Goodreads blurb: A Mythical Kingdom: Legend has it that only those chosen by destiny can gain entry into Shambhala, the mythical kingdom believed to hold the ancient wisdom that humanity will need to resurrect itself from the inevitable apocalypse. They are the Avatari.
An Ancient Artefact: When Henry Ashton, a retired British Army officer settled in the Yorkshire dales, receives a letter from a monk entreating him to prevent a hidden treasure stolen from a Laotian monastery from being misused, he finds himself honor-bound to respond. Assisted by a retired Gurkha Sergeant, a high-strung mathematician from Oxford with a Shambhala fixation of her own and an American mercenary on the CIAs hit list, Ashton’s mission leads to an ancient map that dates back to the time of the great Mongol, Kublai Khan.
A Secret that Must Not be Revealed: The group follows the trail, risking the perils of the inhospitable deserts of Ladakh, turmoil in Pakistan and the rugged mountains of Northern Afghanistan, where the Afghan War is at its height. But they are up against a deadly adversary with seemingly unlimited resources, who will stop at nothing to get possession of the ancient secret a secret that, if revealed, could threaten the very fabric of human civilization.
What I liked the best about The Avatari is that the author Raghu Srinivasan chose to highlight the journey that the group of Henry Ashton, his old friend Duggy, Peter the American mercenary and Susan Hamilton the Oxford mathematician take rather than on the destination and the goal at the end of the journey itself. As the famous saying does, the journey is more important than the destination and this book truly does live up to that premise wonderfully well.
When Henry Ashton receives a letter from an old ‘teacher’ of his asking for his assistance, it is with great reluctance and after quite a bit of persuasion from his old sergeant Duggy that he sets off on what would prove to be a pivotal journey. While he doesn’t quite fully believe in what Duggy and his old teacher believe in, that of him actually being an Avatari, he still undertakes the mission stated in the letter out of sheer respect for the Teacher and also because he had promised him that he would respond whenever he was called to do so.
Preliminary enquiries lead him to Susan Hamilton, an Oxford mathematician who has her own history with Shambala and needs to achieve closure to some chapters from her past by finding the same. And then when Susan and Ashton start looking out for somebody familiar with the terrain, their search leads them to Peter, the American mercenary who had the reputation for somebody who could always be relied on to overcome all obstacles no matter what the odds were. And thus the unbelievable journey which would change all their lives in more ways than they could imagine begins.
Moving back and forth between the past and the present, the author takes readers not only on with this group on their lovely journey but also on a journey with none other than other seekers of Shambala including Kublai Khan, the grandson of Chengis Khan of Mongolia. The book therefore is as much a story of the search for this elusive kingdom across the ages as much as it is about this group’s journey to fulfill Ashton’s promise.
The action moves from Ladakh to Peshawar to Northern Afghanistan and ends high up in the mountain ranges on the Sino-Afghan border and what makes this book stand out among others in the adventure-fiction genre is that the author has not short-changed any of these locations in the narrative. Even at the cost of making the book a little longer than it needs to have been, he has taken the pains of including the current events of the period (the 80s) from all these locations and ensured that the action in these locations add to the already riveting narrative. In fact, the portions at Peshawar and Afghanistan are so engaging and well written that at times they almost tend to take the focus of the reader off the main narrative itself.
All in all, this book is quite a treat for all lovers of the adventure-fiction genre, and if you like the Indiana Jones movies, then this book is a must read for all of you. Go ahead, click on either of these links to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].
Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers, but the views expressed above are my own and have not been influenced in any manner.