Fractured Legend by Kranthi Askani is the story of 3 women; Priyambada, a slave in a temple. But she is no ordinary slave; she is a stone sculpture that comes alive only at night. She is immortal in this form but she chooses to lead a mortal life; Nandhini, an assassin who was married once and has a son from this marriage. She is in search of a mysterious manuscript. And Pravalli, Priyambada’s daughter, who is struggling to come to terms with her mother’s past.
The description on the back promises an intriguing tale of magic and fantasy. And there is no lack of imagination in the book. Unfortunately the writing is not up to the mark. The narrative is peppered with typos; missing articles; tenses used incorrectly, some sentences which are completely bizarre even for the magical realism genre.
Apart from the technical issues, the author uses made up words like tissue-wiped, fist-tapping, finger –prodded, check -shirted etc which might be a stylistic quirk but it is over used. I cringed every time I read a line with one of these creations. They took away the impact of a well-written sentence. Consider this, “I slapped water on my face and tissue-wiped; patted my cheeks and flexed my neck, villainous style flex”. All of this made it extremely tedious to read this book.
Though I must admit, there were occasional flashes of brilliance which helped break the tedium. Two bits in particular come to mind. One was when Nandhini reminisces about a shopping trip with her husband and she is unsure if she remembers another couple sitting across from them or is it some ghost her mind created. Here the author captures the complications that arise when you recreate the past. The way we sometimes mix up & make up images so we are not sure if it is a real memory or just our imagination. The other was when Pravalli explains Harshita’s need to only consider a suitor who is associated with one of her friends by comparing it to the ease of memorizing a new word from a dictionary, if it is associated with a word we are already familiar with. This comparison is simple yet clever, it made me smile.
Despite this, the story did not quite work for me. There were elements which irked. For me the major one was that the two most intriguing characters in the book, Aardya & the queen of the temple in which Priyambada lived are barely explored. Even though Aardya is weaved into the whole story, we don’t really get to know much about her. In fact I would have preferred if Nandhini’s story was not included in this book and instead I could have read more about Aardya. Nandhini’s narrative was the weakest of all the 3 stories and it ended abruptly. I didn’t see the purpose it served or any strong connection between Nandhini and the other two women, the one with the manuscript was flimsy at best. The other issue is the lack of dialogue in the book. It would have gone a long way in breathing life into the characters because most of them, (eg- Priyambada’s husband, Annapurna, Pravalli as a child etc) remain lifeless, mere words on paper.
In conclusion, I would say that the author had a lovely idea. The story had the potential to soar in the sky, if not for the above mentioned problems, which did the work of wing clippers, banishing it to an obscure dark corner.
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