sort of loose editing that has let more than many typographical errors slip in for eg. Officer Schultz is spelt as Shultz in many portions of the book. However that is something one can easily get corrected in the following edition, right?

By the time Elsa Flynn's murderer is revealed, there's an even more scintillating character gracing the scene. Is Frank game to play along with Carmen Devereaux, the patriarch's unstable, power-hungry  daughter and does it flourish into a steamy love triangle? Is there going to be a jilting end again to this book too? Will Frank Keegan once again find himself drowning his days in tequila, aboard his boat? 

I do hope this author duo has the book #3 ready and waiting to roll, soon! 

As per Good Reads, 'The Cheongsam Bombshell' is the 'least popular' book on my list of books read in 2015. I'd like to correct that title by calling this book as a 'Lesser Known' book on the shelf. I'm sure if given the right spotlight, this Bombshell can  make a lot of noise. And I already want to read more of the Frank Keegan Mystery.
Kudos to the authors and
 BOOKMARK this please, all you murder mystery fans! 

Dec 20, 2015

#IAm16ICanRape- Book Review

Book Title: #IAm16ICanRape

Author: Kirtida Gautam
Publisher: Read Out Loud
My Rating: ***1/2
About the Authors: Kirtida is a clinical psychologist turned screenplay writer who completed her education from the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, India. Her passion for psychology and writing inspired her into writing psychological thrillers. 

This book has been the most unique read of all times. #IAm16ICanRape has been written by an author who seems to have a whole lot of spunk in her. Everything is gutsy about this book, starting from the subject to the style in which the prose has been rendered. I think writing an entire book in the present progressive tense is a mean feat. Also there are a whole lot of characters that are introduced with every new chapter. Each character gives us an in depth peek into their psyche by narrating their own story in the first person. This must definitely have been a brain wracking task for the author and it has a sort of similar effect on the reader too I believe. At least I found myself mulling over each new character's POV for a bit longer than I normally do. Well, then the subject is also such- thought provoking!

Rudransh Kashyap or RK Ji is an impressive patriarch and Aarush Kashyap- his 16 years old grandson is the sole heir to the gigantic empire established by him. The billionaire's life comes collapsing one day when he realises that the apple of his eye- Aarush, has been arrested and accused of a brutal gang rape. The story has been penned  in parts, often switching the sequence of events. And this keeps the reader on the edge of the seat. 
I however found that the sheer enormity of the book is a tad bit overwhelming. Since the subject is so intense, the story may have required that kind of elaboration and fastidious attention to details but half way through the book, I was tempted to give it up. 
Mujh se tu puch ne aaya hai wafa ke maane, 
Ye teri saada dili maar na dale mujh ko!
Kirtida Gautam has successfully woven Ghazal lyrics and also nursery rhymes into the fabric of the prose, adding flavour and variety. They uncannily fit into place too!
At 592 pages if you manage to read each and every word of it, this book is quite an epic in itself. Kirtida seems to have researched the various topics around which the story rotataes, like Indian Juvenile Law, Cryptanalysis, etc. Being a clinical psychologist, I shoudl have pre-empted that the storyline would be this intense. Quick, light, easy, such words will definitely not be used while describing the kind of reading material #IAm16ICanRape makes for!
Despite the volume of the book, the editing has been kept quite tight and the quality of the paperback is definitely good. I hope all the readers read and assimilate every last word of this painstakingly written book project. Soul-stirring in its format, this book has the potential to bring about a paradigm shift in Indian society.
Wishing the author luck for her next thriller in the making....

Dec 11, 2015

The Guardians of the Halahala- Book Review

Book Title: The Guardians of the Halahala
Book 1 of The Vikramaditya Trilogy
Author: Shatrujeet Nath
Publisher: Jaico Books
My Rating: *****
About the Author:
Besides exploring various business opportunities Shatrujeet Nath has written ad copy, and reported on business as a journalist and assistant editor at The Economic Times. 
His first book, The Karachi Deception, was published in 2013. The Guardians of the Halahala, his second book, and the first in The Vikramaditya Trilogy series, was published in 2014. At present, he is writing The Conspiracy at Meru, the second volume of the trilogy. 

Like a true blue Indian Mythology fan, one of the first few stories I grew up listening to and demanding of my mother to repeat every other day at bedtime, was that of the 'Sagar Manthan' or 'the Churning of the White Lake' as Shatrujeet Nath calls  it. I remember being enthralled by the story of how Lord Shiva of the Holy Trinity drank up all the poison or Halahala, to save the world from annihilation. Coincidentally, I still have a tiny story book in my collection, also from the Jaico Publishing House that I was very attached to as a child and remember having read it over and over again. Undoubtedly my favourite, that book was titled 'The Great Throne of King Vikramaditya'. Now you can very well imagine the kind of excitement I must have felt when I spotted all three words on one book cover- Halahala,  Vikramaditya and Jaico!

The Guardians of the Halahala opens with a map of Sindhuvarta and I'm already loving it. For me, maps attached with tales of a bygone era instantly transport me into the imaginary world, making the fictional tale a tad bit more believable already. There's also an Index of Major Characters that follows, segregating and listing the Humans, Devas and Asuras. A fleeting glance on this list and their quirky descriptions had me intrigued. The Index also told me, what a keen eye for detail the author had. These elements clearly confirmed that much thought had been put into the development of this saga. 

I just love this current trend where old Hindu mythological stories are being retold. There's a contemporary style of narration and the authors take the creative liberty of breaking away from the staid age-old beliefs established through legends. However the real beauty of Shatrujeet Nath's story telling came through when I began to forget the old and got completely absorbed by the new.

The Halahala was not completely destroyed and a small portion was sneaked by an Asura called Veeshada and incorporated into a weapon that would guarantee victory over the three worlds to whoever possesses it. Once the knowledge of that dagger is in the open, both the Asuras and the Devas covet it.  Lord Shiva turns to mankind to safeguard it from their murderous clutches and calls upon Samrat Vikramaditya  to protect Veeshada's dagger that had been lying in his custody. How the Samrat and his Council of Nine fight the forces of the Devaloka and Patala, led by Indra and Shukracharya respectively is definitely a masterpiece of a tale spun by Shatrujeet Nath.   

The tale of 'The Guardians of the Halahala' has numerous high points like the attack by the Maruts. The descriptions so vivid and the characters are so strong that I could see the battle scene unfold before my mind's eye. Oh! How beautifully the legend of Samrat Vikramaditya and his Council of nine or Nine Pearls has been revisited and presented in a new light. Amazing command over the language, apt usage of a rich vocabulary, a multi-layered but intriguing plot that unravels at a steady pace in all directions, together make for what we can easily call one of the best works of good Indian literature. Such penmanship  is surprisingly rare to come across among the present gen' of Indian authors. 
My favourite among the myriad impressive character sketches is that of the Mother Oracle. Though a comparatively smaller role to play, she adds that lovely flavour of mystic. My most favourite part of the book was Vikramaditya's journey into the Borderworld. What powerful imagination and creativity taken to another level with the Ghoulmaster.

"Good books don't give up all their secrets at once."- Stephen King
I think the author has taken this quote to heart while writing 'The Guardians of the Halahala', for every chapter that I finished reading in this book only left me more intrigued and wanting to read more. What happens to Vishakha? Does she recover completely? Will Vikramaditya be able to save Veeshada's dagger and keep it out of the Devas or Asuras hands? Will he be able to keep the Hunas and Sakas at bay while a huger task of protecting the dagger threatens his life? Does the war waged by Magadha on the Vanga in the south affect Avanti's future too? Will Shukracharya's real identity be ever revealed? Book 1 of the Vikramaditya Trilogy is a cliffhanger in entirety but I'm not complaining because I have grown up reveling in mystery and mythological stories. This book series here promises both! And that Shatrujeet Nath is able to keep the mystery and awe built up till the last word of the last page is a feat in itself. 

Try as I might, I'm not able to see any negatives in this book. Really! Only a nitpicker would be able to point out incomprehensible flaws in the narration. However I do wish there was more about Samrat Vikramaditya and his grandeur too. Read a lot of stories revolving around his magical throne so was looking to find that element woven into the fabric of the story. Would have loved to read more of the Ghoulmaster and the Samrat's interaction too, but guess this is just the first book in the trilogy and there's a lot to look forward to in the sequel!

It was a sheer delight to have received an author signed copy of the book and I must say that I'm in awe of the author's storytelling skills. Definitely, absolutely, looking forward to the next book in the series. 

Happy to declare, we have yet another MUST READ story series to collect and flaunt on our book shelves!