The profession of a writer has always been considered a noble calling, but I know of someone who has shunned title religiously despite being much acclaimed – at least within a small segment of fellow typists – for what he writes. Maybe he does not want to be counted amongst the scores of other ‘writers’ who, armed with their bulky thesauruses and hefty dictionaries, have wreaked error-ridden, misspelt havoc upon the common brains of the sensitive masses. Or maybe he prefers to keep away from the public light till the time he is ready to assume the mantle of an author and let the world bask in his literary brilliance.
His reasons are anybody’s guess, but what he writes is another matter completely. It is, then, a cause of worry for someone who enjoys reading his work (and still fails to finish alpha-reading his WIP despite repeated reminders), when the person in question informs you that he has lost the will to write. He is afraid that his words might be lost in the deluge of mediocrity that has been doing rounds the wide, wide web we now call home, and he is afraid of failing his own standards. As a reader, though, I managed to coax an old story out of him. This is my review of that story, which – in keeping with my glorious professional standards – is late. Again. But I hope it makes a difference, to him at least.
Review – A Reason to live:
‘A Reason to Live’, which is a part of the longer storyline that is set in the fictional world of Mithos, deals with the rise of one of the most central characters in the as-of-yet unpublished series by the as-of-yet unpublished author. It is the story of one Grandmaster Daronos Drivas, Preceptor of the Drivas Academy and a soldier beyond compare. Belonging to the blood of Old Achea, an ancient, complex race that aged slowly and lived for centuries, the Grandmaster has seen a slow erosion of the strength of Old Achea – something he sees reflected in the falling standards of his own academy, which now played host to sons of traders and farmers and tavern-keepers where it once forged might warriors, knights, renowned generals and lords and ladies.
The Good, the bad and the verdict:
The author’s main strength is his command over the language, and the way he uses words to evoke emotions within the reader. In barely thirty-odd pages, he gets the reader well-acquainted with myriad characters like Drivas; his aide, Sonorius Kahley; and even the stooped menial worker Mainaky; as well as the history of Achea and its people, their curious ways and lifestyles, the antagonism they face from other races. The way he deftly captures it all without being overly explanatory is the hallmark of a quality, quality writer. A small passage that best exemplifies this:
Had it always been this bad? When had he gone from running Hidosh’s foremost academy for warriors and leaders to being some sort of caretaker of the spoiled brats of Hidosh’s rich peasantry? Today, Daronos Drivas was six hundred and thirteen years old, an age only those of the blood of Old Achaea could attain, and at that moment, he felt each and every year of it.
There is also a subtle, wry humour at play, which generally shines through in lines such as these:
“It’s the strength that will stand him in good stead, Lady Isareui,” said Drivas. She was no Lady, really, but somewhere in the course of his life he had started attributing titles to those who had money. It flattered them, and happy rich people paid more fees.
The writer builds characters that have distinct voices and are well-distinguished from one another. However, that being said, there are points where he tends to carry on describing the underlying emotions or thoughts of the characters somewhat needlessly; one of the characters, Mainaky, comes across as too much of a caricature. This might be because the story was still pretty much an initial draft, and will probably be more refined after a round of copyedits, but it could benefit greatly from a bit less ‘tell’.
These minor niggles apart, the story stands out in terms of style and, to someone who’s read the associated work, context, but it holds its own even as a standalone piece. It isn’t a typical short story; rather, it serves more as an aperitif for what follows. There is foreshadowing of the events to come, especially towards the end, which makes a reader curious as to the significance of what they have just read.
My personal opinion? It isn’t the best that I have read from the writer. But that opinion has more to do with the fact that he has written some truly brilliant stuff. In a sea of mediocrity that often passes for fantasy fiction in India, it is truly refreshing to see something that is novel, both in style and treatment.