Book Review: Mistborn: The Final Empire :- “An epic tale of epic proportions”

Mistborn-The Final Empire

4/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

“Plots behind plots, plans behind plans. There was always another secret.” ~Brandon Sanderson, The Final Empire

Ahh the pure wonder and chaos of a brilliantly written, location neutral, completely new world, of High Fantasy. I was made aware of Brandon Sanderson as the person chosen to complete “The Wheel of Time” saga,which is hailed as ‘one of the greatest epics of fantasy’ (And Which i have still not picked up, i know, i know, but 11000 pages my friends, that is a big commitment.).  So, this was my first ever Sanderson novel (don’t roll your eyes i know i have a lot of catching up to do) and it was glorious.

Epic and specially high fantasy books have more or less a standard story structure, a world in trouble, a Dark lord, an innocent hero/heroine unaware of his/her abilities with a tough life, a brilliant teacher or guide who shows them the way. Darkness vs the light, Might vs Right and so on and so forth. But the real allure of fantasy isn’t its predictable theme but its awesome creation of well..Creation, a completely different world with its own set of rules, lives, people and troubles. Be it ‘Lord of the Rings’, Be it ‘Game of Thrones’ or Be it Hogwarts and ‘Harry Potter’,  The world of “Mistborn” is one such brilliantly created world, where magic makes sense in its own way. Mr. Sanderson has kept the writing uncomplicated, using the brilliance of its plots and depths of its characters as the main attraction to rope in readers and it works out spectacularly.

The Story follows ‘Kelsier’ (our hero and guide) and ‘Vin’ (our heroine and budding student) in a world where the tyrant ‘Lord Ruler’ has ruled for a 1000 years as an Immortal God, a ‘Sliver of infinity’. Subjugating the people known as ‘Skaa’ for as long as anyone can remember, in his realm the ‘Final Empire’. The story i have to admit was interesting, more so was the way magic works, ‘Allomancy’ and ‘Feruchemy’ , their association with metals, their rules and restrictions were all very brilliantly constructed. The way ‘Mistborns’ work in the story will leave you with the same sense of wonder that ‘Wizards’ did in ‘Harry Potter’. And that’s not all, the best part was its Characters , the outfit of ‘Misting’ Thieves and their different personas was quite enjoyable, half the fun in any novel i believe is how lively the characters are, how interesting and different, well developed and engrossing. The Charming and confident ‘Kelsier’ , The smooth and sly ‘Breeze’, the soft spoken gentleman butler ‘Sazed’ and of-course the strong and ever conflicted ‘Vin’. Mr. Sanderson has started something awesome with this book and i sincerely hope that the awe it inspires will continue in the trilogy as i read further. Another thing that i loved was that although this book leaves you curious as to ‘What next’, it doesn’t compel you to pick up the next one immediately, with all its unanswered questions it still very effectively stands alone, without giving you the annoyance of a cliffhanger. Soak it in and move on to the next one at your leisure,  it almost seems to say. Much appreciated sir, very much appreciated.

I recommend this to every fantasy lover, this is a genuinely pleasurable read, simple, sorted and brilliant. With all the right flavors of an enjoyable High Fantasy.

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Book review: An Era of Darkness: “A Bashing Well Deserved & WELL Given”

An era of Darkness

4/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

“It’s a bit rich to oppress, enslave, kill, torture, maim people for 200 years and then celebrate the fact that they are democratic at the end of it..” ~Shashi Tharoor

I could have literally kissed the man, Ever Since Mr.Tharoor’s famed Oxford Speech , his popularity has grown by leaps and bounds, and so too my admiration for his views. The view point that “Colonization has actually helped ‘colonized’ people.” has always  baffled me, and the argument is made not only by people who have absolutely no idea about what Actual Colonization entailed for the indigenous people of those colonized lands, but also by great scholars, historians and politicians from the previously colonizer countries and also (‘to my utter annoyance & disbelief’) some from the previously colonized ones as well.

This book is the counter argument and to my mind the ONLY argument when it comes to judging the British Raj and its implications on India. Mr. Shashi Tharoor, has taken all the arguments made by the ‘Raj’ Apologists and supporters of colonization and systematically destroyed them all with class and flair. This book is the hard truth , it is blunt in its criticism, well researched and well articulated while presenting its reasoning and absolutely spot on in dismantling the myth  of the apparent “Goodness” of the Raj. If you are looking for a detailed account of the British Occupation of India as per its timeline, then this is not it, but this is far far better than mere dates and events, this provides you the detailed account of the EFFECT of British Colonization on India, on its every possible aspect, Economy (Irrefutable logic and Reasoning on this one), Society (‘divide et impera’, the one thing no matter what, i will never forget nor forgive the British for), British law(The oxymoron of the Raj), Development (The Railways! you say,Read the book my dear dear friend), Fair Trade (pfft!), and much more. This will resonate with every Indian and not only US, with every single person out there who has stones enough to stare at the truth with naked eyes be he/she in Africa or Europe. History without context is useless, and Context is what this book provides aplenty. Add to that the brilliantly composed arguments by Mr. Tharoor (Thank God i read this on a kindle, his vocab is formidable.) laced with wit, facts and sarcasm appropriately.

People might call this biased side of an argument, but when there is only one credible argument the question of biases doesn’t even arrive. This is what this book proves. This is how we should see the past with logic, reason, facts , answering the Whys and Hows rather than just the when and wheres. I recommend this to everyone, specially anyone interested in Indian History ,and more so for anyone who is interested in knowing how to argue and refute an argument, Mr.Tharoor has carefully and wisely picked comments and credible reports from history proving his point and disproving the opposite arguments, the book tastes like a debate taking on everyone out there remotely on the opposite side, but this is a taste which is to be had with all its necessary bitterness. Because the most potent and effective medicines are always unpleasant to taste.

Book Review: Jinnah Often Came to our House : – “And look how that turned out!”

jinnah-often-came-to-our-house

3.5/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

“Those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad.” ~Ancient Proverb

The irony is, that this proverb is used by Jinnah’s character in the book. ‘Muhammad Ali Jinnah‘ to my mind, is undoubtedly, the most controversial figure in the Indian freedom struggle. An unorthodox well educated Muslim barrister from London, who driven by ambition single-handedly changed the fate of the Indian subcontinent, by doing the very thing that he had opposed for most of his political career, until the fated 1937 Indian provincial elections .i.e inciting communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims, and thus, becoming the poster boy for the British policy of ‘Divide & Rule’.

Kiran Doshi has earned my respect, by seamlessly joining History and Fiction in his second published novel ‘Jinnah Often Came to our House’. One of the most difficult task for any Historical fiction writer would be to create anticipation in the story, people already know what happened, so to make them curious and WANT to know and feel surprised would be quite a feat. He has achieved this by keeping the story centralized to Bombay and to the leaders directly involved with it, Jinnah (Obviously) and Gandhi (to some extent, because the story of Jinnah would never be complete without The Mahatma). Also from his own admission by not thinking ahead and letting the story develop. The result is a 663 page(Kindle edition) long magnum opus. Though one thing is to be noted, that this is in no way a comprehensive work on Jinnah’s life, rather this story provides a common man’s perspective of the man and the time. This is something which, admittedly, bothered me in the beginning, but, then i realized was actually worthwhile, these people (Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah, etc.) are now Legends, they have gained (or if not will gain in a few decades) the status of TITANS among men, where every word that they have ever said would be treated as Gold and their criticism by anyone as outright blasphemy. So, now, almost 70 years since independence seeing them as human, capable of everything that ails a normal person, struggling and faltering , indecisive and proud is almost a reminder that  “If there is a single quality that is shared by all great men, it is vanity” (~Yousuf Karsh). And how true!, if only the Congress had realized that sooner, if only Jinnah was given his desired pound of flesh, if only his ego was soothed and massaged, if only Nehru or Gandhi would not have sidelined him and implored him to stay as the bridge between Congress and the league, if only Jinnah himself could have realized that what he was starting would lead to the creation of such unprecedented hate that it could last centuries, if only,if only, if only, ahhhh…We would be living in a completely different world.

But no, we can learn but never alter History. The story follows the ‘Kowaishi’ family in Bombay from 1903 till 1948, it Starts with the eldest son of the family ‘Sultan’ returning from London after completing his law studies, marrying ‘Rehana’ his beautiful and well educated impressionable wife and joining the Bombay high court as a barrister, much like Jinnah and then finally meeting the man in flesh. And from there it adapts to all that has to come, adding a whole lot of drama in between taking input from the social norms, beliefs and stereotypes of that time period. Bombay in the 1900’s would have been quite a place, i was transported to it, actively imagining it through the author’s writing and experience. The effect of the freedom struggle from ‘Gokhale‘ to ‘Tilak‘ to ‘Jinnah‘ to ‘Gandhi‘ on the common masses was an interesting touch. How the people perceived the struggle, their doubts, hopes from these leaders were something to wonder about. The story gives you everything it promises in its description, at time i felt that the story dragged a bit, that maybe near the end it focused more on the family drama than on the effect of Jinnah or the freedom struggle on the tale. But the characters never became redundant, in its style and length it reminded me of ‘Karambhoomi‘ though the two books are completely different in essence, the tale of sacrifice and transformation was the common denominator. Mr. Doshi has in my opinion done a great job on the book, the story though sometimes becoming dull was never truly boring, though a lengthy tale, the time period i suppose, demanded it’s share of words, the story had to react to so much.

The only complaint i have are the last chapters, they seemed rushed, and if the intention was to induce a sense of urgency in the reader well then it felt more irritating than exciting. And the complete biasness against the newly formed state’s administration, though in most of the novel Mr.Doshi had used fiction to blunt the wounds of history, but in the last few chapters the directness was like an open handed slap to the face. Which was surprising for me as i expected him to keep the whole story blunt till the end, him being a diplomat and all. This novel, told a story of a people divided and how that division came to be, what started it, The partition of Bengal?,  The separate electorates policy?, The Muslim Royals like Aga khan ?, The indifference and self surety of IN Congress?, Jinnah?. Lessons each and lessons all, i see the current political state of India and am horrified to see that we have yet to learn a lot of them still. Perhaps this fictional tale would help. Perhaps we should be mindful of the lessons, because as George Santayana famously wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. And Its about time!.