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Updated: January 26, 2011 14:24 IST

Ancient secrets

Prerna. S. Khatri
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Pyre of queens
Pyre of queens

A story that deals with the theme of reincarnation, while skilfully taking the readers to the ancient and modern times.

“Lost in the pages of history/Grew an untold mystery/The characters have come alive/ Yet again,/ To relive an event of destiny.”

Is ‘reincarnation' real? Do the unsatisfied souls actually assume a physical body to fulfill an inchoate task? Are dreams a key to an unfulfilled desire?

Ghosts from the past

David Hair's Pyre of the Queens deals with the central concept of “reincarnation” and fulfilment of wishes.

“Imagine, if you will, a tale that defines people. It has heroes and villians, good and evil deeds, its very words are sacred to us. It is like a chess set, its pieces inhabited by the same souls, game after game. Or perhaps this tale is a living thing, a script that constantly seeks actors, and when it finds them, it inhabits those actors and possesses them utterly, finding new ways to express and re-express itself, time and again.”

It is 769 A.D. Ravindra-Raj, the evil and sadistic ruler of Mandore devised a deadly ritual wherein seven of his wives sacrificed themselves on his funeral pyre with a gemstone each, and he would rise with the powers of ‘Ravana', the demon king of the epic Ramayana. But destiny had another deadly game to play.

Padma, the sister of Madan Shastri, the commander of Raja's soldiers, gives her gemstone to her brother to give it to the court poet, Aram Dhoop as a symbol of her love. Aram Dhoop, smitten by the beauty of Darya, the youngest of the brides of Ravindra Raja, steals her from the funeral pyre. And the result is an “incomplete” ritual.

Now, in 2010 A.D., four teenagers from Jodhpur, Amanjit, Deepika, Vikram and Rasita, with a series of repeated nightmares realise that they've been part of an “old” deathly game and the spirits of the Raja and his five wives were approaching them to seek vengeance. They decide that there has to be an end to this either now or never.

Well-crafted

The novel is beautifully crafted in ancient and modern times. The venue of climax is an underground channel in the old fort of Mandore. The characters assume their roles to settle an incomplete record.

The dialogues are in tune with the belief of reincarnation. “Life upon life, dropping memories into his mind. Other faces and voices. It had always been like this, and it would always be”, is one such striking sentence.

The language of the book is appropriate for readers of all ages, though it will be best suited for young adults. The book keeps the readers absorbed to a large extent. The end, though highly predictable, will please the reader. Overall, it is a passable read.

Prerna S. Khatri, II yr B.A, B.L (Hons.), Saveetha University

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