Title- The Emperor's Riddles
Author- Satyarth Nayak
- ISBN-10: 9381506450
- ISBN-13: 978-9381506455
Genre- Historical Fiction
This review is a part of the book review program by The Reader's Cosmos.
"Satyarth Nayak is an author, script-writer and journalist based in Delhi. In 2011, two of his short stories were selected for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. As a TV journalist, he has worked with premiere news channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN. The Emperors Riddles is his first full-length novel."
Now this is book that underpromises and overdelivers. Classic way to win. I didn't have great expectations as I had never heard the name of the author. The cover design looked mysterious and enigmatic but didn't quite build up the tension maybe because of the font selection. The cover didn't fall into the stereotypical Dan Brown-ish legacy where bold, embossed fonts, declaring the author name and book title leave a lasting impact. One cursory look at the front and back covers and you come to know that it falls in the genre of historical fiction with the likes of the Amish Tripathi and Ashwin Sanghi recommending it. I turned a few pages expecting a few yawn-worthy descriptions of historical events, I didn't even intend to start reading and ended up reading 50 pages non-stop! I realized I had just found a gem and had to do proper justice to it by reading it with the respect that it deserved.
"More terrifying than the savage murder of historian Ram Mathur on the ghats of the Ganga are the questions that follow. The letter carved on his face, the cryptic mail he sends his daughter Sia after he dies, more murders piling up. Desperate for answers, Sia turns to esoteric writer and friend Om Patnaik. But what begins as a hunt for the killer, becomes an extraordinary trail of riddles strewn across the country, that must end at the gates of an enigma. Patnaik and Sia race from one riddle to another, towards a royal secret that has remained alive for centuries."
So, I began again and was overwhelmed by the writer's knowledge about ancient Indian history, I think a lot research must have gone into making of this book. The book easily floats past eras, taking you to flashes of events in Indian history that find relevance in the present day India. (I am trying hard to give you no spoilers here). The character of Om Patnaik has hints of Robert Langdon (created by Dan Brown) in him complete with a weird phobia and vulnerable personality but I think the similarity crept unknowingly and the writer more than compensated for it by his vivid descriptions from the Indian and mostly Buddhist history. The character called Sia Mathur is given the female protagonist part but due to other powerful female characters in the book, she doesn't quite take the centerstage. Ram Mathur's character although doesn't get much space but is important in the story.
I think there were some moments of confusion in the novel when the author switches back and forth from past to present but, it all becomes clear in the later part of the novel. The novel is best enjoyed if read twice, it is a story that has multifold dimensions and repeated readings will make it even more enjoyable.
The language is well-knit, lucid and the writing style is reader-friendly. One thing is for sure that Satyarth Nayak is here to stay. There are a few typographical errors which I forgot to mark but I am sure, the further editions will take care of that.
The book is divided into multiple chapters so, you never feel burdened by the enormity of text as there is always a chapter ending and a new one starting. It can get on your nerves if you are not quite a history buff but, in that case, I think you should read the last few chapters, ruin the surprise and then come back and read the chapters that you find confusing. Or maybe just put a bookmark there and read them later with clarity.
Now, who should be reading this book. I definitely do not recommend it to those who are regular Dan Brown readers or those who have just finished reading The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi. The book does draw a lot from the contemporary authors of the same genre and that might upset the reader's mind if it is not open enough. I recommend it to those who have been into other genres and want to test the waters before jumping into the genre of historical fiction. Also, those with keen interest in Geography and History of India will find this joyride amusing. I'd also recommend it all the first timers, believe me, it is much better to start with these books. Put that "Five Point Someone" down and pick this one up!
All in all, I'll give this book three stars out of five. Three is a factor of 9! What a coincidence! (You'll understand the joke once you read the book)