With trepidation, I accepted the offer, and after a considerable delay, the book finally arrived. As far as first impressions go...quite frankly, it wasn't good. The front cover of the book features a vague looking sketch of a man in a hood in a dark purplish background. My first thought...what is this? A special addition Raj comics? Then, I flipped the book over and saw the author photograph... The photograph that accompanies an exceptionally well written back over, was nothing short of hilarious. It's cheesy, it's silly and it's outright funny. A book that promises Dark Undercurrents should not have an author photo that looks like a Shadi.com image. (Frankly, it's a bit out there for Shadi.com also)
But as a wise saying goes, one should not judge a book by its cover, so I decided to get beyond the cover and start reading. First 5 pages revealed another set of things that I don't like in a published novel... Bad binding quality, a LOT of grammatical mistakes and... Gravest of all...a language that gave me headache.
I'm not a very patient person. And I don't read things that make me want to quit reading. This novel tested my tenacity and patience. It was a very hard novel to get used to...but there were enough pages to offer me long chance to survive....and survive I did.
But the book isn't all bad. For a debut novel this isn't half bad. Whether it has the pull and potential to stretch into a SAGA... Well, that remains to be seen. The author confesses that he is a fiction junkie. And this claim proves true when you start reading the novel. There is no symetry in the novel. There are geographies which are not explained and names and events that are over explained. There are awful lot of characters...but then again, you can't write a saga with just 5 characters. The no of characters are not real trouble, but their introduction is. Authors propensity to use strange names tends to make the reading a little too troublesome. There are a mealie of characters and lack of any rationale behind how he chose to name them. So you have a Greek sounding king whose trusted advisor is Egyption named... A middle earth sounding name for a kingdom, while the names of the rulers and rivals in the kingdom are Roman sounding. I wish the author had just stick to one style or region of names.
The story of Agni is not bad...author might have done a stellar job with a better editor and proof-reader though. Even with all it's bad sides, the First instalment of the Saga, has a definite rhythm. The events though too long and too complicated at times are well thought out of... They are interesting. The characters are, though not instantly arresting, are engaging. It's a hard task to stay on reading the pages after pages of arcane language that author is fond of ( possibly to sound intriguing); but once you get past it..you actually enjoy reading the Secret of the Dark.
I'm from the generation that was spoiled by the masters of arcane mysteries like the great JRR Tolkein and simple magical words of JK Rowling. I read Matthew Reilly for a quick dose of adrenaline rush, and gooey mushy tear jerkers from Cecelia Ahern. Competing with people like these who formed my standards for that particular genre, is a daunting task. Very few unseasoned, debutant novelist can stand their ground... So, It's not a very grand deal that Arka Chakrabarti doesn't pass my standards. But does that really make him a bad writer or his novel less noteworthy? Definitely not. It just means that even though he is writing a Saga, and I have read and enjoyed reading the First instalment of his Saga... I would not be waiting with abated breath for the next one...
My Rating...4 out of 10