Amateur: Review of The Last Avatar by Vishwas Mudagal

I received a paid-for copy of The Last Avatar from Vishwas Mudagal’s marketing team in exchange for an honest review, and would like to thank the author and his team for reaching out to me and giving me a chance to read this book.

I normally don’t read Indian fiction because my first (and understandably last) experience with the genre was when I read Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone. Over time, I‘ve read excerpts from books of Amish and other Indian fantasy authors, and I’ve never been particularly fond of the general writing style. I was in two minds about picking this book up initially. The blurb of The Last Avatar, though, was intriguing and a bit strange. When I saw that it was published by Harper Collins India, I figured, “Why not?”

I also thought the book would be a good point to drop my reservations about Indian fiction, and maybe enjoy the evolving fantasy mythology genre and work that’s available from a growing set of authors. Let’s start with saying, “That definitely did not happen.”

The Last Avatar - Age of Kalki Book 1 - Vishwas Mudagal
Source: Goodreads

Genre: Indian fiction, Fantasy, Mythology

Length: 328 pages

Blurb:

A terrorist organization, the Invisible Hand, has found a leader and financial supporter in the Chinese General, Jian. A plot that was decades in the making has led to attacks all across the world. Cities have crumbled and India is in tumult after the Prime Minister and entire Union Cabinet are wiped out in one of the attacks. There’s only one person who can save India and the world from Jian’s ambition – Kalki. But is the vigilante-hero that India relies on a human being, or is he the tenth avatar of Vishnu as prophesized? And will he be able to save his country and the world, or will he meet his match in Jian and the Invisible Hand?

Overall Rating: 1 out of 10

Plot: 2 out of 10

Characterization: 1 out of 10

Primary Element: 1 out of 10 for its action and suspense

Writing Style: 0.5 out of 10

Part of a Series: Yes; this is Book 1.

Highlighted Takeaway:

The ending… because it allowed the book to finally end, and me to be done with it.

What I Liked:

Nothing.

What I Didn’t Like:

I’m just going to jot down a quick list here.

  1. The writing style – it was terribly amateur in style and needed a lot more work to even get the basic emotion across.
  2. The dialog – inane, unrealistic, and inconsistent.
  3. Narration – the book does not give you any sense of visualization; it just seems to go on and on, failing to evoke any emotion whatsoever.
  4. Story – the story goes on and on about how Kalki is India’s savior but does not offer a single example of what he may have done in the past.
  5. Plot – weak and convenient, and highly unrealistic even for a fantasy.
  6. Characterization – Kalki talks and behaves the same way at ages five, ten, fifteen, and whatever age he’s finally at; all other characters are one-dimensional. You could actually replace one for the other and not notice the difference.
  7. Pandering – random romance scenes that come out of nowhere and serve little purpose, as though added just to titillate (doesn’t succeed in doing so).
  8. So many errors! – syntax errors, grammar errors, incorrect words being used, and lack of continuity such as beards being shaved then reappearing overnight at full length (I mean, seriously?).

Who Should Read It:

I honestly would not recommend this to anyone. Maybe if you’re a die-hard fan of everything Indian mythology fantasy, you could give it a shot.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who actually enjoys reading books because they can pull you in and stories can be absorbing. The Last Avatar is too dull to do any of that.

Read It For:

… or don’t.

I genuinely wanted to like The Last Avatar but, unfortunately, just couldn’t (and I tried very hard to like it). I will definitely not be reading the rest of the trilogy (or howmanyeverbooks-ology) or any works of this author again.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and do share your thoughts in the comments section below!

– Rishika

Review: The Man of Legends (By Kenneth C. Johnson)

A shoutout to NetGalley for a free ARC of this book.

(“NETGALLEY!”)

Reading and reviewing it has been long pending from my end; made longer by the fact that I tried super-duper hard, but just couldn’t go through with reading the entire thing. It’s now one of the entries on my scarcely populated Did-Not-Finish list.

But… reviewed it must be, even if most of what I say is based on the 30% I did end up reading. So, here goes!

33398240
Source: Goodreads

Genre: Something between fantasy, science fiction, thriller, and mystery

Length: 428 pages

Blurb:

Will is a thirty-something old man with brown eyes and brown hair, who never ages and is visible in multiple photographs next to almost every famous person across the world and across all time. He’s being chased by some Vatican emissary (don’t know why) and generally goes around being kind and gentle, while also being a super famous (but unidentifiable) author and painter. Jillian, of some tabloid-fame, discovers the fact that he’s been around forever, and then something happens over the span of 48 hours right after New Year’s Eve that brings everyone in the story (mainly the people that Will has somehow been in touch with) together for a traumatic experience they never forget. Oh, and something evil lurks in the shadows (apparently).

Overall Rating: 1.5 out of 10

Plot: Promise of a plot gets 8 out of 10; Plot that actually unraveled gets 2 out of 10

Characterization: 6 out of 10

Primary Element: Too ‘all over the place’ to identify a primary element other than ‘drones on’

Writing Style: 1 out of 10

Part of a Series?

No.

Highlighted Takeaway:

Will – a bit over the top maybe, but likable to some extent.

What I Liked:

Nothing to write home (or on this blog) about.

What I Didn’t Like:

An immense amount of buildup from Page 1, but absolutely no movement, at least until 30% in (or even 40% in, as seen from the quick page-flipping I did).

Who Should Read:

  • I don’t know… maybe people who can cook, work, clean, raise a child, answer calls, walk the dog, and undertake some personal grooming at the same time, because that’s how good at multi-tasking you need to be to follow the sheer number of storylines and characters.

Who Should Avoid:

Anyone who doesn’t want to spend the first ten minutes of every reading session going, “Who’s this person again and have they come before?”

Read It For:

  • Ummm… checking to see if you’re still as sharp as you’ve always been?

Loved The Man of Legends or hated it? Let me know in the comments below!

– Rishika

Review: The Width of the World (By David Baldacci)

34525617
Source: Goodreads

Length: 455 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Vega Jane, her best friend Delph, her dog Harry Two, and their new companion Petra Sonnet finally escape the Quag and its nightmare experience. But the place they end up in is much worse. Monsters don’t roam the peaceful streets. Instead, the people of the town they’re in are blissfully happy. When Vega Jane and her friends dig a little deeper, they discover that those very people are unaware of their true lives – their memories have been taken away, their lives erased, and their existences left as little more than blissful enslavement. The desire to help them and discover the reality behind all the lies she’s been told all her life drives Vega Jane to investigate what is happening in the strange town. But it isn’t going to be that easy. Danger lies at every turn; and the enemies against whom the people of Wormwood were protected by the Quag, the enemies that were little more than legend, suddenly become very real. History is about to repeat itself. War is inevitable. And Vega Jane is at the helm of it all. But how can she win a war that even her very powerful ancestors had lost, so many centuries ago? Can she find a way to face the enemy, when she has almost no hope of victory… or even survival?

The Bottom Line:

An entertaining read that is more similar in pace, style, and intrigue to the first part of the series than the less impressive second part.

My review:

The Width of the World is Book Three in the Vega Jane and The Finisher series. It is almost as good as the first book in the series, which has thus far been the best. It has similar elements of intrigue, fantasy, and the reckless but good-hearted actions of a very determined heroine.

It is fast paced and keeps you turning the pages, keen to know what happens next. It also brings together a lot of aspects of the first two books, tying many things up quite neatly. At the same time, it offers enough suspense and intrigue to mimic what the first book had achieved and take you into an interesting fantasy world.

A lot of the childishness that was existent in Book Two is, thankfully, missing from The Width of the World. There are childish elements, but there are also clear indicators that the characters are growing up, with the responsibilities they carry gaining prominence and the childishness diminishing. That growth is actually very refreshing and fits well with the storyline too.

The story itself is quite interesting and adds quite a few new angles to the fantasy world that Baldacci has built. It’s not the most unique of worlds, but definitely has its charms, making for an immersive read.

The book does have some problem areas though; one of the biggest ones being the parts where the otherwise very likable Vega Jane seemed a little too self-absorbed and obnoxious. She began to take herself a little too seriously as the leader whereas, until now, she had the utmost faith in her comrades. She definitely needed to be the leader, but there were times where her approach to the role didn’t seem to fit in with the character we’d seen until then.

In spite of its pace, the book does come across as a bit too long. There are sections – of introspection mainly – that could have been cut down. If it had been a finale, the length could be explained and even understood. But (and this really caught me by surprise) it isn’t the end of what I’d assumed to be a trilogy. It is more of a ‘preparation for the end’ kind of story. And definitely too long for that.

All in all, the book manages to keep you intrigued about the story of Vega Jane and its many other characters. It definitely keeps you interested enough to want to read the next book (whenever that may release). I’d recommend it to:

  • fans of young adult (young and adult, alike)
  • anyone looking for a quick read in the young adult genre (be prepared for some childishness)
  • anyone interested in fantasy (and doesn’t mind a little teenage drama)

Read, liked, or hated The Width of the World? Share your thoughts in the comments below. And, as always, thanks for stopping by!

– Rishika

Review: The Gunslinger (By Stephen King)

5098
Source: Goodreads

Length: 238 pages

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Roland of Gilead is the Last Gunslinger. Excellent at the skills of his profession, he is on a journey to find the Dark Tower. The Tower has its secrets, it has its powers, and it has its enigma, of which Roland knows very little. All he knows is that he needs to reach it. And the only one who can take him there is the Man in Black.

Having followed the Man in Black for as long as he can remember, Roland can sense that he’s closer than ever before. But the path leading to him still holds surprises. Roland meets an alluring woman who manages to dull the best of his senses, a kid from the unknown world of New York, and a town that stands at the brink of chaos. Roland knows that each of these holds tricks that are meant to stop him, tricks that will force him to use his deadly skills. He also knows that he must do what he has set out to do. But can he make the right choice when pushed to choose between salvation and damnation? Or will the decisions he makes finally blur that thin line on which he walks – the line that separates good from evil?

My take:

The Gunslinger is the first part of King’s Dark Tower fantasy series. The book comes with a lot of expectations, especially when King himself states that the series has been greatly inspired by The Lord of the Rings.  It promises to be, “eerily dreamlike and grippingly realistic.”

You can definitely see the inspiration part of it, and it stays true to its dreamlike and realistic promise too. It’s a good book, but brings with it, a certain amount of disappointment (the result of too high an expectation, perhaps).

The thing that bothered me the most was the excessive intentional vagueness. There were a lot of things that were said under the surface – part of the charm, sure, but also annoying at times. The book has a complicated story and even though it’s just giving you a glimpse into that tale, some more explanation, some clarity, would have really made a difference. This is even more so the case because the story is set in a very different world which oddly mirrors our own and yet, just isn’t ours. This adds to the entire enigmatic feel but causes quite a bit of confusion too, because you’re expecting things to be a certain way but that’s just not how they are. All this, put together, made the book a little heavy and difficult to read.

What I liked though (and hated at the same time) was the emotion that the story evokes in you. You associate greatly with Roland – you hate what he needs to do, as much as you feel (strongly) for him having to make such difficult decisions. There is this deep sadness around and within him that, in its own way, resonates with the emotion that lies within so many of us.

So many people in our world go on living our lives, trying to be as happy as we can. Yet, somewhere deep within, there is a sadness – an unfulfillment – for having to do the things that help us survive, but not doing the things that help us really live. This dissatisfaction can be the result of tiny things or large ones, and may be a part of us for minutes or years, but we’ve all felt it at some point in time. We spend most of our days ignoring that feeling because who would want to believe it exists or address it? The Gunslinger, for some strange reason, reminds you of that feeling. It forces you to recognize the fact that there is a darkness within everyone and sometimes, you just have to face it. And at the end of it, you do what you have to, and you face the consequences, whatever they may be. It may be this evoked emotion that makes the book more difficult to read than it should be. At the same time, it makes it an experience instead of just a tale.

Then there is the fact that it is disturbingly graphic at points, leaving you with visions unfolding before that make you horribly uneasy – the kind that feels like you have something unpleasant under your skin. That, though, is part of why you’d read a Stephen King book anyway.

The characters are, expectedly, well developed, with shades of gray that make them very human and very relatable. The story moves along at a good enough pace, shifting between present and past, and comes to a good conclusion. Things become a lot clearer and just like that, you’re hooked onto the series, wanting to know what happens next (there’s also the hope that this very complicated world will become clearer as you read more about it).

So, should you read The Gunslinger? I’d recommend the book to anyone who:

  • is a Stephen King fan
  • likes fantasy
  • isn’t too bothered by graphic details
  • wants to remain one step ahead of the book-to-movie adaptation curve

What did you think of the first part of King’s epic fantasy? And are you looking forward to the movie (I’m half-terrified, half-intrigued about how this book will be brought to life)? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

And have an awesome 2017!

– Rishika

 

 

Review: The Finisher (By David Baldacci)

The Finisher Source: Goodreads
The Finisher
Source: Goodreads

Length: 506 pages

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Vega Jane is a fourteen year old Wug – one of the many Wugs who live in Wormwood. Her village is surrounded by the Quag where dangerous beasts live and beyond which, nothing exists. She lives a difficult life, working hard for every coin earned and looking after her younger brother. But Vega Jane is not like the other Wugs – she has curiosity. When circumstances force Vega to confront everything she believed to be true about Wormwood, she finds herself fighting not only the people who want to keep the truth hidden, but her own limitations as well. Forces beyond her understanding begin to make themselves known and Vega is thrown into a pit of confusion as she tries to make sense of it all. And soon, she finds that the chaos is the least of her problems. Vega Jane is put into the midst of a competition so fierce that she has little hope of survival. But Vega has seen, heard and felt enough to know that there is something that she needs to discover, a truth that she needs to unearth, and freedom that she needs to attain. Without choice or option, Vega is forced to fight for her life, and her freedom. But at the end of it all stands one question – what price will she pay for that freedom and where will it take her?

My take:

The Finisher is David Baldacci’s foray into the genre of young adult fantasy. I have read a lot of his other books and am quite fond of his stories and style. So when I discovered that he’d written something so unlike his usual stuff, I knew that I would have to give it a shot; and so, The Finisher was my own foray into reading this genre.

The Finisher has many things going for it and some against it, all dependent on how much of this new Baldacci you are willing to accept. To begin with, the style is poles apart from his usual. In fact, even the language is more Scottish and English than the usual American style. Then there’s the fact that it is a young adult book and caters to a slightly different audience than for whom Baldacci normally writes. So you can either choose to dapple in young adult because you like Baldacci or in Baldacci’s work because you like young adult. Either way, it won’t be a loss.

The story was reminiscent of Hunger Games – I’ve seen the first movie and have not read the books, but the feeling I got from The Finisher were similar to the feelings the movie evoked. So if you liked Hunger Games, you will probably enjoy The Finisher, even if not to the same extent. The story also had a lot of twists and turns, throwing things that you really would not normally expect at you, and kept going at a really good pace. There was no dull moment as such and I found myself waiting for moments when I could get back to discovering things with Vega Jane.

The character development is consistent, doesn’t go through abrupt changes that could hamper the story line, and any changes in the lives of the characters happen in a manner that is easy to associate with and seemingly realistic. I found myself hating some characters while loving others, wishing that things would go a certain way in many scenarios; and that really made the reading experience, fun.

What I especially liked about the book was the language. I found the entire Scottish and English influenced lingo charming and thought it really added to the setting and brought the story out really well. The book describes something akin to a parallel world where concepts are very normal, but their names and understandings are different. One example would be how Vega is almost fifteen sessions year old, implying that a session is a year. So while you can draw parallels, you still have to get used to the odd names for time, people, animals and other such, regular aspects of life.

On the negative side, the story starts off being a little difficult to follow. With all those new words being tossed about, it can get a bit confusing to build a clear picture. But a few pages in and that sorts itself out as you get used to the lingo and the new concepts. The odd effect of the first few pages may be exaggerated because you don’t exactly expect something like that from David Baldacci. So if you haven’t read his work previously, it should take even less time to slip into comfortable reading.

All in all, I thought that the book was really good. It flows at an excellent pace, it keeps you turning the pages with the desire to know what happens next, the language adds to the charm, and the characters pull you into their own lives, making it all very personal. The plot twists were interesting, leaving you wanting more, part of which is satiated by the rest of the story and the left has probably been left unanswered intentionally. The Finisher seems to only introduce Vega and her world and it does a great job at leaving you waiting for the sequel.

If you’ve been a Baldacci fan, then you should probably give this a shot to just see his varied sides and styles, if nothing else. If you like young adult fantasy, this book is one you should definitely read. It may not become your favorite given the many options out there, but it has its own charm that shouldn’t be missed. And if you’re wondering whether to try the genre out for the first time, regardless of your age, The Finisher is a good option to take that first step. All in all, a great, fun, fast aced read that leaves you waiting for the sequel and the movie!

– Rishika