Book Review:- Why I Am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor : “Ahh Politics! God Damn Politics.”

Why I am a Hindu

2.5/5 Stars,

“India is not secular in the commonly understood sense of the word. What it is, is pluralist: an overwhelmingly Hindu-majority country running political and governmental institutions that promote the survival, success and perpetuation of religious minorities.” ~Shashi Tharoor, Why I Am A Hindu

The man is absolutely right in his observation, indeed the separation of church and state as it were (religion and administration), was something never implemented or coveted in our country, not for us the atheist solution of China and communist countries, or the tolerant solution of US and the west, or the theocratic exclusionist solution of our neighbor and some in the middle east, Ours is ‘Vivekananda’s acceptance‘, a unique pluralist organic Indian solution. Which Shashi Tharoor has rightly extolled many times in this book.

Indeed for almost half of the book, Mr.Tharoor is marvelous in his explanation (for a layman believing Hindu) of ‘Sanatan dharma’ and much of it’s virtues while giving appropriate places for some of the things which were corrupted and wrong within it and were changed or need to. His arguments for why ‘Sanatan dharma’ is the most compatible and versatile religion for the world at large in the 21st century are brilliant as well. For all that I would have happily given the book 4 stars BUT then came the Congress Man Politician gearing up for the 2019 polls, and all my hopes went down the drain. For the rest of the book he takes in upon himself to discredit the current ruling party at every aspect of their beliefs and actions, thoroughly portraying them as a mutated monster ready to annihilate India and destroy its culture forever. Which would have been fine… really… he is in the opposition, that’s his job…..IF the book was titled “Why the BJP is Shit”. But its not, and so instead of focusing on why he’s a Hindu, he has focused on Why They(BJP) are not. Which, really, is funny in a dark way. So, just for peddling the election rhetoric that its either the Congress or Doomsday for India, I just couldn’t help but deduct stars. So, 2.5 dear sir with all due respect and acceptance.

This is not to say, that the issues which he has raised so ferociously in the book demand no attention, they do, very very much so. All acts of vigilantism, misguided or justified, should be condemned and punished in the severest of ways, in a democracy such acts have no place. As Mr.Tharoor says and I concur “Put simply, no non-violent activity, however provocative, can ever legitimize violence. We must reject and denounce assaults and killings, whatever they may claim to be reacting to”. I am with that, BUT to single out acts and attach them to a rival political party and say this is not my Hinduism, its their’s, is well, quite sleazily opportunistic. I expected more from this book then that.

The Part 1, of the book I enjoyed immensely, celebrating the pluralist and all encompassing aspect of Sanatan dharma is indeed a worthy act. The wisdom of “Sarva dharma sama bhav” (all religions (truths) are equal to or harmonious with each other) and “ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti” (The Truth is one though the sages call it by different names) is worth sharing with all humankind. But in fairness this should apply to all the Indian citizens, not just the religious Hindus, indeed these should be the credo of every Indian. And any other teaching, propagating superiority or discrimination or outright contempt, whoever by, whatever may be the source or reason, a holy book, an Imam, a priest, a church should be stopped and lawfully regulated if need be. I do not buy into the argument that if the other faiths are not ready to embrace us and are hostile or doing something which should be questionable in any respectable civilization, we should just let them be. Specially when it comes to laws governing the populace, we the largest democracy in the world could surely come up with a uniform civil code based on the principles of human dignity, freedom and respect, acceptable to all. And if there are some who think differently and if there are laws which are not in sync with the times and the Indian ethos, these should be overruled in the interest of the people. Where does discrimination come into it, it is but logical, here Mr. Tharoor’s appeasement doesn’t sit well with me.

But then again, this is a review and not a critique. Content wise part 1 was enlightening and enjoyable. So, was part 3 as to what we should do as hindus(the religion) and as hindus(the geographical annotation) to protect our ancient openness and wisdom and prosper as a nation. But part 2 made it sour for me, it was quite in your face propaganda, and was more appropriate as a political critique or election debate then as a book trying to explain Hinduism, and differentiating it with Hindutva (portrayed as something sinister, whose’s definition and use as explained by Mr.Tharoor, I disagree with). But well I picked it up and read it. If you can read up-to page 141 and discard the rest, go for it, the whole package as it is, is not worth all that much.


Book review: – The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace

Spy Chronicles

3/5 Stars, Kaash ke hum dost hote.

Pointing to the horizon where the sea and sky are joined, he says, ‘It is only an illusion because they can’t really meet, but isn’t it beautiful, this union which isn’t really there.’ —Saadat Hasan Manto

Asad Durrani  back in 2015 during his interview at Oxford with his frankness, even though I watched that interview in 2017, left me awestruck. Here was a man, owning up to things, however bad they might seem to me, which he deemed necessary irrespective of their morality (“Morality takes a backseat in statecraft” was what he said I believe, and I do grudgingly agree with that statement)  like supporting and actively helping the Taliban, supporting and funding militancy in Kashmir, double crossing US etc on camera and on record. That doesn’t happen often, that never happens I think.

Therefore, I expected a lot from this book, “ISI and RAW chiefs for God’s sake!”, which was wrong of me, as although not disappointing the opposite actually, it did leave something more to be desired. So no sensational revelations or jaw drooping confessions are present in this book, although the two head spooks don’t admit to any wrong doing they do not deny some of the things which come up in their conversations either, and in those evasions you have to take what you can, read between the lines and make up your mind, their’s the shadow world after all. But it sure in annoying, when you can’t see the dirt, these fellows actively worked against each other, locked horns in their nation’s ‘Cold War’ and here they are having a drink like old pals, chilled out and discussing peace.

But then again, it makes sense, as Mr. Durrani says, “We know the price.” The best people who can talk peace are the ones who have been in war, seen destruction, orchestrated it, they do indeed know the price. So, their insights were priceless, their frankness appreciated and their opinions and suggestions worth analyzing.

I enjoyed this book immensely, every issue was treated with a frank perspective steeped in facts and possible action and reactions. The terror question though posed here and there, was never actually pinned down and was evaded, which was annoying, both former chiefs seem to take such a thing as granted, which was surprising. Kashmir, Baluchistan, Wars, The deep state and the new great game, Terror and Talks, Dictatorship and Politics, the outrageous right wings in both nations, the past reconciliation attempts, the possible future en-devours, the current freeze, the futility of war, the necessity of its threat all are discussed in a very non lethal way.

I was in agreement with both the former chiefs on their road-maps for a way forward in the last section of the book. Reading that it might seem that peace is not all that elusive after all, that there is hope. But to let go of old grudges and still open wounds, to overlook the current cuts regularly exchanged, which they seem to do easily or with effort I cannot say, would that be possible for the rest, for the establishment most of all. Talk, keep talking, even with the cloak and daggers, as silence is no solution is what Mr. Dulat seem to suggest.

This was a very interesting collaboration, however much ‘non-serious way of writing’ about such inflammable topics it may seem. It is a start and worth commending. I appreciate the effort and enjoyed the read. Read it for that if for nothing else, see the bogeyman’s side and try to see what the bogeyman sees. Kaash ke hum dost hote, shayad ho jayen. Stranger things have happened in the world after all.

Book review:- When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics by Milan Vaishnav

When Crime Pays

4/5 stars,

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” ~Jesse Unruh, American Democratic politician

Mr Unruh being a capitalist country’s politician, makes sense. But we were supposed to be better than that, were we not? After all it is after throwing off this yolk of corrupt capitalist foreign rule that we came into existence once again. But alas, that statement is more true for us than any other country in the world. Because even in America, the money that flows in politics, however much filthy, is still traceable.

This was a very interesting book to go through, on the one hand it didn’t tell me anything new. All the points, counterpoints that it provided, have been made by most citizens across this country in parlors, social gatherings, bus stops and in drunken stupors. We can all see the what and why. On the other hand, the setting and arrangement it provided, the order and statistical proofs, the live examples, give those points a good hard credible base to sit on. Which is not encouraging, we all kind of hope that our assessment “This country is going to shit” is somehow wrong. But closing one’s eyes to the truth has never been a good idea.

“India experienced the traditional state-building process in reverse order: unlike Europe, for instance, India instituted full democracy and then set about building a state. Much of the West did precisely the opposite. As a result, underdeveloped institutions have been the Achilles’ heel of Indian democracy from the outset.”
― Milan VaishnavWhen Crime Pays: Money And Muscle In Indian Politics

The stem of all the trouble,in our fledgling democracy, comes from this argument I believe. That statement alone gives a lot of what’s wrong, and how. Crime in politics, is undoubtedly prevalent because the institutions set up by our democracy for the care of its people are inefficient, haphazardly constructed, and too bureaucratically log-jammed. So, in such a scenario the advent of ‘God-Fathers’ who fill in the vacuum and act as an independent state is no surprise. And if there activities are acceptable to the public and the state is unable to rein them in, then the next logical step is to take power officially too. Of-course, an unending supply of illicit liquid funds for the politicians to run their never ending campaigns in this ‘always election mode’ country is another major factor.  But you get the point, the caste break up and its effects, reservation in politics and its impact, the book argues many such points with hard empirical data. And then dissect the arguments to get to their social causes and effects. An interesting read indeed, for an Indian at least.

Fully deserving of the 4 stars I awarded it. The book is detailed, filled with examples and on road research with a lot of statistical analysis. Though, it is true that the arguments forwarded by all of these are not entirely new, but reading them in such a well structured form is quite informative. For every Indian politics and crime enthusiast, this is quite a worthwhile book to go through and reflect. Great work by Mr. Vaishnav. Go for it and see how money makes the world turn indeed.


Book Review: Dozakhnama :- “Go to Heaven for the climate & Hell for the company…Indeed!”

Dozakhnama4/5 Stars,

“Anyone can write history. All it needs is memory. But to write a story you must have the power to dream.” ~ Rabisankar BalDozakhnama: Conversation in Hell

And this one particular dream I would love to have some day. Seriously, if hypothetically speaking I could be given a chance to drink with any two people in history, ‘Mirza Ghalib‘ and ‘Saadat Hassan Manto‘, would definitely make my top five. The attitude of these men, was something to aspire to, and that is not even speaking about the unbridled art that raged in their hearts and the experiences they have had. Ahh…the conversation would be intoxicating and the stories marvelous. Just to give you a taste, Mirza Ghalib : –

“Ham ko ma.alūm hai jannat kī haqīqat lekin

Dil ke ḳhush rakhne ko ‘ġhālib’ ye ḳhayāl achchhā hai”   ~Mirza Ghalib

And Manto Sahab  : –

“Agar aap meri kahaniyo ko bardasht nahi kar sakte to iska matlab ye hai ki ye zamana hi na-qabil-e-bardasht hai.”  ~Saadat Hassan Manto

Before starting the novel, I had humongous expectations from it, to cover these two people in any comprehensive way was impossible I knew. So, I was delighted to see that the author didn’t even go that way, he just assumed the voices of both and let them tell us what they please. Well played Mr bal, well played indeed sir.

The thing I regret, and I so wished I had known this before starting this, is that I read this in English, which lacks somewhat. I should have gone with the Hindi translation, as a non Bangla speaker experiencing it in it’s original text was not an option. The many gazals and poems, included in the text, are either in urdu script or english translated versions, no hindi or urdu converted in roman script available, so you keep gnashing your teeth and try to recall which particular sher of Ghalib or Mir Taki Mir could possibly mean this. That! was irritating. Extremely irritating.

Goodreads Blurb :- Who tells the greatest story — God or Manto? Dozakhnama: Conversations in Hell is an extraordinary novel, a biography of Manto and Ghalib and a history of Indian culture rolled into one. Exhumed from dust, Manto’s unpublished novel surfaces in Lucknow. Is it real or is it a fake? In this dastan, Manto and Ghalib converse, entwining their lives in shared dreams. The result is an intellectual journey that takes us into the people and events that shape us as a culture…..

But I couldn’t fault the story in any way. It is fiction and it is not too,  as Ghalib says in the novel ~When have stories been anything but lies? Our lives themselves are full of lies, and we ourselves created our stories. Or when Manto admits to us ~The truth doesn’t sound entertaining unless lies are added to it. So, we take the many roads Mr. Bal’s Manto takes us to, this was stories in a story in a story itself, an ‘Inception‘ of books so to speak. To experience it in it’s glory, you do have to be familiar with both these gentleman and their works however. The many anecdotes or references to their work, the ghazals will be more meaningful this way. Both of these artists, converse from their graves, telling each other and us their lives. Both were witness to a spectre of events in their lifetimes, Ghalib the mutiny of 1857 and Manto the partition of 1947. They have seen darkness and struggle in their personal lives as well, going against the stream, handling their demons like no other. To bear witness to all that is a treat indeed and in addition to that you get the philosophical musings of two thoroughly upbeat philosophers, with all their side stories. To know that time, to know their stories, to know them , to know us ….this is a pretty useful tool.

To any admirer of Urdu/Hindi/Hindustani literature I will say go for it (try the Hindi version if you could perhaps). This is definitely a must read, you will have to slog through initially perhaps, go off book and read some of Manto’s stories, some of Mirza’s Ghazals , but isn’t that the whole damn fun of it. Poetry, plots, passion, pain, woman and wine this book posses it all. So have a go at it, share the grave with these two because as Mark Twain so sagely suggested ~”Go to Heaven for the climate & Hell for the company“.

Book Review:- Confessions of a Thug :- “Thug Life!…was not what you think”

Confessions of a thug

3/5 Stars, Ahmadullah Jai Bhowanee!

“Thugs are unlike any others. No remorse seems to possess their souls. In the weariness of perpetual imprisonment one would think their imaginations and recollections of the past would be insupportable to them; but no, – they eat, drink, and sleep like others, are solicitous about their dress, ever ready to talk over the past, and would if released tomorrow, again follow their dreadful profession with a fresh zest after their temporary preclusion from it” ~ Philip Meadows Taylor, Confessions of a Thug

Was this definition, the inspiration to dub a no remorse attitude as ‘Thug Life’? I wonder. I can almost imagine a Victorian lady clutching her handkerchief in dread and excitement as she read those lines, feverishly thinking ahh! what terribly fascinating people, so full of savagery, truly devils in the flesh. And perhaps that was what Mr. Taylor intended, if history is any indication, he succeeded marvelously.

This book was first published in 1839, under the genre Non-fiction, & Crime I suppose. Is it non-fiction, many say yes many say no. Thugee as explained and displayed in the book is an issue of contention, propaganda or fact, we have many conflicting opinions. But for the sake of a review lets give Mr. Taylor our indulgence for the moment.

Goodreads Blurb :- Philip Meadows Taylor’s Confessions of a Thug (1839) is the most influential novel about India prior to Kipling’s Kim and was one of the bestselling sensation novels of the nineteenth century. In the course of a confession to a white ‘sahib’ the imprisoned Ameer Ali recounts his life as a member of the Thuggee, a secret religious cult practicing ritual mass murder and robbery. Taylor uncovered evidence of the crimes committed by bands of Thugs as a Superintendent of Police in India during the 1820s. Introducing a new standard of ethnographic realism to western fiction about India, Confessions of a Thug is a strikingly vivid, chilling and immensely readable thriller. This unique critical edition makes available a fascinating and significant work of Empire writing.  

This piece of literature is in itself a part of history, the word ‘Thug’ was made famous and adopted to general use in the west because of this novel and many of the biased stereotypes about the east were also established by this very work no doubt. The writing, is as one would expect irritatingly old school and dragging. Filled with over attention, cheap thrills and brakes one would generally see in an soap opera, but were no doubt all the rage in the early 19th century. The one thing that does lingers though, is the sheer repetitive scale of the tale, its just too long, 600 pages or so, in that annoying gentlemanly script. This, interestingly adds to the genuineness of the story, Mr.Taylor could have come up with a more sensational and less dragging tale for entertainment, the fact that he didn’t might mean some of it is true.

Thugs, 1894

Ameer ali and his thugs, were a force to be reckon with. These vile men were a scourge for the travelers, a four way mutation between a Dacoit(armed robber), a Con man, a Serial killer, and Religious zealot( I am curious as to see what the Indian cinema is going to do with this with their “Thugs of Hindustan“). The story is narrated as the name suggests through a confession by Ameer ali the thug, to the writer himself. A first hand account! of an eastern savage! the readers in London would have gone crazy. In Ameer Ali’s too inadequate defense, the thug life did choose him, literally. The story recounts his initiation in thugee (A profession ordained by the Great Kali herself) and his many expeditions to the various parts of the country in his ‘noble’ pursuit, daring many dangers and enticing his ‘bunij’ prey into oblivion. The story drags but is nonetheless interesting. Specially, when he recounts his ‘Pindaree’ days (That I did not expect). ‘Pindaree’, mounted hordes of Muslim robbers, ex soldiers, harassing kingdoms, burning and looting villages on behalf of rival lords, pillaging, raping countless persons. And then the thugee as well, duping unsuspecting travelers and then garroting(With their silk handkerchiefs no less, it’s an art! Ameer Ali would have us know) them in their sleep or distraction. The bodies vanish, no proof no crime, right, the earth swallows their sin, literally. Truly, Mr . Taylor had put forth the whole horror galore 1829 India had to offer, to turn the delicate stomachs of the powdered west. Bravo, sir, Bravo Indeed.


The truly appealing thing to me was the social structure of the thugs. Thugee cults were filled with Muslims, even though they believed themselves to be the servants of goddess Kali. Both Hindus and Muslims, working under a Jamadar (A rank given to the leader of the group) for stalking, coning and killing their prey. Shoulder to shoulder, with their rituals and superstition, their networks, their code of honor, the tension nowhere to be seen. Although, these men are shown to be vile beyond belief, psychopaths made through superstition but this union among them surprised me to no end. The realization that the story happens in 1820s, (With the Mutiny of 1857 yet to come and along with it the famous ‘divide et impera’ to poison the subcontinent forever)  came later.

The book undoubtedly stoke the Anglo pride, the inspectors shown as the champion of justice, purging the country of Thugs and Pindaris, the current rulers corrupt and complicit and hence giving legitimate reason for their occupation and rule of the unruly and backward peasants. We do have to take all this with a pinch of salt. But the historical accounts and the glimpses of the 1830’s India still felt worth it. I wanted to see more of it, much more then what it had, but a man lost in the desert must take such water as he is offered, no matter who it comes from (a quote from ‘Before They Are Hanged’ by Joe Abercrombie). 

This was exhausting, you have to stifle yawns and disdainful snorts in many places but I never went in for the excitement, I read this for the history and yes for the legend of the thugs. And to be completely honest, although tired I was not disappointed. To a curious and patient mind, this is a rewarding read. Thank you for leaving this biased inaccurate sensational but timeless piece of work Mr. Taylor.

Book Review: Into the Water : – “The real-life river Styx”

Into the Water

2.5/5 stars,  hmm…too many women,

“The things I want to remember I can’t, and the things I try so hard to forget just keep coming.”
― Paula Hawkins, Into the Water

Yeah well, that about sums up what I felt about this book. To be completely honest, I did not read ‘The girl on the train’ (I watched the movie…Yeah, sue me), it seemed an intriguing enough story, enough to warrant the reading of the second book by the same author. Should have gone for the second one on it’s individual merits, which unfortunately are not many.

Goodreads Blrurb : – In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.
Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.
But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.
And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

Mystery, was what worked for the first 55% of the book, if after those pages the story would have taken a turn and even a 5 year old child was found to be the culprit then I would not have batted an eye, that would have been totally believable. Everyone, and I do mean everyone that was introduced in the story was a potential suspect. The story so thoroughly intertwined, that you keep asking what the fudge is going on here.  But that doesn’t last. More is the pity. The story line though initially intriguing looses its appeal. You pretty much figure out where it is or could go, but the thing that really takes the sheen away is that you just couldn’t care enough. That is what sucks.

The character development was really poor I thought. I wasn’t connected or even remotely invested in any of them. Even though the story stays somewhat tragic, it never really makes you emotionally invest. The teen rage seemed stupid, the adult self pity seemed stupider (really, I don’t want to sound bitter, but there could have been a better way to make the reader connect). The characters lacked proper fleshing out, when you feel the same indifference for both the bad guy and the good guy then something is wrong. And although the setting was appropriate for a smoke and mirror story, they just couldn’t pull it off. And too many female character, all the heady thoughts of all these women, I felt that I was sitting in a kitty or tea party, with people who just had too much to say.

For a second book by a new author, the attempt is not bad but I had many expectations, and most of them weren’t fulfilled so I am disappointed. The 2.5 stars are for the first 55 % of the book. To the readers, this is okayish in my opinion, you won’t miss much if you decide not to try it but you are free to make your own judgement.

Book Review:- The Alloy of Law (Mistborn – Alloy Era #1) : – “Boy oh Boy oh Boy!”

Alloy of law

5/5 Stars,

“That hat looks ridiculous.”
“Fortunately, I can change hats,” Wayne said, “while you, sir, are stuck with that face.” ~Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law

I am definitely using that line, some day, some time, I will find an opportunity and use that line. The Mistborn series, ahhh these books! The final empire, The well.. & The hero of ages, and now this! My fantasy crazed heart could explode with gratitude for the man. Brandon Sanderson has done something so bizarre that I initially thought to be impossible, to make another totally, unbelievably, awesome fantasy series based on the world from his previous fantasy series.

The grit of the wild west, the intricately marvelous magic system, the strong background flavor of the previous series palpable in its pages and the wit & humor at an hilariously all time high. I enjoyed this immensely, oh so very much and Mr. Sanderson has yet again proved that he is an absolute master in fantasy story telling.

Goodreads Blurb : – Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

I am already a fan of Mr. Sanderson’s writing, of his awesome capacity to link the plot into knots which comes undone with a flourish at the right time, and with his brilliance of creating highly likable and enjoyable characters. All within a new timeline, The Old West Era (from 1865 – 1895 of our time) and the 300’s for the Mistborn’s new world. The brilliance of it all is just too much. As to its tone, it is obviously lighter than the Final Empire, how could it not be, the whole point of the new world was the total upheaval of the old one.

I must digress a bit here, what doubled my enjoyment of the story was Graphic Audio’s brilliant performance of it as an audiobook. They did an excellent job with the characters voices and the background score and all the little additions of gun-shots and background noises . Typically I don’t read audio-books as then I am beholden to their pace rather than my own. But here, as the book is not that big, 332 pages or 7-8 hours of audio, it was paced just right, with all the touches and brush strokes, that you just close your eyes and get lost in the world of ‘Elendel’ immediately.

And this is just the beginning, I am very much looking forward to the rest two books. The action in this book was phenomenal, with the rough machismo & wit of the wild west coupled with the oh so creative use of Mistborn magic, will always make you grin in every combat sequence. Also, the character of ‘Wayne’, he was the heart of the book, the light-hearted thief cum law man, he single-handedly made the book fun and delightful. Which is just as well because the protagonist ‘Wax’ is the troubled darkness in this dark-light duo combo. Their chemistry is spot on. And of-course the antagonist, ‘Miles’, a damn well worthy adversary, hell of a bad guy.

So, the first thing I did when I picked this up, was download the map of ‘Elendel’ , (which is absolutely brilliant btw), plugged in my headphones and got lost in a world that I dearly missed. This is the ultimate escape in a wonderful and enjoyable realm, I mean come-on, Pistols, bang-bang, and magic. Seriously, I can’t say the word brilliant enough.

So, I am off to the second one, pick this up with your eyes closed, this would be well worth it, as it has everything that you hope for in a good epic fantasy. Waist coats and bowler hats all the way my friends. To end with one of Wayne’s witty philosophical pearls about thinking only when things are simple : –

“The rest of the time, I don’t do so much thinkin’. ‘Cuz if I did, I’d go running back to where things is simple. You see?”
― Brandon Sanderson, The Alloy of Law