Hold on to your magic carpets, for a thrilling adventure!

 SHRADDHA A. SINGH reviews Achala Upendran’s book The Sultanpur Chronicles: Shadowed City

When Samit Basu, the writer of India’s first English fantasy series Gameworld, recommends a new book with the proclamation that “Indian fantasy has a new star”, one can’t help but notice. Achala Upendran’s The Sultanpur Chronicles: Shadowed City is not just a novel that does justice to Basu’s claim, but it also leaves the reader yearning for a sequel. 

A richly crafted Sultanpuri Empire with its seat of power in the city of Sultanpur, where all the action of this novel takes place, is the stronghold of control and dominion in the region with many other princely states under its patronage that are vying for a marriage alliance with the Princess. What really stands out here is how the narrative is dominated by strong women characters, who lead the action. The men, especially Dewank, Mudra, Karthik and Ismail, are integral for the story, but in this fantasy-thriller clearly the women steal the show. Be it the Princess, who is a skilled tactician; or her handmaid Roza: who brings the rakshasi Manukarmini from the world below by using strong magic; Roza’s sister-in-law Samira, who is full of surprises and even Manukarmini herself, who belongs to the mistrusted group of the rakshasas, trying to rectify the errors committed in the past when the great Human-Rakshas Wars took place. This great war in which humans, rakshasas, djinns fought with each other resulted in the establishment of some rules with respect to a restricted use of magic and spells, and the parties involved were assigned to live in designated realms. It brought over 300 years of peace, which is threatened by the many developments that take place early on in the novel.

Upendran weaves a web full of intrigue and magic interspersed with djinns, rakshasis, sorcerers, Dawn Worshippers, spells and flying carpets. It provides the necessary excitement and action, with richly crafted characters and locations, and an impressive unraveling of the mystery that there is. In fact, up to its very last page, Upendran manages to engage our attention by offering a new twist.

The Sultanpur Chronicles is a bold work that is composed by keeping today’s reader in mind, because although the setting of the novel is of a make-believe time and place, the actions and emotions of the characters are refreshingly contemporary. The language used is rich, without being superfluous; and although some early transitions from one scene to another lag, the narrative picks up quickly and flows smoothly. Therefore, it is not just for the readers of Fantasy, but also recommended for anyone who is looking for a stimulating new saga which envelops the reader in itself and transports one on an unforgettable journey to the land of Sultanpur, almost on a magic carpet of your own.

Book : The Sultanpur Chronicles: Shadowed City

Author: Achala Upendran

Published in: July 2018,

Publisher: Hachette India

Pages: 339 pgs.

Price: Rs. 450/-

Shraddha Adityavir Singh teaches Literature in English at Zakir Husain Delhi College (M), University of Delhi. She is a Commonwealth fellow, has several academic publications, and has presented papers at national and international seminars and conferencesShe is also a bilingual poet, and has read her poems at poets’s meets in Montreal, Canada; and more recently at the Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi.