Friday, May 25, 2012

The Lost Pearl of Paradise: In Search of a Fairy by Abiral

Do acquaint yourself with the young mint fresh author: Abiral.

I was curious about the unusual sounding name and was told that it meant "continuous" - as in "aviral dhara". And that it should have been A"v"iral (instead of A"b"iral) - but the regional influence made its presence felt. Being from the east myself, I immediately understood that bit, since we say: "abiral dhara" - for something that flows continuously, perpetually or perennially.

Now for my verdict: This is not a run-of-the-mill story and stands out among the deluge of dreck camouflaged as bestsellers - in our bookstores these days … and is light on the wallet too. Debutant author Abiral Kumar has impressed with his maiden offering and will certainly be someone to watch out for in the future.

The storyline: The Lost Pearl of Paradise: In Search of a Fairy is a story set in modern times, about something that's so much older.

Set deep in the forests of Brahmaputra, this is a story of fate, of fortune, of sacrifice, of friendship, of duty, of rage and resistance, of transformation, of courage and steadfastness; and of relationship in all its myriad shades.

It is an unusual - a hatke - tale woven with abuse, lies, compassion, tenderness, history, trickery, deception and mayhem … but is ultimately a tale of hope and survival.

A story of men and women - transcending great odds. A story of a boy and a girl - overcoming great barriers - of time, of space and geography, in some of the most interesting, enchanting … yet treacherous terrains on earth - where peace jostles with turmoil and violence fights hope and redemption.

It is full of everything; greed, love, innocence, mystery, apathy, horror, grief, et al … are in abundance on the grounds surrounding the mighty and holy Brahmaputra, and so are magic, honour, destiny and romance. And the story plays out, tying in a romantic love story in a most unique way.

But can the past save the future?

The Book Blurb: What if the religious vision of evolution of humans was not entirely true? What if the holy books, prophets and the historians neglected one small detail that is bound to prove costly?

A fragment of the most ancient civilization, surviving till date, is brutally slaughtered in the forests of Brahmaputra. Everyone is dead except for a sixteen-year-old girl who has to drink her own blood to survive. The clues left behind by her father lead her to the mountains where she was born – only to discover that her quest has just begun.

An ancient prophecy foretold of a girl, named Pari, who is destined to bring forth a goddess. Destined to lead the most ancient civilization lost in oblivion towards a new dawn.

Destined to be sacrificed…

All goes as foretold, until she meets Abiel, a small insignificant boy, a negligible dent in her destiny..that is bound to change everything!

The future of the human civilization depends vastly on its past..and the war is on the verge of happening…

The plot: The prodigal son returns … but is it for good? Why does he want the pearl then?

Two feuding brothers - handsome but no longer young: each with a mission of his own. What is it and who wins?

Two children – innocent and pristine – meet and then part. Will their paths cross again?

A young girl - not yet out of her teens. But why is she looking for the pearl too?

An idealistic young man, son of a powerful minister, answers the call of the mountains and becomes a wanderer, shunning his destiny as his father's heir. Why is he searching for a fairy?

What makes him, a non-violent man, handsome and in the bloom of his youth, risk his all?

And will he find his fairy?

Well, don't expect me to play the spoiler. I will not reveal any more than I have already done. So if you want to know more, get hold of the book and read all you can.

Each character is a mere pawn in this bizarre game of life and death, of power and pelf, of past and future … and each with a story to tell. Or hide.

My two pence: Abiral has a way with words and is quite the storyteller. Frankly I am marveling at his caliber and also doffing my hat - at his amazing imagination. To conceive of such a fantastic plot and then weaving it in words - verse and prose - is no mean feat, even for a seasoned author. What to say of someone who was merely 15-years young!

The book jacket cover is also quite well done. And though the book blurb does give away some clues about the story resting within its pages, it still manages to withhold most of it.

The few typos could and should have been easily pruned out.

However, some sharp editing - to tighten up the plot - would have been welcome. The encounters, the conversations (especially between Pari and Abiel), the character developments - all could have been a bit more compact - in order to maintain the pace and subtlety, while guarding against some events and characters getting too predictable or over done.

The conversation bits should have come out separately, instead of being lumped together in paragraphs. Also some rearranging of the chapters/narrative would make for a smoother flow of the plot/storyline.

And I wish some more thought had been given to the choice of the titles - of each chapter. Frankly, there is great scope for innovativeness here - something Abiral is quite capable of doing justice to. The existing titles sort of rob off the charm and suspense of the following pages, somewhat diluting the interest, and given the nature of the book - that is simply not done.

All those sub-titles in caps … need to go. Time to put on the proverbial thinking cap.

This brings me to the book blurb. Umm, time to reach for the metaphorical screwdriver here as well, and a few turns of it and I firmly believe it will reveal only what it should and whet the readers appetite.

Abiral has chosen to take the road less traveled vis-à-vis the spate of new authors who have presented themselves for us to sink our teeth into. The story at the heart of this novel is most fascinating. And given the kind of events woven into the narrative: taut drama, twists, suspense, conflicts, mystery, romance, surprise elements, a few heart tugging moments, the works …  the pruning off of the deadwood - would only ensure that it continues to retain its charm till the last page has been turned, instead of having its pace and flavour interfered with.

But all said and done, this is the work of a 15-year-old schoolboy. A very promising budding author at that … whose perspective, writing style and imagination will bowl you over.

The story resting within the pages of this book is fresh and there isn't any sense of déjà vu, meaning one does not get the feeling of plodding through rehashed stuff. You know, old wine in new bottle and all that.

My rating: I'm going with a 3.5/5 - for Abiral's maiden offering: amazing concept backed by a limpid writing style. He is one author whose literary progress I'll watch with interest. I now look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy, and am quite sure that their narrative will sweep me up in its fold and keep me there.

In Ruskin's writings we come across "Pari Tibba" quite often. Hopefully someday we'll get acquainted with "Ganji Pahadi" - through Abiral's prolific pen - when the pen is not busy writing some or the other eggjam paper that is!

Details of the book: The Lost Pearl of Paradise: In Search of a Fairy/ Author: Abiral/ Publisher: Frog Books [An imprint of Leadstart Publishing Pvt. Ltd]/ Publishing Date: 2012/ ISBN-10: 9381576687/ ISBN-13: 9789381576687, 978-93-81576-68-7 / Pages: 273/ Price: Rs.195, US $8 [Rs. 184 on Flipkart].

Photograph: The book jacket cover of The Lost Pearl of Paradise: In Search of a Fairy. Picture courtesy: link.

The book can be obtained from: Flipkart

Get in touch with Abiral at:

Monday, May 21, 2012

Meet Abiral - Author of "The Lost Pearl of Paradise: In Search of a Fairy"

The author: Abiral is a seventeen-year-old schoolboy who is now busy feasting on "mama ka grub" and booking his appointments with the sleep fairy - having spent a considerable amount of positive energy writing his 12th standard board exams. But somewhere between the fifteenth and sixteenth step of his life, he wrote his maiden novel - The Lost Pearl of Paradise: In Search of a Fairy - the first of a trilogy, and aspires to write nothing less than a hundred more!

Sometime in early December (2011) this young schoolboy-cum-budding-author wrote to me - with a request to review his upcoming debut novel. He gave me a glimpse of the novel and also mentioned that he is a student at the Oak Grove School - Mussoorie. He was preparing for his CBSE (XII) board exams then. The book summary piqued my interest sufficiently enough, since the genre fascinates me too, so needless to say, I acquiesced to read the book and then share my thoughts.

Frankly I was pleasantly surprised since school kids these days aren't exactly known to read books ... much less write them.

I wished him the very best … in his quest to become an author and hoped that his dreams come true some day. And that may the Paramatma, Lady Luck and the Fairy - from "The Lost Pearl of Paradise" - bless him. However, given the Mussoorie connection, I enquired whether there was a budding Ruskin Bond in our midst (though I am perfectly aware that there cannot be another Ruskin Bond, ever.)

That's when he came back saying that the evergreen Mr. Bond is reading his debut novel too! Frankly, it's such an honour and more. It's priceless, really - for any author, and not just a budding one. Abiral is very fortunate indeed.

But that's not all; after reading his book, Mr. Bond summoned him to his home and even offered to write the whole foreword - an opportunity that Abiral politely let go of - and chatted about other things instead.

Umm, must be a bunch of those mountain butterflies traipsing in his tummy!

Frankly, I am still shaking my head in disbelief, 'coz I don't think Ruskin has offered to write the foreword for many books or authors. He perhaps turns down such requests - and several of them - daily.

Though Abiral insists that he tried his best … yours truly has advised him to read that Robert Bruce and the Spider story once again - so as to fully grasp the meaning of the word "try" - if he still wants to cherish Ruskin's foreword on his maiden offering, that is.

Gallant lad that he is … he mentioned something about the struggle that a mint fresh author has to go through. And yours truly interjected with: a foreword by Ruskin or no foreword by Ruskin … the struggle is constant, however, it'll be something to cherish about and tell his future grandkids and great-grandkids - since you see, I am no believer in the Mayan prophesy. 

And who knows … given his passion for athletics and his being a prolific triple jumper as well, he may just hop, skip and jump over all those literary struggles, while slam-dunking his way through them at other times, guitar in hand!

But jokes apart … having read his maiden offering, I would say it's great to know that Abiral has chosen to become a writer - though for now an English Honours course in DU probably beckons.

He also has a passion for poetry - from the time he was a wide-eyed ten-year-old, and having read a few of those pieces, I am one of his creative cheerleaders. He already has several books floating in his head, so we are unlikely to ever find him polishing doorknobs instead of sitting down to write.

Frankly, we need genuine writers/authors and not adulterated ones, like some 'popular' writers (that includes a few so-called award winning ones as well) - that churn out soporific novels at regular intervals, yet deftly masquerade as 'best selling authors' and 'opinion makers' - dispensing it left, right and centre. What?

And oh, before I forget, Abiral is also the "mountain eagle" that delivered my letter to Ruskin - when that hardly working "mountain snail" did not.

If any of you wish to get in touch, his address is:

Note: I will put up my review of The Lost Pearl of Paradise within a couple of days. So, do stay tuned!

Photograph: The mint fresh author himself.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Secret of the Scribe by Douglas Misquita

Secret of the Scribe is Douglas Misquita's second offering, after the very well received Haunted. However, unlike many authors who prefer to play it safe and come out with a sequel (to a successful book) ... Douglas has chosen to go with a completely different plot and storyline, and has drawn inspiration from Egypt instead.

Haunted was a fast paced action-thriller guaranteed to give an adrenaline rush. We traveled along with FBI Special Agent Kirk Ingram, the slightly larger than life protagonist/hero, through his trials and tribulations - his highs and lows, his success and setbacks, his smiles and tears - in his quest to destroy organized crime in all forms. Ingram was seeking redemption, and waging a personal battle against the demons of his past ... and yours truly had promptly put a face to his character - in her mind, that is. It was the face of the dashing and debonair Gregory Peck. But despite her unshakable loyalties, she was generous enough to advise other readers to consider Robert Redford or Paul Newman too :)

Then in Jan., Douglas unveiled his next – Secret of the Scribe – and from the looks of it: cover art, etc., it appeared to be quite intriguing ... and I let him know that. But when he came back saying he was quite excited about this book and that he would send me a copy for review – I was more than glad. The Pharaohs have fascinated me no end and here was my chance to read an author-signed copy of a novel set in the land of the Pharaohs!

I have done a bit of reading on the Egyptian civilization and have been intrigued by the Mitanni king Tushratta and the New Kingdom pharaoh Akhenaten (Ikhnaton).

The Sun King Akhenaten of Egypt (ruled 1352-1336 BC according to the mainstream view) was a son-in-law of Tushratta, the Mitanni king of North Syria, through queen Kiya (short for Khipa, from the Sanskrit ksipa, night)

The name Tushratta is spelled Tuisrata in the Hittite cuneiform script, which does not distinguish between "d" and "t" very well. Some have suggested that the Sanskrit original is Dasaratha, a few others that it is Tvesaratha (having splendid chariots), a name that is attested in the Rigveda. Letters exchanged between Akhenaten and Tushratta has been found in Amarna in Egypt and other evidence comes from the tombs of the period, which have been discovered in excellent condition.

The Mitanni, who worshiped Vedic gods, were an Indic kingdom that had bonds of marriage across several generations with the Egyptian 18th dynasty to which Akhenaten belonged. The Egyptians knew the Mitanni as the Naharin (N'h'ryn'), connected to the river (nahar) - most probably referring to the Euphrates. But how could an Indic kingdom be so far from India, near Egypt? A plausible scenario is that after catastrophic earthquakes dried up the Sarasvati River around 1900 BC, many groups of Indic people started moving West. This idea of westward movement of Indic people is preserved in the Vedic and Puranic texts.

But let me not digress.

Secret of the Scribe made my GK travel even further – northward. I learnt about the Book of Thoth, the Huapa, various symbols, pictographs, hieroglyphics, the Heretic's Tomb (depicting Egyptian Gods leaving gifts to ancient civilizations), cave paintings depicting contact and exchange of graces with supreme beings, Y'en Hak Se or Protector of the Gods, Setna – son of the Pharaoh Rameses, Nefrekeptah, Horus, Amen-Ra, Ptah, Ahura, Senet, Atsu, the Karnak Temple, the Great Marker, the Eye of the Protector, ancient trapping systems and of course weaponry, and much more.

In cramped corners of dimly lit caves, Dr. Ivonne Prideux unravels ancient secrets with the help of the Huapa King that baffles her, and along the twisting route of the hieroglyphics all those involved must face their own insecurities and greed.

And there is a twin involved. But who or what it is, I will not tell. And as for the mysterious cylinder, I won't play the spoiler either. If you want to know, go ahead, get hold of the book and read all you can.

Book Blurb: A cave-expedition to the remote borders of China and Tibet unearth enigmatic discs that are believed to be of extraterrestrial origin. But their discovery is quickly squashed and erased from official records.

When venture capitalist Mark Steinberg launches Linguistics, Inc. and unveils cutting-edge nanotechnology-based communication, an enthralled human race is ready to proclaim the written and spoken word a thing of the past.

But unknown to the world, Linguistics is setting the stage for total control.

Leading the scattered resistance movement, Lance Michener wants to shut down the Linguistics network before the damage is total and irreversible.

At the center of the conflict is the hunt for the mythical Book of Thoth — the Book of Wisdom of the Gods; a Book that contains the secrets of the language of all earthly species and languages yet unknown.

And as Linguistics ushers in an era of global mind control, the race is on to prevent The Book from falling into the wrong hands.

Haunted had FBI agents, terrorists and a deadly nerve agent, while Secret of the Scribe is peopled with Egyptologists, archaeologists, scientists and a technology that reads thoughts; however tribes, ancient secrets, tour guides and even aliens make their presence felt. And there is plenty of action – bloodshed, trap, betrayal, sacrifice, tenderness and what have you. One is reminded of the Indiana Jones series, Dan Brown's works and of course Gregory Peck – from Mackenna's Gold.

The cutting edge technology that Linguistics, Inc is developing (in this novel) is not really fiction. A team of California scientists (led by Philip Low, a 32-year-old neuroscientist) have developed the world's first portable brain scanner, and it may soon be able to "read a person's mind," playing a major role in facilitating medical breakthroughs. The device, created by San Diego-based NeuroVigil (of which Philip Low is the chief executive), and dubbed the iBrain, fits over a person's head and measures unique neurological patterns connected to specific thought processes.

Low says the goal is to eventually have a large enough database of these brainwaves that a computer could essentially read a person's thoughts out loud. One person who has already tried out the iBrain is famed physicist Dr. Stephen Hawking.

"We'd like to find a way to bypass his body, pretty much hack his brain," said Low. This past summer, Low traveled to Cambridge, England, where he met with Hawking, who was asked to think "very hard" about completing various tasks while wearing the device.

Now, will Lance Michener and his team (Lorraine Tao, Ishaan Anurag, Ivonne Prideux, Elijah, Femi Hasina, Roleau, Albere, Lachlan, Maso Djimouti) succeed in stopping the world from being mind controlled, from becoming silent thought-reading robots with an army of nanobots inside their cranium? Well you will have to read the book to find that out.

Do not expect to skim through the book and this is no cursory read. It demands your full attention and is worth every bit of it. As one reads along, it would be best to take the help of Prof. Google and having a good look at the places, images and monuments mentioned in this book, 'coz then one can visualize it better. And believe me, mere reading is not enough; you will have to play out the scenes in your head, while your eyes do the reading: simultaneously. [Here's a link from Douglas' website:; but do look up Google, that way you'll be able to appreciate the story better and it's a visual delight too.]

Suggestions: The typos could and should have been easily pruned out. And a little sharper editing would have helped. The language is vivid but a bit of colour and soul would have been welcome – given that the nature of the book may have compelled the author to choose the impersonal 'telling' route over the more interesting dialogue or conversation format – in large measure.

Douglas continues with his story within a story style that is all very good since they all get neatly tied up in the end. However, I would have wanted to know a bit more about Michener from age six to age thirty-five. How his character building happened, how he decided on his life's purpose i.e., how certain events shaped his life and thinking. The enigmatic discs sort of tantalized to deceive. Mark Steinberg and Ishaan Anurag are underdone. There is definitely scope for some more content there. And how Timothy Sable came to be the top man ... would have made for some interesting read. But thankfully Douglas steers clear of an ill timed, ill developed and thoroughly clichéd love story or an almost love story, that has sadly become de rigueur.

The book feels good to hold and the book jacket cover is quite attractive, it instantly catches attention. However I feel that some of the titles of the chapters (e.g., 'On The Run', 'Rescued', 'Betrayed', ‘Shutdown’ etc.) reveal too much and rob off the charm and suspense of the following pages. It somewhat dilutes the interest, and in a thriller that is simply not done.

My rating: 3.5/5. Informative and quite a riveting read that will appeal to all age groups and not just to thriller-loving epicureans, so even if you have several swashbucklers sitting on your 'to be read' list, don't miss this one!

Douglas is well on his way to creating an action-thriller oeuvre of his own and I look forward to reading more of his works in the future.

Details of the book: Secret of the Scribe/ Author: Douglas Misquita, Jr./ Publisher: Frog Books/ Publishing Date: Feb, 2012/ ISBN: 978-93-81836-10-1 / Pages: 332/ Price: Rs.245; US $10.

Photograph: The book jacket cover of Secret of the Scribe. Picture courtesy: link.