The Pyre – The Return of Ravana #1 – David Hair
Release date: June 4th, 2015
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books
Age Group: (Young) Adult
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Mandore, Rajasthan, 769 AD: Ravindra-Raj, the evil sorcerer-king, devises a deadly secret ritual, where he and his seven queens will burn on his pyre, and he will rise again with the powers of Ravana, demon-king of the epic Ramayana. But things go wrong when one queen, the beautiful, spirited Darya, escapes with the help of Aram Dhoop, the court poet.
Jodhpur, Rajasthan, 2010: At the site of ancient Mandore, teenagers Vikram, Amanjit, Deepika and Rasita meet and realize that the deathless king and his ghostly brides are hunting them down. As vicious forces from the past come alive, they need to unlock truths that have been hidden for centuries, and fight an ancient battle . . . one more time.
Set in India, the present as well as the past, and exploring the culture, mythology and history of the country ‘The Pyre’ seemed the perfect book to continue my list of books with diverse settings. No surprise then that I was very excited to start this book when it came in the mail and I’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed at all! Once you start this book it’s very hard to put down. Both the events set in the present and those in the past kept me flipping the pages, wondering what would happen next.
In Rajasthan in the year 769 we meet Senapati Shastri, commander of the Raja’s army. The Raja of Mandore, Ravindra-Raj, is a cruel man who is obsessed by getting the powers of the old Demon King, Ravana, and becoming immortal in the process. To do that he has to die and be burned together with his seven wives on a funeral pyre, a ritual called sati. Shastri despises his Raja’s actions and the fact that his sister is one of the seven wives makes him even more resentful of his superior. When his feeble attempt at rebellion is however rooted out, he has to stand by and watch while his sister and the other wives are burned alive on the funeral pyre. Aram Dhoop, the court poet, is however not as compliant and saves the woman he loves from the pyre, Rani Darya, the seventh wife.
In 2010 in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, three teenagers meet in detention at school and suddenly see the faces of a dozen people projected on each other. Dazed by the experience they want to find out what it means, but get tangled up in a dangerous series of events filled with exhilarating chases and vision of the past. Both Vikram, the studious and smart guy and Amanjit, the strong and charming boy, seem smitten by the beautiful Deepika, but the three youths have to put feelings aside to get to the bottom of the strange set of events that started when they all first met.
Though Vikram, Amanjit and Deepika are somehow reincarnations of the characters we meet in ancient Rajasthan and show some basic features of the people they were in their previous lives, they are still very different. This made it very interesting to see how they would react differently from their predecessors and what that would mean for their destiny. Could the fact that they are different break the cycle they have been in for so long or change the way they see each other? I enjoyed reading about these characters very much, seeing them as separate though intensely connected pawns in the same story.
‘The Pyre’ is a fantastically written tale. Slowly starting with the events in the past leading up to the funeral pyre in 769 and the youths in 2010 putting together the pieces. The pace picks up when Aram Dhoop saves Darya from the pyre and the teenagers are attacked by some thugs and have to fight for their lives. Ultimately the two stories collide and the whole tale unfolds. I was engrossed in the story at that point and enjoyed how the events in 2010 reflected those that had happened many, many years ago. Ultimately we end up where the book started, as the prologue gives a glimpse of what is to come.
An amazing story set in a magnificent background, it had me hooked from the very first page. The last halve of the book literally had me on the edge of my chair, rooting for the characters in both timelines and wondering how the history would unfold and if it would repeat itself. I’m definitely looking forward to reading the second book to find out how their story continues and to learn more about the missing pieces of the puzzle and the Ramayana.