Nov 23, 2014

The Mahabharata Quest: Alexander’s Secret [Book Review]

The market is definitely flooded with a lot of the mystery thrillers which borrow their themes from some form mythology and weave around a story with a search for something precious. Dan Brown, one of the authors who tasted great success with this type of premise, opened up this market to the mainstream readership. In India too, there have been authors like Ashwin Sanghi and Amish Tripathi who’ve experimented with genre and tasted commercial success. Christopher C Doyle, who debuted with The Mahabharata Secret last year, seems to have gotten the ingredients for this thriller right.

The premise has three to four equally important protagonists, among whom Vijay is seems like the main one, who are working against (and perhaps later, for) something called The Order. The Order has been working towards gathering some information which is rooted in the Macedonian mythology from the times of Alexander and his mother Olympias. The ‘secret’, if obtained, will work as a perfect cure for many a thing. What is this secret, how is it connected to Alexander, why does The Order have so much of significance, why do the Intelligence Bureau and characters like Vijay, Irfan, and many others matter to The Order is the premise of the story.

At 350+ pages, this book is an easy read and a page turner and manages to sustain the reader’s interest quite a bit. However, it has its slow moments when there is a lot of talk about the biotechnology aspect and also due to the repetitiveness with respect to the mythological aspect. The author tries to reach out to the average reader and hence over-explains a lot of things which could have been avoided. The language is definitely above average.

What really is to be appreciated about the book is the fact that the author, despite the convoluted premise, has researched quite a bit on the Macedonian history, the Mahabharata, and a little bit of the geography. At times, there is a mention of things from the previous book in a few places to help the author understand the rapport that a few of the characters share. But the book easily stands out as standalone book and the author has taken care to introduce mystery elements in the premise, which he says he will address in the subsequent books in the series. The book ends with some form of closure that the ‘good’ guys are still looking forward to something and the ‘bad’ guys have gotten the secret for now.

What the author could have worked on is on shortening the premise, as explained earlier. With some good editing, the book could have been a fast paced 250 page thriller. In addition, stretching a premise over multiple books sort of weakens the premise as such unless there is indeed a ‘WOW’ moment in each of the books. There are many such revealing moments in this book, but they all fall short of the WOW factor. Perhaps, the next few books can work towards that.

Overall, the Mahabharata Secret: Alexander’s Quest is a mostly decent thriller read with some interesting historical trivia and biotechnology lingo. 

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