Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Age of Hibilisk by Sumukh Naik - A Review

I grew up with a generation which was drunk on the fantasy fiction genre. Quizzes and competitions on Harry Potter were common, and so was the desire of many of my friends to acquire the 'Ring' and get it engraved. I, somehow, steered clear of the popular craze. My only tryst with fantasy-adventure genre was Chrisopher Paolini's Inheritance Trilogy, that too, restricted to first two books - Eragon and Eldest. I have to admit, I remember nothing of the two books. With The Age of Hibilisk, I found the first proper opportunity to read, absorb, and write about a book which falls markedly under this fantasy umbrella, but is different in the sense that it is indigenously produced. I hoped to understand the thought of the writer better, as well as the terrain he traverses. At some points, I feel I succeeded in decoding the messages contained within the text. At other points, well, lets come to that after a synopsis of the storyline.

From what I understood, The Age of Hibilisk, is essentially the adventure tale of Prince William and Princess Sara, through the mystical lands of Pantolis, Hibilisk and Ikra. They, respectively, are the rulers of the Kingdom of Jaguar and the Kingdom of Ivory, both involved in a conflict engineered by some dark force. Their world is beginning to be engulfed by a mysterious evil force, which is turning the once lush forests black and is unleashing inscrutable misfortunes on the hapless inhabitants on the land of Pantolis. This mystical and spiritual place is under the protection of Ten Masters, each to take care of ten directions. There is an Eleventh Master, who sits at the throne above the ten Masters, summoned when they need advice. He manifests as the Sage throughout the narrative, one who guides William and Sara on their voyage towards allaying the dark forces from completely annihilating their beloved land.

There are many reasons for why I stuck with this book till the end despite finding it a little dull towards the initial passages. Author Sumukh Naik did not disappoint me for my perseverance, because the book has few of the brightest and most stimulating episodes towards the end. You should not read this story as a mere fantastic novel, because the script has been set in a rich fabric of thoughts and philosophy. Two philosophies emerge very prominently out of the book. First is the balance between good and evil. Each element around us has both, the forces of good and evil contained in equal measure within in. Humans have been blessed with the faculty of making a choice between them. Second, there is a magic far stronger and more potent than all the magic in the world, and that is the magic of love and compassion, which all human beings are capable of harnessing. These two strains of thought are fundamental to the journey motif exploited expertly by Sumukh in his debut work.

The author has done a fine job in his detailing, which is indispensable for any work belonging to the fantasy fiction genre, since you are attempting to take the reader into a land which does not exist anywhere on the map of the world. Oh, cartographic presentation attached at the end of the book do help, and the illustrations are simple enough to let the reader follow up without hassles or confusions. The pace of the story dips at points, but catches up fast. It takes a little long to set the premise, but once it does that, incidents follow each other at a decent speed. Characters are painted with concrete, identifiable and consistent traits - which is excellent - but they falter at something basic, and that is in their naming. Nomenclature is one field which out author needed to pay more heed to, since names have been drawn from various cultural traditions. This may not have been so much of a problem if all the names chosen were obscure. However, when you have a Samantha, a Philip, a Sara and a William coexisting with a Sharma, it gets problematic, and to be completely honest, tad hilarious even.

I found the book a little repetitive in initial parts, as if the author did not trust his readers enough to follow even his very basic statements in the text. The language is colloquial, understandable, but has editing glitches which could have and should have been taken care of. At a little above 350 pages, the book, for its genre is neither too thin, nor too bulky. I wish some imagination had been spared on the cover of the book as well, which does not look very inviting or promising; quite contrary to the content. All in all, I think this is a two on five star book for me.

Book Details - 
Author - Sumukh Nail
Publisher - APK Publishers
Published - June 2012
Book Source - Review Copy
Genre - Fantasy-Adventure
Price - Rs. 295
Pages - 372

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