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Book Review: The Peshwa – The Lion and the Stallion by Ram Sivasankaran

peshwaHistory was one of my favourite subjects in school. The stories from the past always excited me. Sadly, when we were in school internet was unheard of and the only source of information was the text book. Thanks to the rat race and focus on syllabus and exams, the charm of the subject was lost. But even now historical fiction as a genre excites me the most. There is no pleasure more gratifying than reading about the bygone eras as stories.

The Maratha empire finds little mention in the History syllabus which I studied. However, thanks to Sanjay Khan’s ‘The Great Maratha’ the concept of Chhatrapati, Peshwa and Balaji Bajirao was not alien to me. Ram Sivasankaran humanises the Peshwa for us.

The novel is set in the 18th century; Mughal empire is on its decline and the Maratha Confederacy has established itself as a force to be reckoned with in the Indian Subcontinent. Nizam Ul Mulk of the Mughal Empire, whose ambitions know no bound, wants to end the Maratha Confederacy by eliminating their biggest warrior – the Peshwa Balaji Vishvanath Bhat. There are enemies within the Maratha fold who would go to any lengths to fulfill their desires – even attack the Chhatrapati.

After the demise of Balaji Vishvanath Bhat, the Peshwa’s son, Bajirao Bhat, ascends the position of Peshwa and must utilise his scant military and administrative experience to deal with the enemies facing the empire.

True to the title of the book, the whole narrative shows us the heroic side of Bajirao. We see him mature from an adolescent son who is learning politics and warfare from his father, to a responsible leader who is ready to embrace death to protect his flock. We also see the humane side of him, a loving husband and a devoted father.

The writing is nothing short of a thriller and will keep you hooked till the last page. The descriptions are so vivid you can actually picture the scenes before your eyes. Every character has been etched flawlessly, highlighting the grey shades. The dialogues are crisp and every chapter well thought out.

If only history textbooks (or teaching methods in schools) were half as interesting as books like ‘The Peshwa’, people would not associate dull, soporific tenor with the subject. Thank you Ram Sivasankaran for a prized collection on an important chapter of Indian history (albeit forgotten).

P.S.  Thank you Writers Melon for the review copy.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

Book Review – The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias

devilThanks to Dan Brown, mythological fiction thrillers have become a rage among writers and readers alike. From Bible to the Vedas, ancient scriptures are being explored in more ways than before in the world of books. ‘The Devil’s Prayer’ by Luke Gracias fits the bill perfectly – there’s an ancient text that can shake up the world as we know it, a secret cult, ancient churches, chase sequences that send shivers down your spine and brutal savagery.

The book begins with a nun committing suicide in Spain. Thousands of miles away, Siobhan Russo identifies the nun as her mother, Denise Russo, who had abandoned them six years ago.When Siobhan travels to Spain in search of answers, she is confronted with dark secrets from the past that leaves her rattled. Her journey, too, is fraught with dangers; there are attempts at her life. But when she recovers her mother’s diary, the revelations change the way she looked at life.

The narrative shuttles between the past and the present. The pieces of the puzzle slowly fall into place as Siobhan reads through her mother’s diary entries. With keen attention to detail, the author weaves a heart-wrenching tale – a perfect mixture of mythology and history. While the language used is lucid, few sequences come across as brutal. Whether it is the rape sequence in the beginning or the savage murders towards the end of the diary entries, every word inflicts a numbing pain, piercing your senses. There have been times when I put down my Kindle and took a moment to ponder on what I just read!

Luke Gracias must be complemented for the brilliant research. This book is a perfect blend of history and fiction. For those interested, the author’s website lists the places where this book is set and some of the events mentioned in the book actually happened in the 13th century.

‘The Devil’s Prayer’ can easily be adapted into a screenplay and it would make for a great film. This psychological thriller also holds a lesson in morality for us – the choice between devil and good rests completely with us. Often, the greed of material possessions drives us against our own. It is our actions that determine the fate of those around us.

The book ends in a cliffhanger – probably a sequel is on the way (I would probably be among the first to lay my hands on it). Overall, it is a pacy, page-turner that will leave you wanting for more.

P.S. This review is a part of the Book Review Programme by Writers Melon. Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the review copy.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

DISCLAIMER: All Images In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights


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