Review: Krishna and the Lake of Souls by Anurag Bhatt

June 28, 2013

Author: Anurag Bhatt
Publisher: Frog Books
Year: 2013
ISBN: 9789382473428
Rating: ★★☆☆☆
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Writing fiction is a task. Making it believable for the reader is the tougher part. And, writing fantasy fiction is some other breed’s job.

It takes a supremely potent brain to sprout novel stuff out of nothing. It offers, one might argue, a certain liberty to play with since it is then purely an author's world run by his convictions and his rules but the task is onerous since he needs to make the unbelievable believable for the book is to be picked off the shelf at the end of the day not by your friends. And there is no respite for the new authors who are venturing into it when the bookshelves have such heavy butts of Harry Potters and Lord of the Rings decking them up.

The lack of good fantasy fiction popping from the Indian land urged Mr. Anurag Bhatt to foray into the challenging domain of fantasy story-telling. Krishna and the Lake of Souls is a debut novel of Anurag Bhatt, belonging to the world of fantasy fiction. Though the attempt should be appreciated but those words of appreciation are enervated as the writing misses the mark by quite a margin.

Two young boys, of about ten, living in Nainital find a book which then leads them into a new dimension where magic happens. There is a history which connects these boys with the people in this dimension or world, as we could call it, and it is this knowledge that they get at the end of the story. The concept of soul and body is introduced but is left half-baked. Mutation on will, of people of this world, into an animal which closely represents their soul hasn’t been used to punch much force into it. Last few pages, where the suspense unfolds, just saves the package.

If I could include a comment on the book cover, I would say that it is an ugly work of art. A patch work. Garbled mash of animate inanimate images. Coming to the actual stuff, the writing is not a source of joy, at all. There is no spark of the author's individual style in the one hundred seventy odd pages. The language is straight out of the Nandan or Nanhe Samrat, the fine Hindi books for kids. The tone used and the wisdom shown by the ten or eleven year old children takes sigmoidal path, which do look jerky at times. Too much use of the words by and among them and almost none of those wordless wisdom of the children did the major damage. Overall, as well, there is just too much of the conversation happening. Very shallow conversations, so there is nothing that lends depth and aura to the story somewhere.

The ugly consequences of casual writing can also be seen here. Bunch of question marks or exclamatory marks hurt. Lack of punctuation marks and a little wandering grammar question the editors, as well.

Emotionally, the novel is shallow. The relationship between the two boys, Krish and Sid, is a reality thrown at the reader. The relationship between Krish and his uncle, or between the Nishe and Krish, all suffer from the lack of attention of the author. He assumed it up for himself but forgot to put them down on pages. It is a little annoying. Putting two people close together, arranging some friendly conversations in between makes nothing obvious. The part where Krishna gets to know about his mother's death and then he isolates him with his dog, Jhumru, could have been a beautiful piece but one fails to even sympathize with Krishna then, let alone feel his anguish. One then realizes the wisdom behind those umpteen pages of the classic fantasy books or, for that matter, any good book. The reader’s eyes should be fed, wisdom be then respected and then there won’t ever be a need to force a conclusion on him.

The attempt could be appreciated for its novel grounds but the writing is a big disappointment. Kids should have found it a passable book for it is an easy read. But why am I a little scared to recommend it to my little cousin, I wonder.

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