27 July, 2016

#BookReview :: The Dawn at Dusk by Sandeep Nayyar

A gripping tale of love, betrayal, and vengeance, steeped in the magical realism of post-Vedic India.
Shatvari is a beautiful young Brahmin girl, practitioner of classical music and firm believer in the holy Vedas and its spiritual philosophies. The king of the Yaduvanshis and his scheming priests twist that faith to turn her into a bloodthirsty Chandaal warrior.
Exploited and shattered, Shatvari hunts a magical Yantra and the spiritual powers it contains. But in her single-minded pursuit of revenge, she falls victim to the curse lurking within the very same miraculous powers.
Elsewhere, the young Nishaad King Neel, courtesans Amodini and Vaishali, and the Yaduvanshis' nemeses the Raghuvanshis, gear up to enter the fray as well. 
What heavenly powers lie within the Yantra, and what curse stays the hands of those who would unleash them? Can Shatvari survive that curse and harness those powers? Will the Yaduvanshis' other enemies help Shatvari seek her vengeance? Or will the story end in all-out war?

Shatvari plays many roles in her life. She is a beautiful, pious Brahmin girl who believes in the holy Vedas. She is also a practitioner of classical music. She is married and is mindful of her duties. Yet none of it enough to keep her husband from straying. As expected, the society doesn’t fail to bring out its lashing tongue against her. In her moments of weakness, she is manipulated and turned into a completely different person. She takes on a mission to find a magical Yantra that is rumoured to have great powers. She channels the rage she feels towards extracting revenge from all who she deems have wronged her. Lines are blurred to as whether she is the victim or not. Would come out of this whole experience alive?

The plot of the story is partly unique with its varied characters and various concepts. From Shatvari to Shatrughan to Rudrasen… each character in the book has an important role to play and none of them is there merely as a filler. The author has paid attention to building them up all separately. As such their personalities hardly overlap and each brings in their own flavor into the story. The story of Shatvari is perhaps a story of many common women even if the situations are different. The world the book is set in is very familiar. There are various boundaries within the society and caste or gender biases are very similar to what we see in our reality. The class disparity is clearly defined as are the gender roles. It wasn’t surprising to see that a man gets away with being unfaithful while a friendship between a man and a woman is frowned upon and sets up the woman’s character for everyone to judge.

There are few things that I did not like so much. For instance, certain situations were never really explained and as such felt completely far-fetched even for a fantasy novel. Maybe a little more information about the world and the backdrop would have helped. The drastic change in Shatvari is hard to digest without any prior indication that she had it in her. The language used in the narrative also seemed to falter at places. 

All in all, this one should interest the historical fiction lovers but picked up with caution.

Review Copy received from the Author

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