About the author:
Arka Chakrabarti is twenty-five years old, and this is his debut novel. He has been passionate about reading fantasy novels ever since he was a child.
Thoughts on the cover page:
The blurb said something about seven guardians of Gaya, so seven hooded souls seems appropriate. It’d have been nice if the title font was carried throughout the cover. Nothing very appealing about the cover, but an okay one.
Impressions from the blurb:
Something about a prophecy being fulfilled and a king’s heroism to save his son from harm would be the first part, and that to be followed by the son Agni’s life. Something quite filmy is expected too, with the hero thirsting for revenge after his love is killed. So I guess this would be like a fantasy thriller.
My thoughts on the book:
When I read fantasy, I want to feel like it’s in a different world, filled with sorcery and mythical creatures and such. I guess that’s the effect of a certain seven-part series that are quite close to a lot of readers’ hearts, especially fans of fantasy like the author himself. Reading the blurb, with a prophecy and trying to defy the prophecy and such, Harry Potter definitely does come to mind. But the comparison can’t happen and it stops there.
The story begins with the telling of the prophecy, and then the birth of the prince of The Land of the Setting Sun (abbreviated hereon as LSS). When the Guardians of the Dark arrive to take the prince, his father, King Arkansas sneaks him away with the help of Priest Solon, to the dark-skinned man we later come to know as Briksha, merchant from The Land of the Rising Sun (abbreviated hereon as LRS). Other than a little too much description in this part, I liked the opening and it set the tone.
We are then taken to LRS, twenty years after the opening scene, and the prince, named Agni is now a ward of the King Adhirath along with Prince Yani and Briksha’s son Vrish. He’s in love with Briksha’s daughter Malini and she talks to her father about her marriage. Yani, on returning from a hunt with Agni and Vrish is welcomed abruptly by Adhirath in the presence of his guest Sir Drake. Then they head to the festival of Trinetra only to find that a fire has consumed the merchant ship Dut and killed Malini, who also had her throat slit. Briksha was declared a lost soul. Bent on revenge, Agni and Vrish begin their quest to find their answers as to who killed her and why. As this proceeds in one direction, we’re simultaneously taken to LSS, where King Crixus is nearing his final days and is afraid of what will happen when his brother’s elder son Demetrius takes over the throne, for he has just one child, Lysandra, Princess of Leu. We are taken through events there as Lys and Damian, the younger son fight a battle to stop Demetrius from ascending the throne.
I like Arka’s narration. It’s right there with the sort of language I’d expect in a fantasy genre novel, something that’s not direct enough to tell what is happening, and just enough to show it. The characters had a certain depth which I really liked. Like Agni, soft-spoken and sensitive one moment, brave and valiant later and having the sense to understand the people around him as well. We see Sir Drake being both a friend and fatherly figure to Yani when Adhirath treats Yani with little respect or love, and then a completely unexpected change later on. We see a different side to Agni too. Effort-wise, I feel Arka has given it a lot. It sometimes has the feel of a historical novel, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The map of the fantasy land at the start is useful, as is the list of characters toward the end.
The good things I’ve said above are in majority, but there are a couple of things I’d point out to Arka. As a reader, I have this tendency to get involved into the story. So till around the eightieth page, the story revolves around Agni, his life in LRS and then his quest for answers and revenge. Other than a small part about the Seven, we don’t go to LSS at all. I feel that because of this, the parts happening in Leu don’t manage to grasp the interest as such. I’m more interested in knowing what will Agni do next, what’ll happen there in LRS and his journey? Rather than one chapter just put in here and there between Agni’s journey, maybe it’d have worked better if you did it in parts. Like for e.g. Part 1 = Himadri, Part 2= Leu (put a few chapters together), Part 3 = The Journey to Nisarga, Part 4 = Leu again, Part 5 = Nisarga and the competition etc. That way, the parts in LSS would get a little more prominence, even if not as much as Agni’s journey in LRS. And the naming of the lands could’ve been simpler. It’d have been easier to read out loud too in that way. The naming of characters was okay, except for Snake perhaps. If they were Gods or Guardians, a little better was expected there. I found a couple of typos here and there, nothing that stands out except for the character list at the end where it’s put as Prince Yama instead of Yani.
Overall, I feel the book was quite wonderful, and can’t wait to see what part 2 of The Saga of Agni will have to offer.
Title: The Secrets of the Dark
Author: Arka Chakrabarti
Publishers: Srishti Publishers
Price: INR. 195
(May 9th, 2013)