Book Review : The Secrets Of The Dark

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BOOK REVIEW : THE SECRETS OF THE DARK
by ARKA CHAKRABARTI

Welcome to the mystical and mysterious land of Gaya, a land unlike any you will ever have encountered in your readings. This is a land of strife, of mystery, of intrigue, of politics, of East and West, of secrets, of prophecies and of an unrelenting hunt for the truth against all odds. This is the land, the land of Gaya, the Land where Agni is born and rises up to be a fine man, a man any mother would be justifiably and immensely proud to call her own. This is the story of Agni, a story unlike any you will ever have read... the story of a man prophesied to ... fame... or is it infamy?


THE CHARACTERS :

Agni : Who is he? Evil, or Good? Destroyer, or Saviour? Whatever else he may be – this man doesn’t know the meaning of the word “give up”. He just doesn’t!

Vrish : Wish everyone had a friend like Vrish... doesn’t agree with Agni; but goes along all the same

Princess Lysandra : Women, fighter, Princess, Tough and Devoted. All of them in one grand package

Malini : Now why on earth would anyone kill someone who knows nothing?

Sir Drake : From the West, A Guest, Maybe a pest, Maybe a test, maybe a friend best... or maybe a quest... Me, I wont say – but will give you a test!

The Stranger : Now why should I tell, if he is a stranger? I mean, how can I?




THE PLOT

The plot revolves around the land of Gaya,  which is composed of two continents : the Land Of The Rising Sun, and The Land Of The Setting Sun.  The book primarily revolves around the Land Of The Rising Sun, and starts cryptically with the prophecy of a destroyer who will rise and rid the Land of Gaya from the scourge of Man.

The plot then abrupty changes course, and veers towards a King whose Son has to be saved; every son born to the King has been murdered by his enemies; the newly born seventh prince is sent away right at birth to the Land Of The Rising Sun...and thus starts the saga of Agni. Right at the start, Agni’s fiancĂ©  is murdered brutally, setting of a hunt for the killer. The lady, before dying, draws a mysterious symbol  - and the hunt for the truth, in the absence of any evidence, starts off with the hunt for the meaning of this cryptic and unknown symbol.


THE ANALYSIS

First off, nothing I write hereon is going to take away from one basic fact : the book is unputdownable; a page-turner that will keep you engrossed right from the opening lines, till the last word on the last page. Credit where credit is due; the book is a good read, that much is granted. The pace is relentless, and the plot moves forward at a tremendous pace, which goes a long way towards hiding the negatives of the narrative.

The story unfolds effortlessly and is relatively easy to follow and get engrossed in; the quest for the mysterious symbol is well handled, and well fleshed out. The sub-plots connect with each other, and are interesting enough as well as off-beat, leading to continued interest throughout. The net result is the feeling of relentless pace and non-stop action as the story progresses without stagnating in any place. While not engrossing, the connect made with the reader is strong enough to ensure interest.

The characterisation is minimalistic in style and substance; the characters build up over the course of the book by inference and sequences in the story, rather than explicit definition. The upside is a slow build-up of a connect with the central characters; problem is that the method adopted leads to a lack of a strong enough connect with the characters, leading to a mild confusion and an amorphous impact when viewed in totality.

Part of the reason is the setting, which is of a mystical new land; the diverse sub-plots and the absence of full clarity impedes understanding of both the story as well as impedes the development of the characters. You just fail to connect with most; Agni is a notable exception, as is Vrish and Lysandra.  You develop  a strong mental image of these three central roles; all the rest are rather amorphous by comparison.

The second problem with this follow from the first : the entire story, its plots and sub-plots have been inadequately fleshed out in this, the first part of a series. This may be deliberate; we shall have to see the other books of the series; this is a distinct possibility, given the relatively clear definition achieved of Agni and Lysandra in particular, as well the overall handling of their sequences. The storyline is totally alien to us, and we just fail to make any connect whatsoever with the basic concept of Gaya; it would help a lot if the introductory chapters were more fleshed out. As things stand, you are exposed to the concept slowly, spread over the entire book. While the pace mitigates this; the overall effect could have been done much better, making this book a masterpiece, rather than just a good book. And the book is good : well worth a read, make no mistake.

I rate the book 3 stars out of 5, or rather 7 stars out of 10. Worth a read, that is true. Even a few days after the reading, I can still picturise Agni in my mind : that should be self-explanatory. But the questions remain, strong and ever-present, coupled with an insufficient understanding of the entire story. Maybe I ought to wait for the full story to come out; which is why I am not going into plot holes as I perceive them; maybe they will connect up in the later parts.... 

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