Kalyug – R Sreeram – Book Review

KalyugGoodreads blurb: He looked at his gun once more. The helplessness left him, in its place was a hardened resolve that he would still have the final say. A third option. The middle-finger to the middlemen who had driven him to this. A few moments later, Major General Iqbal Qureshi fired the shot that shook the nation’s conscience.

The death of a decorated war veteran, one of India’s foremost military officials, triggers a chain of events that threatens to spiral out of control. The democratically-elected government is overthrown and a new one is formed in its place. A fierce and pure regime that promises its people the kind of governance they have been deprived of. Just. Fair. Unyielding. Operation Kalyug has begun.

Caught in the middle is Bala Murali Selvam, a writer who is still tormented by the memories of his persecution at the hands of the erstwhile-establishment. As the new government battles factions fighting for control, international intervention, personal agendas and incompatible motives, Selvam is swept along, a bewildered-pawn in a high-stakes game. Forced to question everything he has believed so far, even his innate sense of justice, Selvam struggles to choose sides. Will his instincts fail him when he needs them the most?


As the blurb states, the author has imagined quite a ‘revolutionary situation’ to say the least, a bloodless coup resulting in President’s Rule being imposed all over the country in Kalyug, and while the author has come up with a believable premise and narrative for the book, I had some small issues with the same which I have detailed in the last paragraph.

The unending stream of scams, corruption and misgovernance on the part of the ruling government forces a secret agency to accelerate its plans for Operation Kalyug which is a well thought out and well-orchestrated plan to topple the existing democratically elected regime and replace it with a dictatorial-style President’s Rule regime in the country. While the President would be the ‘head of state’ in this scheme of things, a complete team of handpicked individuals with impeccable credentials and more importantly patriotism and integrity at their core would then run the various governmental functions. More emphasis would be laid on appropriate and strict implementation of existing laws while those laws which didn’t serve the purpose would be relooked at.

Caught in the middle of Operation Kalyug is writer Selvam who seemingly by virtue of having authored a book on the same premise a few years ago is selected by the coordinators of the operation as being best suited to have a ringside view of the happenings and also to document the same. Another person who seems to be unwittingly caught up in this mess is NDNN reporter Richa Sharma who was trying to expose a scam working with Major General Qureshi when he committed suicide.

The narrative itself moves back and forth between the various steps of Operation Kalyug while briefly touching upon the circumstances which led Qureshi to his suicide. Flitting back and forth between the various cities in the country where the Operation starts simultaneously, the narrative also takes into account international reactions and resultant action on the part of the various foreign nations and powers with interests in India. In fact, this portion of the book seems to be well thought and written keeping in mind current geo-politics. In fact, what I really liked about this book is the fact that it seems so much closer to reality when describing the state of the nation as it is today compared to a highly heightened dystopian reality which the author could easily have taken the cover of when coming up with the plan of a bloodless coup.

However, what didn’t quite work for me in this book was the choice of Selvam as a ‘narrator’ sort of figure. In fact, until the very end, it is not quite clear as to what his role in the entire proceedings are and that remains a loose end which the author doesn’t quite seem to tie up, even as the book rushes towards its conclusion, especially towards the very end. Apart from this, the book is eminently readable and surely stands out in comparison to its peers on book shelves.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].


Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the WritersMelon team in return for a honest and unbiased review.

The Puppeteers of Palem | Sharath Komarraju | Book Review and free giveaway

puppeteers-of-palem-frontBack blurb: The village of Rudrakshapalem awakens, and tells her tale.

Five friends return to the village of their childhood to find that nothing seems to have changed, and at the same time everything has. Whose voice is it that called them back, and whose hand is it that now hunts them down, one by one?

Palem’s grand old man, a Brahmin landlord, their childhood storyteller, makes one last ditch attempt to save his village from ruin at her hands. Will he succeed or will his past catch up with him and demand fair price?

Two boys, one blind and the other lame, skirt the village borders at the old Shivalayam, listening, staring. On their faces they wear smiles of contentment. They sleep well. They see happy dreams.

A TV reporter arrives to study the village, only to sink deeper into the mystery with each passing day.

And hovering above all of these is the shadow of Lachi, who is believed to haunt the old Shivalayam on full moon nights. Some say she’s consumed by lust, others call it madness, but all catch the red glint in her eye and the icy calm in her voice as she croons a sad, lonely song. The one thing she hungers for, that will satisfy her soul, is the fire that will burn Palem down to ashes.

The village of Rudrakshapalem awakens, and tells her tale. Listen closely. It will chill you to the bone.


The sleepy village of Rudrakshapalem near Dhavaleswaram is quite nondescript and people wouldn’t even have heard of it had it not been for the mass murder of all its inhabitants when the entire village was burnt down to ashes. This is the story of the events that led up to that incident, and does it make for a riveting read or what.

When five childhood friends Ramana, Chotu, Chanti, Aravind and Sarayu get letters from their old friend, Avadhanayya, someone who had regaled generations of youngsters of Palem with his stories, they immediately make their way to the village. After all, the six of them share a secret which nobody else in their families or the village is aware of, the secret of Pitchi Lachi whose spirit seems to haunt the entire village of Palem.

And soon when one by one they start dying under mysterious circumstances, that is when the narrative starts gripping readers by the scruff of their necks and drags them deeper and deeper into their predicament. What is Pitchi Lachi’s story, why is she bent on extracting revenge from these youngsters, what are her motivations, can she be stopped and if yes, how? These form the crux of the rest of the narrative.

The book uses the non-linear narrative structure where the chapters flit back and forth between the childhood days of these protagonists, their days with Avadhanayya and the present where they are being relentlessly hunted down by an unknown murderer. As the narrative picks up pace, readers slowly realize the quagmire of the situation the protagonists find themselves in. Peppered with chapters which detail the newspaper and TV coverage of current events in Palem, the author uses this relatively unusual technique of narration very effectively. In fact, at some places in the book, the author uses the viewpoint of Sonali Rao, a reporter to bring forth the severity of the situation very effectively and helps readers understand the gravity of the events unfolding in the village.

All in all, this is quite a gripping read which will leave you turning the pages in quick succession with ease. And trust me, the events in the book will stay with you for quite some time after you put down the book; such is the power of the narrative technique and the depth that the author has provided to his characters, especially the main antagonist.

I am highlighting some of the portions of the book which I immensely enjoyed (no spoilers ahead).

“Venkataramana’s return to Palem and the entire setting near the Gandhi statue; the cripple, the flock of crows punishing one of their own by killing it and eating it, the cripple preventing him from disturbing the proceedings; this scene is so well described that I could actually visualize the same and reads akin to a movie screenplay. The entire scene is so eerie and surreal.”

“The subtle hint to his earlier book ‘Murder in Amaravati’; very smartly and subtly inserted as a footnote to one of the chapters. This mention forms part of a supposed extract from another published book.”

“Chapter 7, where all the protagonists undergo a sequence of dreams which seem to tell readers more about some of their deepest darkest desires, fears and other myriad ranting of their disturbed brains. I personally found this entire chapter very interesting, and it piqued my interest in trying to figure out how these dreams and lucid imaginings fit in with the rest of the narrative. The repetitive references to these lucid dreams that various characters have throughout the novel adds so much more the entire suspense and thrills the narrative provides”

“The use of the medium of letters that Sonali Rao writes to her little sister Shilpi which chronicles her gradual descent into the unending abyss that Palem proves to be for her”

“The last of the series of murders and how the mystery unravels itself is a befitting finale to a wonderfully surreal narrative”

While I have immensely enjoyed Sharath Komarraju’s books in the crime-thriller genre (read my reviews of Murder in Amaravati here and Banquet on the Dead here) and also thoroughly loved The Winds of Hastinapur (read my review here), the first instalment of his retelling of the Mahabharata from the viewpoint of principal women characters, this book, The Puppeteers of Palem in the paranormal thriller genre is a notable addition to his lovely portfolio.  Given the depth and breadth of his writing in multiple genres, he makes for an exciting author to look forward to; more so given that he is currently working on multiple books which are in various stages of the creative lifecycle right now.


First three chapters of the book

Click here for a PDF containing the first three chapters of “The Puppeteers of Palem”



Do you want to win a free copy of The Puppeteers of Palem?

Just leave behind a comment on this post where you tell us about any ‘homecoming’ experience you have had in your life.

One comment will be chosen by Sharath Komarraju from those who comment from 01-Dec to 06-Dec and a free copy of the book will be sent to you.

So, go on, let us know about any homecoming experience you have had, and who knows you might be the lucky winner of a free copy of the book.

And this is not all, Sharath runs many such writing contests on his own blog. Click here to take a look at some of them.


Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link]

Yatrik : The Traveller – Arnab Ray – Book Review

YatrikGoodreads blurb: ‘Anushtup Chatterjee, I am really sorry to have to tell you this. But you have died.’

Anushtup Chatterjee is thirty-two years old.

He hates his mother. His job is a dead end. And his girlfriend has left him.

Then one silent moonlit night, he wakes up in a deserted field in the middle of nowhere, with no recollection of where he is or how he got there. His wallet is gone. So is his cell phone.

He is not alone though.

There is another man there, a stranger with a gentle voice and a humble mustache, who has something rather unbelievable to say to him.

That he, Anushtup Chatterjee, has already died.

Mysterious and achingly poignant, Arnab Ray’s Yatrik is a story about hope and aspiration, love and regret, of the choices we make and those that life makes for us.


Every once in a while we tend to come across that one piece of writing or art that forces us to introspect quite a bit, and ask a few uncomfortable questions to ourselves. Yatrik by Arnab Ray (who blogs at greatbong.net) is one such book which will surely force all its readers to look back at their lives and question some of the choices they have made so far.

As the blurb above states, this book deals with the protagonist Anushtup Chatterjee finding out that he is dead and also being given a choice to revisit three situations or occurrences from his life where he wasn’t physically present but were pivotal enough to have changed his life for better or worse.

Initially skeptical and thinking that he was in a lucid dream, Anushtup plays along and first selects to see why he managed to score only two marks out of hundred in the Mathematics paper in his Board Exams. What he sees there manages to provide him with some kind of closure in the sense that at least he finally came to know the true story behind the same.

Next he chooses to see how his father died and this proves to be the point where he starts taking his lucid dream somewhat seriously and begins to consider the fact that he might really be dead and whatever is happening right now might not just be a lucid dream after all.

The rest of the book deals with a natural progression of his life and how he finds love and how it manages to change his life forever.

What struck me about the book was that this was the story of an everyday man like you and me, the problems he faced, the choices he made, the thought process of the protagonist, all of these were extremely relatable. While some small parts of the book were a little fictionally plotted, the fact remains that by and large this book dealt with normal issues that all of us face in our lives, and that endeared this book to me quite a bit.

In Anushtup, the author presents a protagonist who strongly believes in his ideals and lives by them even at the cost of making more than a few enemies and landing in trouble due to them. In fact, he finds himself in his current predicament primarily due to his idealistic choices only, but that does not deter him from his chosen path.

All in all, a book which probably falls squarely into the ‘self-help’ genre albeit delivered in the fiction format. While the author does not get preachy at all, he still manages to deliver quite a power packed punch in terms of getting all of us to introspect about our lives so far. And just for that, this book is a sure-shot read.

Click here 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 review itself is unbiased.

Author Interview – Sumana Khan – The Revenge of Kaivalya

Today on the blog, I have the pleasure of hosting an interview with Sumana Khan, author of The Revenge of Kaivalya, a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading (read my review of the book here).



  1. Given that The Revenge of Kaivalya is your debut book, was there any particular reason that you chose the ‘paranormal thriller’ genre for the same? Or, as is the norm with most debut authors, did the story choose you?

SUMANA: I think it’s natural to write a story that one personally loves to read. Thrillers, horror, crime – these are all genres I love to read. I mean, I would not have debuted with a romance for example … that’s not my cup of tea – the only romance fiction I’ve enjoyed are mostly from classical literature.

  1. While you have provided a reasonably interesting explanation behind the origins of the name ‘Kaivalya’ here in this blog post (link to post), why did you choose the forests of Sakleshpur, Bisle and Kukke as the setting for the contemporary portion of the book? You might as well have chosen Vijayanagara itself given that the story of Kaivalya is inextricably linked to that location, right.

SUMANA:  An important element of horror is atmosphere.  In a well-written horror piece, the place itself assumes a character, almost as important as the protagonist. For example, the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, or Dracula’s castle in Transylvania. Nothing can beat the silent, somber environs of the Western ghats to induce a trace of fear…be it during monsoons, or during foggy winters. On the other hand, today, Vijayanagara stands as Hampi – UNESCO world heritage site – all cheery and touristy. My choice was easy J

  1. SumanaKhanIt is said that most debut authors have at least one character in their books that mirror their personality quite a bit. Which character in The Revenge of Kaivalya, if any, reflects your personality the most? Also, which character in this book is your personal favorite, in terms of the character-arc that the narrative describes?

SUMANA – I’d say none. I think in a good piece of fiction writing, the author should not surface anywhere. I think Matchu is a favourite – I had a lot of fun fleshing him out. But when it came to challenging every cell in my brain – it has to be Kaivalya.

  1. Can we expect more adventures from Dhruv, Tara and some of the other characters in the future? What are your writing plans in general, for the future?

SUMANA – As of now I have no plans for any kind of “part 2” for Kaivalya characters. But, never say never is my policy J Right now I’m knocking on many doors to peddle a set of stories. I’m also working on a full length novel: a psychological thriller.

  1. This particular post of yours (link to post) seems to suggest that writing was a cathartic experience for you in terms of the fact that it was something that you were good at and it was also something that helped you realize that writing was something that defined your personality in more ways than one. Would you be able to elucidate more on what writing means to you?

SUMANA: It is difficult to explain…let me try. It’s like the warmth you feel in the pit of your stomach when you realize you are in love. It just feels right…like it’s meant to be; you just know that come what may, you will be spending your life with that special person. You develop this tunnel vision…everything around you recedes to the background. Writing to me, has that exact same kind of a loud “CLICK”.  I’m sure it’s the same for anyone who has discovered their passion – perhaps painting is their lifeline…or acting and so on.

  1. Most debut authors struggle to have their manuscripts see the light of bookstore shelves. While the second half of this post (link to post) provides us with some details regarding your tryst with self-publishing the book before Westland eventually accepted the same for publication, what was the one part of this entire process that you found particularly difficult/tiresome and what was the one part that you found particularly educative or revealing?

SUMANA: Difficult part is definitely the waiting…(now that could be a good title…The Waiting…)! One must have the patience of a python. When I got in touch with Westland’s chief editor with a query, I was asked to send across the synopsis and sample chapters, as is the norm. Within a day, I was asked to send across the manuscript. Thereafter, I waited for almost a year to hear a decision. Once I finally signed the contract, it took almost two years for the book to finally come out.

Educative – coming from an IT background, I was used to very process-driven work environments. I was now exposed to an environment that really runs on personal rapport – something that I’m quite hopeless at, given my reticent nature.

  1. What is the one piece of advice that you would give budding writers out there reading this interview?

SUMANA: At the risk of being repetitive (I’ve said this in other interviews as well)…no matter what you hear, please don’t take writing for granted. Just like any other art and vocation, writing too requires that you constantly improve, upgrade your skill. So…please don’t settle for a sub-standard quality of writing, and worse, defend that. Yes, and ensure you have another job. Writing may enrich the soul, but it sure does not fill the stomach.

The Revenge of Kaivalya – Sumana Khan – Book Review

TheRevengeOfKaivalya_smallGoodreads blurb: Deep within the womb-like forests of the Western Ghats, an entity manifests itself at the malevolent moment when the ocean rises to devour hundreds of thousands. Kencha, an unwitting witness to Its birth, is soon found dead – his body branded with a strange message written in HaLegannada, an ancient version of modern Kannada. Even as Dhruv Kaveriappa, Chief Conservator of Forests – Hassan division investigates Kencha’s death, he senses an unseen danger in the forests of Kukke, Bisle and Sakleshpura. Animals drop dead; plants wither away and just as he feared, the forest claims its first victim.

Shivaranjini, on vacation in Sakleshpura, suffers a devastating tonic-clonic seizure moments after she returns from a visit to the forest. Soon, she begins to exhibit a bizarre personality disorder. Perhaps there is an outbreak of an unknown rabies-like disease? Or, as ridiculous as it seems, could it be a case of tantric witchcraft?

The truth unfolds in a dizzying maelstrom of events – a truth far too terrifying to comprehend…


When you are reading The Revenge of Kaivalya, you will be hard pressed to believe that it is the work of a debut author. Sumana Khan, the author (who blogs at This & That) has dealt with the plot with so much deft and dexterity that readers would easily be fooled into thinking she is quite a veteran author with more than quite a few bestsellers in her kitty.

While the first half of the book deals with paranormal occurrences in the Bisle and Sakleshpura regions of the Western Ghats in Karnataka (as the above blurb states) these just end up as precursors to the real ‘action’ that unfolds in the second half. While the main protagonist, Dhruv Kaveriappa is trying to gather his wits and wrap his arms around the unique and weird occurrences, the narrative also details a little bit about the life of Neel Raya in Bangalore, his ‘one-sided’ love and now platonic relationship with Arundathi Mehra, her son and her husband. This part of the story also introduces us to one character who intrigued me and I ended up liking a lot by the time the book ended, Matchu, dreaded don from the Bangalore underworld.

Around halfway through the book, readers are then told about the legend of Kaivalya and her story. The saying revenge is a dish best served cold could not be more apt than for how Kaivalya and her proves to be pivotal to all the action happening in the book.

Ultimately the action picks up pace and by the end of the book, everything is happening at quite a frenetic pace with almost all the characters racing against time with all the stories converging to a focal point in the Sakleshpur forests. Suffice to say that this portion will leave most readers breathless and they will not be able to put down the book, especially when they hit the last fifty pages, without finishing it.

What I really loved about the book was its back-and-forth narration between the Western Ghats and Bangalore. The author kept the narrative moving in parallel between both these locations at a good pace without it meandering in any portion. And the portion about Kaivalya, her story, her motivations for revenge (duh, no spoilers here, after all it is in the title of the book, isn’t it) and the way she goes about planning and extracting her revenge, is lovely. The attention to detailing of the setting, the insight into the various characters especially Kaivalya, the chemistry between Dhruv and his friends, the presence of a strong woman police inspector in Shakti; these were just some of the things I thoroughly enjoyed in the book.

In fact, after finishing the book, although there was the satisfaction of having read a good book, it also left me wanting for more, at least from a few characters. I sincerely hope the author takes on the characters of Matchu, Shakti, Tara and Dhruv and tries to pen down some more stories from their lives. They would really make for good reading.

Trust me when I say this, this book is surely worth every rupee you spend on it. Go on, click on either of these links to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link]. Yes, I will make a measly commission if you do so, but your purchase price will not increase.

Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was offered to me by the author on request. However, the review itself is unbiased and has not been influenced in any manner.

Related information

Book The Revenge of Kaivalya
Author/s Sumana Khan
Goodreads link Goodreads Link
Flipkart link Flipkart Link
Amazon link Amazon Link