The Secret of the Druids (Mahabharata Quest Series Book 2) Paperback – 21 June 2016
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10 Amazing Facts from the Secret of the Druids
1. Julius Caesar is the prime suspect for burning down the Library of Alexandria in 48 B.C.
2. Not only did Julius Caesar write about the Druids of Gaul and Britannia but he was also on friendly terms with a Druid called Divitiacus.
3. Julius Caesar took time off from conquering Gaul to invade Britain twice, yet he never conquered Britannia. On his second invasion of Britannia in 54 B.C., Julius was accompanied by 800 ships, 5 legions and 2000 cavalry – the largest naval landing operation in history, unbeaten until the Allied landing in Normandy in 1944. It was a big operation, which achieved nothing according to the historical records.
4. Both Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar passed measures to ensure that Roman citizens could not practice Druidism. Their motive remains a mystery.
5. Most of our primary sources of Caesar’s book on the Gallic wars are copies of the original text by medieval monks in Europe. The original texts are now lost.
6. Under Suetonius Paulinus, in 60 A.D., the first big assault on the Druids was carried out. It was, however, interrupted by a rebellion by Queen Boudicca in the south of Britannia.
7. In 78 A.D., under Agricola, the Roman army seemed determine to destroy the Druids – they razed their sacred sites and killed every Druid they could find. Why did they fear the Druids? This is still a mystery.
8. At Cairnpapple Hill, which was also known to the Romans as the central sanctuary of the highest order of the Druids, excavations in 1946 revealed the remains of a woman in one of the most ancient graves in the cairn at the top of the hill. Her identity was, and is still, a mystery.
9. The burial mounds and chambered or stalled cairns in the Orkney Islands all had their roofs destroyed around 2600 B.C., according to archaeologists. But who destroyed the roofs and why remains a mystery.
10. While most of the mounds and cairns in the UK are said to have been used as tombs and burial chambers for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years, surprisingly few human remains have been recovered from them. Some – like Maeshowe and Bryn Celli Ddu - had virtually none, one of the largest – Midhowe – yielded the remains of only 25 people when it was excavated, even though it is supposed to have been used as a communal tomb for centuries.
Author Spotlight: A Conversation with Christopher Doyle
Christopher Doyle’s new book The Secret of the Druids, the second book on the Mahabharata Quest series is a heady mix of fact and fiction. It combines elements of history, mythology and science to takes readers on thrilling journey through an ancient world full of myriad secrets. An excerpt from an interview with the author.
Q. Let’s start with the name of your latest book, it’s called The Secret of the Druids, a rather curious title. Who are the Druids and what is their role in the story?
Christopher Doyle: I wanted the title to be intriguing. In the book, I explore the enigma that surrounds the Druids and their mysterious link with the Romans, especially Julius Caesar, so the name seemed apt.
The Druids of Britain are among the most enigmatic groups of people from ancient history. Five hundred years of scholarly speculation has failed to establish whether they were priests, philosophers, bards or medicine men since there is little evidence to back any theory. They have also been linked to the building of the mysterious megalithic monuments that dot Britain, France and Ireland, of which Stonehenge is the most famous. However, there is no archaeological evidence for this link.
Mystery shrouds the association between the Romans and the British Druids. Julius Caesar interrupted his conquest of Gaul to invade Britain twice, in 55 BC and 54 BC, with no clear motive. Between 43 AD and 70 AD, the Romans single-mindedly hunted and killed the last surviving Druids and destroyed their strongholds. There has been no satisfactory explanation for Caesar’s two invasions of Britain or for the determination of the Romans to wipe Druidism off the face of the earth.
Q. We know that this is the second part in the Mahabharata Quest series, do you pick up where you last left off?
Christopher Doyle: Not really. The Alexander Secret, the first book in the series, ended with a cliffhanger. To conclude the story, I published a novella titled A Secret Revealed as a free e-book on my website in six parts between October and March 2016. On popular demand, a paperback version was published in March 2016 along with a Kindle version.
While The Secret of the Druids is the second book of the series, it is a completely new story. The events in the book are set one and half years after the events of The Alexander Secret. However, since it is a series, the main characters – including some of the key antagonists – are the same as the previous book.
Q. For those readers who have read Mahabharata Quest, what will they find familiar in the sequel? What are the new elements that you have introduced in this book?
Christopher Doyle: Those who have read the first book in the series – The Alexander Secret - will recognize some of the leading characters in the new book – both protagonists and antagonists. Readers who are familiar with my work will recognize my signature style of interpreting the Mahabharata using science and linking it to a famous historical personality.
What is new is the canvas and scope of the book. In The Secret of the Druids I have established a connection between British mythology and Indian mythology. I have linked the Druids with the Mahabharata, which is something that is absolutely new. The entire story is set in the UK, as opposed to my earlier books, where a lot of the action takes place in India.
Q. How did you arrive at the idea for the book? This is your fourth novel, how do you manage not to repeat yourself?
Christopher Doyle: So far, it has been easy. I have built my plots using different characters from history, and different stories from the Mahabharata. The nature of the science that forms the basis for the plot is quite different in each book, resulting in a unique plot for each book. It will be a more difficult task with the next few books. It will not be easy to find new historical characters and new explanations using science for stories from the Mahabharata, although I do have some ideas. I hope to continue to thrill my readers with more exciting stories.
Q. Your book spans not just decades, but eras in history, what kind of research did you undertake for the book? How long did it take you to write this novel?
Christopher Doyle: Each book takes me around two years to write. A lot of this time goes into research. For The Secret of the Druids, I read more than 100 books on history and science. The most challenging part was to find a scientific theory that explains the mythology. It had to be scientifically accurate, plausible and credible. Once the research was completed, it was easier to connect the dots and develop a convincing plot that was also credible.
Q. You link the Mahabharata to megalithic sites of Britain and Julius Caesar, how did you arrive at these connections? Are they based on certain truths, or are they completely a figment of your imagination?
Christopher Doyle: I like to create my own legends, as I have done in all my books. The connections between the Mahabharata, Julius Caesar, the Druids and the megalithic sites of Britain are completely fictional and based on my own original theories which are, however, based on historical facts and real science.
It is a historical fact that Caesar mounted two invasions of Britain in 55 B.C. and 54 B.C, in the midst of his eight-year campaign to bring Gaul under Roman rule. No one can explain why he diverted military resources from the conquest of Gaul. It would have been less of a mystery had he conquered Britain and brought it under Roman rule. But he didn’t. I, therefore, created a theory that explains Caesar’s actions by linking the Druids to the megalithic sites of Britain.
The true purpose of these megalithic sites remains a mystery to this day. I have taken some ancient legends of Ireland and Wales and key facts about the Druids and combined them with basic scientific facts to create my own theory of why the megaliths were constructed. I also used shlokas from the Mahabharata to create linkages where I felt they were appropriate. Like my earlier novels, The Secret of the Druids blends fact and fiction in a seamless and believable manner.
Q. It’s difficult to bucket The Secret of the Druids into a single genre, although it appears to be a contemporary thriller, in it we also encounter elements of historical fiction and mythology. How difficult (or easy) was it to change tracks while juggling with the key tenants of different styles of writing?
Christopher Doyle: It would have been very difficult without thorough research. I started with a very broad hypothesis and, through research, validated the historical links and scientific explanations connected to the Mahabharata. I then fine-tuned the hypothesis based on my findings. I didn’t start writing until I was certain that there are no loopholes in my theory. This theory forms the foundation of the story. I never write a book with an ending in mind. I write the way I would read – not knowing what lies ahead. This can get uncomfortable at times – in The Alexander Secret, a character is killed; I hadn’t planned for that to happen. But I prefer it this way because I find it much simpler than trying to force fit story and plot elements into a structure or grid.
Q. How did you arrive at the character of Vijay Singh the hero of the series? What sets him apart from some of the other protagonists of mystery-adventure stories like Robert Langdon or Indiana Jones?
Christopher Doyle: In all the thrillers I’ve read, the protagonists are superheroes. They get into difficult situations and manage to wriggle out of them with ease, often leaving a trail of destruction behind them. Nothing ever seems to happen to them. They don’t get beaten up (though they smash their opponents to pulp), they seem to be able to kill people without compunction (like James Bond does). Even Robert Langdon, who is the closest to a “normal” person, always ends up solving the most difficult problems and getting out of the stickiest situations without a scratch.
From the start, I wanted my hero to be different. I wanted him to be one of us. A normal person who gets dragged into an adventure almost against his will. He may sometimes come across as naïve, foolhardy, even obstinate, unlike other heroes.
In The Secret of the Druids, Vijay doesn’t go looking for an adventure. He is simply trying to find out what happened to his parents. Vijay is not immune to bullets or even being beaten up. Some of my readers have actually complained about that – they want him to be physically tougher. But I want Vijay to be different – if you or I were in his place, we wouldn’t be able to beat up a bunch of professional killers, would we? If we were very lucky, we might be able to run away from them – which is what Vijay does when luck favours him. And when his luck runs out, then, like any of us, he gets beaten up or comes close to being killed. He is a real person – I think that is what sets him apart from the protagonists of other thrillers.
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- ASIN : 9385724223
- Publisher : Westland; Latest edition (21 June 2016)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 422 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9789385724220
- ISBN-13 : 978-9385724220
- Reading age : 10 years and up
- Item Weight : 295 g
- Dimensions : 12.9 x 2.69 x 19.81 cm
- Country of Origin : India
- Best Sellers Rank: #34,999 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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I have always loved historicals and science fiction. These two genres require extensive research and an academician’s aptitude, diligence and tenacity. So, it was with a lot of curiosity that I bought this book by an Indian author who writes a story, straddling centuries, across several timelines from the ancient to the modern. Picking up one event or topic is easy for any writer. But taking many threads from both fact and fiction to intertwine them successfully and create a beautiful tapestry is a master’s work! And it was worth every moment of my time spent deciphering it.
The plot- Vijay Singh and his team of investigators are hunting for an ancient divine weapon, that they discover, has links to the Mahabharata and is now buried somewhere in Britain. The story takes you on a roller coaster ride across centuries from the times of the Druids (the great men of wisdom), to many rulers from the ancient to the modern times who want to control this divine weapon to satisfy their lust for power.
The book started slowly for me, since there were so many ends to grab hold of before I could get into the pace of the mystery. Initially it was a bit vague. Several events happened simultaneously. And since the events happening were not in a linear fashion, as Doyle keeps slipping back and forth in the timeline to throw us a clue, I had to flip back the pages every few minutes to check if I had missed any. Very soon I was stopping at every page, verifying facts from fiction, checking out all the names, maps and events from BC to AD.
There is a child-like simplicity in the way Doyle tells the tale and the excitement of stumbling upon clues is contagious. He weaves a mesmeric tale here playing with multiple genres. And yet it makes perfect sense when it all comes full circle in the end.
Theme- I personally believe that every legend or myth has a grain of truth in it. It is not necessary that what we believe in is the ultimate truth, or what we do not believe in, does not exist.
World history is strewn with events that go back thousands of years. But to choose the events, cut across timelines in a credible manner, and then incorporate it into the modern day scenario is most certainly a humungous task. Especially, when the event has to be corroborated with solid data. There will always be different perspectives to the same event. The vast amount of research that goes into a historical or science fiction requires painstaking work and an ability to delve deep into a historical fact that may or may not have happened in reality but is only corroborated by what someone has reported in writing.
It was clever of Doyle to have picked up events that do have thorough proof and also those that were only myths or legends. I am sure the choice would always have veered towards what to not write, as there is always the danger of digging up controversial events or appearing foolish in tagging along after the things that were merely considered hearsay.
Doyle does a fantastic job of the fine balancing act of filling in the gaps where history is missing.
Characters-Yes, the characters are one-dimensional. At some places even the physical description of a person is rudimentary. But then it was good in a way because it would have become too complex to write about the deeper levels of interaction between people which was not the aim of the author. The people in the book are commoners doing their job without the gloss of heroism.
Here the plot is the protagonist. It took me a while to realize that Doyle was giving an aerial view to the reader. The whole book was like a map with different events happening at different places and timelines. The people did not matter. Neither the rulers nor the common man. They were just caught up in the marauding juggernaut of history. Even the most powerful emperor Caesar does not succeed, proving that power is an illusion. It can change the dynamics any time, reducing the humans involved, into merely functional or even disposable.
The Secret of the Druids when revealed in the end was explosive (literally!) and so beautiful! Logic is beautiful in its symmetry! The learning experience was enriching.
The glossary and the explanation at the end of the book were very helpful and reader-friendly. I would definitely read the rest of the series.
Highly recommend to anyone who is interested in history, mythology, science and fast-paced complex mysteries.
By Alankrita Jasaiwal on 31 July 2020
Top reviews from other countries
While I appreciate all the research and valuable historical information Doyle pours into his books, this one was lackluster.
Look forward to reading the next book...