Category Archives: Book Reviews (FaB 3)

‘Empire of The Moghul: The Serpent’s Tooth’ by Alex Rutherford

51q5m2tciql-_sx323_bo1204203200_The book I chose for my ‘Face a Book’ challenge is The ‘Serpent’s Tooth’,  5th book in the series of ‘Empire of The Moghul’ written by Alex Rutherford – which is actually the pen name of Diana Preston and Michael, a history-couple greatly interested in the Mughal Empire. This book traces the reign of the 5th Mughal King Shah Jahan – the man behind the Taj Mahal- to the usurping of the throne by his tyrant son, Aurangzeb. The story began as a continuation of the 4th book in the series, ’The Tainted Throne’, where Shah Jahan assumes the throne of the mighty Mughal Empire from his father, Jahangir, after a deadly battle which saw Prince Khurram killing his own half-brothers for the coveted throne. The book, thus, begins with an assassination bid on Shah Jahan by one of his nephews. Shah Jahan escapes in time only with a faint scratch but the poor soul is executed mercilessly. The book then takes us to the peninsular battlefields where Shah Jahan, along with his family, camped to supress the Deccan uprisings.

The story takes an expected twist when Mumtaz, Shah Jahan’s beloved wife, dies in childbirth. The emperor is completely shaken and even refuses to see his new born daughter, Roshanara. Heartbroken, Shah Jahan leaves the Deccan menace to one of his Generals and leaves for Agra, his capital, to build a magnificent mausoleum for his beloved. The intervening chapters reflects the mental agony, describes how he was devastated and jolted by the sudden change of fate and establishes that he was not able to come into terms with his loss. Shah Jahan veils himself in a deep state of mourning, unknowingly distancing from his children.

After the demise of Mumtaz, who has been the support the family, the relationships among the siblings wary and the brothers, especially Aurangzeb, starts suspecting the other two, Dara Shukoh and the younger Murad. The rifts between the brothers are further worsened when Shah Jahan sends Aurangzeb and Murad to Bengal and Deccan to govern, while keeping the elder Dara with him in Agra. Shah Jahan, meanwhile, sees a potential successor in his elder son Dara, who according to Aurangzeb is unworthy of continuing the legacy of the great ancestors. To supress the rebellions the north-western part of the empire Shah Jahan decides to sends the younger Murad and later Aurangzeb, this angers the two and flares-up their suspicion of Dara becoming the emperor. In the meanwhile something that shouldn’t have happened, strains the relationship between Shah Jahan and his eldest daughter Jahanara. Finally, after 22 years of hard labour, Mumtaz is build a resting place in the bank of Yamuna, the ‘Taj Mahal’.

Jahanara, meanwhile, enter into secret agreement with a Frenchman Nicholas Ballantyne for getting information of her brothers (Aurangzeb and Murad) plans. She feels she could ameliorate the strained relations. But Shah Jahan, on hearing the news of Jahanara having secret contact with the foreigner, locks her up in the royal harem and sends order to kill the Frenchman. Thus every attempt to restore the family ties ends up in failure.

Shah Jahan,  tormented by the realisation that he caused the death of his beloved and all these problems, now falls seriously ill. His inability to appear for the daily ‘Jharoka-Dharshan’, a practice his grandfather had started a century ago, rouses suspicion among the country men. The news immediately reaches the far corners of the empire and Aurangzeb starts militarisation to lay siege to the Agra fort for he believe that Dara Shukoh had taken the matters into his own hands. Murad joins Aurangzeb. Heartbroken by the development of events Shah Jahan announces Dara as his successor.

This blows into an all out war between the brothers. Dara leads a large army but many of his comrades defect to the other side. Dara, who has been siting on the top of the howdah on an elephant, is knocked down by an arrow. Without a commander to be seen on the howdah, the army starts retreating from the battlefield. The injured Dara is brought back atop a horse.

Unable to see his sons killing each other Shah Jahan orders Dara to move to Delhi. Shah Jahan gives a letter for the Governor of Delhi ordering him to provide all the facilities for Dara to raise an army. Following his father orders Dara along with a platoon of soldiers march towards the city of Delhi. Meanwhile, the treacherous Aurangzeb allures his younger brother Murad to his comforts and kills him.

But on reaching Delhi, all hell broke loose, the Governor hesitates to acknowledge the royal order and gives a deaf ear to Dara’s pleas. Tired and devastated and unable to cone out with any other plans, Dara allows his soldiers to escape from this evil chase for he is sure of Aurangzeb following him close by. Ultimately Aurangzeb finds Dara and, in a shocking public display of his valour, beheads his brother in the Lal Quila (Red Fort). He then proceeds to Agra with great enthusiasm.

Once in Agra, Aurangzeb puts his father in house arrest. He locks him up in a room with a view of the Taj. He forcibly tries to takeaway the royal ring of authority from father which Shah Jahan powders into dust out of anger. The new king arranges for his coronation ceremony to be held the banks of River Yamuna so that his ailing father can see it from the balcony. The only person with whom Shah Jahan is allowed to meet his Jahanara. In the last days, he lives a austere life with Jahanara reading to him stories of his youthful days.

Reviewed by A. Manjith Nair

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‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ by Roald Dahl

Image result for George’s marvelous medicineThis tremendous tale tells us about who is 8 year old boy and his desire is to transform his cranky old grandma.

I thanks to George madcap and mischevious idea, his marvelous medicine does the trick but not in the way he expected. I absolutely loved this book and when I read it I burst into laughter.I would highly recommend this book because its amazing.

The way the writer wrote was hilarious and he put in some random funny things that didn’t exist and could never happen such asthe transformation of animals. I would love to read more books of Roald Dahl series.

Reviewed by Mydhili S. Ann

 

‘Gods,Kings and Slaves’ by R. Venketesh

Historical fiction is an interest to even those who are not fond of history.They have gained recognition in various places .Greek history, Roman history, Indian or Chinese and what not .
Not very often do we get to see a South Indian historical fiction.
R.venketesh’s Gods kings and slaves tells us a story about a war . Where death is certain on both sides. It also talks about the brotherhood between two kings who in turn want to kill the other.The story is beautifully written and it talks of pain,love and war.
I give it a 3 out of 5.
Reviewed by Maidhily Warrier

‘The Emperor’s Mind’ by Roger Penrose

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I joined FAB challenge 2016 with the book, “The Emperor’s Mind” by Roger Penrose. The book was suggested by the Librarian Sh. SL Faisal. At first I thought the book was about some ancient dynasty and some research on the present relevance or anything of the sort. But when I went through the cover page and back page, I got excited that it is a popular science best seller.

In the book Roger Penrose takes us on a fascinating roller coaster ride through the basic principles of Physics, cosmology, mathematics and philosophy to show that human thinking can never be emulated by a machine.

A very engaging and creative work – unveiling the nature of human mind along with discussing Physics, maths and other subjects.

The most prominent argument dominating throughout the book is that the phenomenon of consciousness cannot be accommodated within the framework of present day physical theory.

The 1st chapter is “Can a computer have a mind?” The title itself led me through a current of thoughts and reflections – I didn’t think yet about the mind of a computer, was discussing only about intelligence. But here the author is deliberating on the mind of computer.

Though we consider ourselves (human being) to be the most intelligent creature in this world, the author narrates the helplessness of human being as compared to the vastness of the universe and how less we have explored so far. “Things to know is always more than things we know” – (That is a personal quote of mine). We are not sure about many things that we discuss now, we only have assumptions, and hypotheses.

There is a nice description of the Turing test used to determine the artificial intelligence, to check whether a device has developed the ability to think. The test and the consequences are narrated in a very attractive and though provoking manner.

The description about Johann Martin Zacharias Dase, an illiterate farmer’s son (1824 – 1862) of Germany, who was able to multiply two eight digits numbers in less than a minute all in his mind and was able to multiply two 20 figure numbers in less than 6 minutes caught my attention and led me through a series of thoughts and such prodigies often outsmart the smartest of all computers. This was really amazing and inspiring.

The book is full of such inspiring descriptions eliciting reflections and quite interesting than a detective thriller. I have not finished reading. I’ll post my final review once I finish my reading.

Happy reading to you all.

Reviewed by Mathew Abraham, Vice Principal, KV Pattom (Shift-I)

‘Robinson Crusoe’ by Daniel Defoe

 

Robinson Crusoe  was  a  British  man.  He  went  on  a  sea  voyage  against  the  wishes  of  his  parents.  Many difficulties came on  his  way.  At last  he  landed   on  a lonely  island. He learned to live there.  After  many  years  he  found  that  the  native  cannibals  often  visited  the  island.  Crusoe saved one  of  the  prisoners  and  named  him   Friday. Crusoe  taught   him  Enlish and  man by  other  things. He  saved  two  more  people .  He  saved  an  English  captain. He  helped  him  to get  out  from  the  islnd  and  return  to  the  island. After  returning  to  England  he  got  married  and  had  three   children.   The story  ends   with   a hint   that  he  will return  to  the  island.

Reviewed by Aiswarya Anand

 

‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ by Arthur Conan Doyle

In my summer vacation, I read the book “The hound of the Baskervilles”, a mystery based one, which was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

This story is based on a curse that killed the whole Baskerville generation. Due to that curse Mr. Hugo and Mr. Charles Baskerville faced death. The one who left in that generation who is supposed to be suffered is Mr. Henry Baskerville. So his friend Dr. Mortimer contacted Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in order to help Henry. Sherlock Holmes was busy with other work so he sent Watson with Henry and Mortimer to Baskerville cottage. Watson was asked to send letters through the post on the daily news to Sherlock by the means of informing. so he did the same. Mr. & Mrs. Barry more were the housekeepers. One day Watson happened to know that someone was in the Grimpen mire and he himself left to search that person. Then he saw Sherlock over there. Sherlock Holmes was the one who was hiding in the Grimpen mire .Sherlock was not in London instead he was in Grimpen mire watching all the things and searching for new clues. At last, the day came to find the killer .The killer of Baskerville generation, the killer of Mr. Hugo and Mr. Charles was a hound trained to kill Baskerville generation by identifying their shoes smell. Thus, Sherlock finds the killer.

I recommend this book for my entire friend who loves mysteries’. I rate this book 9/10

Reviewed by Aishwarya Pradeep

‘Hunger Games’ by Suzanne Collins

This book is set in the nation of Panem, a post-apocalyptic North America, a country that consists of the excessively wealthy Capitol, and 12 (formerly 13) very poor districts. 74 years prior to this story, a rebellion is led by District 13 against the the Capitol, resulting in it’s destruction. As a punishment for participating in the rebellion, and as a remainder of the paramount power of the Capitol, the remaining 12 districts have to participate in the Hunger Games, a battle for survival among the teens of of the the Districts. 12 boys and 12 girls are randomly selected (one pair from each District), and trapped in an Arena. The rules are simple, kill everyone else, survive, and never, ever, ever piss the Capitol off.

16 year old Katniss volunteers herself as a tribute to save her sister from this fate. She, her fellow tribute from District 12, and her drunk mentor set off on a journey to the Capitol, to participate in the Hunger Games, where the odds are never in your favor.The book is filled with suspense, action and violence.

This book is for young adults, and definitely not for the faint of heart. It is written in first person, present tense, which, fortunately or unfortunately, makes the story much more realistic. My favorite character was Gale, since he’s the only one other than Katniss that’s actually realistic, rather than sitting around, falling prey to the optimism fallacy.

I would rate this book 4.8 out of 5.

Reviewed by Ahamed Nazar