My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Ashvamedha by Aparna Sinha, I give this book 3.5 stars. Hats off to a woman author to write an english thriller mystery in India. Thank you Tushti Bhatia and author for a review copy.
Come on a thrilling ride. Please suspend the belief and just enjoy. You will get your money’s worth and much more. The action start from first page with an accident and kidnapping and it is relentless till end. There is no slack moment except the unnecessary love track between Ashwin and Adya. Except that the action and thrill is unending and relentless.
It is a welcome break to see a thriller from an Indian writer that too from a woman (except maybe Ashwin Sanghi). The market is overflowing with mushy romance. It is said that Indian reader wants nothing but romance. So it is very courageous from Aparna to write a thriller mystery in English. There are many thriller mystery writers in Hindi; most prominent being Ved Prakash Sharma and Surendra Mohan Pathak. This reminded me of them both. In international authors I was reminded of Frederick Forsyth, Robert Ludlum and David Baldacci.
As this a thriller mystery I will tread with caution in my remarks so as not to give away any spoilers.
The story start with the kidnapping of a dishonest politician Ashok Kumar Nandi (no need of adjective BTW saying politician says it all hehehe). He has illicit relations with Thandi group chairwoman Sumona. Both of them used each other in all possible ways for personal gains. The master manipulator Hades make sure they are killed. Hades is omnipotent, omnipresent and is able to manipulate things not only of national level but also on international level. Ashwin Jamwal is an honest and passionate Indian. He is brilliant orator and strategist. He wants to serve the country and clears civil services for that. He is honest DM but soon realizes that honesty will take him nowhere. So he start the policy of tit for tat. He digs up past of other dishonest people and uses these for doing the right thing. Soon he is trapped himself and he has to resign. IM Rathi is the founder of nationalistic party and Hades manipulates him to bring Ashwin into politics. Soon Ashwin becomes president of party and his power rises. So much so that Rathi is sidelined and commits suicide. Ashwin is elected youngest PM of India. Then story picks pace and it reaches international level. How Hades manipulates all and the mystery of his being is the crux of novel. In the end all is well (or is it?).
The story get hold of you from page one and once you start you can’t leave it in between. Simply put the book is unputdownable. I read it very fast and finished it in two sittings. The tension keeps building and one is curious to know what happens next.
In Vedic times Ashvamedha Yagna was performed by kings to assert their dominion over all other kings. Lord Ram did it and so did Pandavas. A horse is sent in all directions and if it passes a king’s territory without interruption that territory is acquired. If some king impounds it he has to fight with the King who is performing Ashvamedha Yagna. If defeated he has to give up his kingdom. Thus the king acquires territory of all others and become Chakravarti Samrat, Sehanshan or king of kings. This is the method of asserting domination. There cannot be a better name for this book because Hades is so power hungry he wants to become the King of Kings, Most powerful man on earth. As in the yagna, this madness of Hades leads to so much spilled blood.
There are many inconsistencies though. I won’t dwell much here because it will give away spoilers. One the issue of international relations and international terrorism is too simplistic. In fact the whole treatment of novel is simplistic. The things are not so easy to manipulate as shown in the novel. Some of the facts mentioned in the book are not right. The biggest problem is timeline which is overlapping. There are so many loose ends which were not tied. Some characters were introduced for no particular reason and only thing it did was to slack the pace of book.
All in all a very good book. On back cover it is mentioned that author has some chronic disease. I pray it is nothing serious. Because I am desperately waiting for her next book.
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