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You know when a writer has done a good job with a book when you begin to wish ...
Reviewed in India on 12 October 2016
You know when a writer has done a good job with a book when you begin to wish that the events happening in the book were true or hope that they are not! Of course, opinions may differ on the true worth of a book or an author!
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.