The Shadow Throne by Aroon Raman

12:15:00 AM

Title-The Shadow Throne
Author-Aroon Raman
Published by-Pan Macmillan India
Pages-330
Price-250 INR
Source-Review Copy (from the Author)
   The Indian writing in English is going through an interesting phase now.The ChetanBhagat-AmitTripathi-AswinSanghi effect in the Indian publishing industry has paved the way for an era where there are more writers than ‘actual readers’!Many techies and management professionals turned writers overnight and as a result the market got flooded with a lot of paperbacks written by first timers. Being a blogger,I have had the previlege to review quite a number of works by these new gen debutant writers and I must admit that atleast half of them(which I have reviewed) were nothing but junk.So when this book(again, by a debutant ) came for review my expectations were quite low.After having gone through this book,I should say that I’m really glad for having taken this book up for review for it turned out to be a brilliant page turner.

The Plot-A mysterious looking Asian is murdered at the Qutab Minar.The officer in charge(Inspector Syed Ali Hassan) of the investigation calls upon his close friend Chandrasekhar,an ace journalist to have a look at the crime scene.Joining them is Meenakshi,a history professor and scholar.With her help they come to the conclusion that the victim was a member of an extinct cult sect.What began as a murder enquiry soon becomes a game of hide- and- seek within the shadowy world of Pakisthan’s ISI and India’s RAW.Played out in India,Pakisthan and Afghanisthan -‘The Shadow Throne’ is a no-nonsense, edge- of the- seat thriller which is chillingly believable.

The writing-The language is pretty simple and the narrative quite smooth.Though the writer’s efforts in evoking patriotic feelings in the reader remains mostly un successful he should be lauded for not making those attempts look silly or jingoistic.The book is fast paced and there are ample twists and turns which ensures that the reader is never bored.The climax suspence is nothing but terrific and I’ll be lying if I say that I had seen it coming.The Tom-Clancy/Dan Brown influence is particularly evident at times but you can’t really consider it a negative because the story which Aroon Raman wants to tell us is very much genuine and most importantly-distinctly desi.

The Characters-Chandra/Chandrasekhar,the big boned,baby faced journo(who resembles Rishi Kapoor in the film Bobby) who is still to recover from the loss of his beloved wife Yamini is the principal character of ‘Shadow Throne’.MeenakshiPirzada(a history professor and Chandrasekhar’s friend),Inspector Syed Hassan are the other integral characters in the story.One thing which I particularly liked about Raman’s characters is that they are never too Bollywoodish andthey behave like ‘normal’ human beings
for the most part.For example,at some point in the book Chandra says he was half expecting a James Bond like figure but was surprised when he realised that the ISI agent was actually a pot bellied man who could have been easily passed off as an ordinary Government servant!It’s instances like these which makes Aroon’s characters believable and tangible. On the downside,some of the peripheral characters seemed not well etched out.

Positives-
1.Plot-Thrillers dealing with terrorism and Jihad have always been the bread and butter of commercial fiction writers .Even In India we have had quite a number of books belonging to the genre(ShashiWarrier’s ‘Sniper’,Mukul Deva’s ‘Lashkar’ being the first ones to come to my mind).But the basic problemwith most of the Indian works is their predictability.‘The Shadow throne’ was quite a heavy subject for a first time author.What makes it different from the other assembly line thrillers is that it deals with an hitherto un explored angle also(read RAW/ISI/Nuclear War).The central theme of the book called for a good amount of research and tremendous patience from the part of the author.I’m happy that Aroon Raman could do full justice to it.Though the reader is bombarded with a lot of facts and historical details in quick succession, Raman tries his best not to overburden him with too much of them.For instance,the portions related to the ‘Hazaras’ are written extremely well.
2.Execution-One of the biggest positives of this book is Aroon Raman’s writing style.As I had said earlier there are a lot of scientific facts/historical-political events mentioned in the book.The book also dabbles with themes like the Indo-Pak relations,conspiracytheories,ISI-RAW,the Kushas- to name a few. Basically there was every reason for the normal reader to get confused or irritated with  excess of these facts/details .But it’s the author’s writing style and his uncanny knack of explaining the most complicated of things in the simplest manner that saves the day.
3.The Cover Design-Well,it was pretty cool!
4.The Pricing-Modestly priced at 250 INR,this book has got the potential to become a very big commercial success(the cover tells me that it has already become a National Best seller!).It’s racy,interesting and most importantly affordable for the middle class Indian reader.
5.The length-Aroon Raman doesn’t drag things un-necessarily and it’s pretty evident that he is intelligent enough to know where to stop.’The Shadow Throne’ is not a very lengthy one and you can easily finish reading it in one sitting.The Font Size is also optimum(neither too small nor too large) which means you don’t have to strain your eyes much while reading the book.  

Negatives-
1.Unconvincing Situations-Some of the scenes and situations in the story looked half-baked and unconvincing.Especially the events leading to Chandrasekhar’s association with Gul Mohammed and the ISI looked rather amateurishly written.
 2.Cliches and abrupt ending-The book isn’t entirely devoid of clichés.Likewise,I felt that the ending was also a bit abrupt.
3.The action sequences-Well,this is strictly a personal opinion.I think the action sequences were strictly average.May be a little more detailing could have been done here.
Verdict-'The Shadow Throne' by Aroon Raman is a racy thriller.It has got a decent plot which is executed in a highly competent manner.I hope Raman’s next book will also be as good as his debut work.Rating-3.2/5

PS- Aroon Raman’s next work is getting released this December.


-nikhimenon

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