Goodreads blurb: In a small village somewhere in rural Bangladesh, an old man starts behaving in bizarre ways.
Rashed, an undergraduate in Dacca, comes under police suspicion: presumed guilty of murder.
A thousand year old book goes missing from a house in Shantinagar and a group of Satan worshipers are let loose by their leader to retrieve it.
Nikolas Carson, a world renowned archaeologist willingly steps in his kidnappers’ car.
Who is this strange old man? Why was a boy-next-door like Shamim murdered? What is Nikolas Carson’s interest in a legend that has no factual evidence? What is ‘Sambhala’?
As the story unravels from France and Rome to India and Tibet, each of the characters cling on to their mission, unaware that their fates are mysteriously intertwined.
As the blurb states, the narrative of Sambhala: The Journey Begins mostly deals with the mysterious book that Rashed comes in possession of courtesy his friend, Shamim who is murdered in quite a gruesome manner. Being the prime suspect in the case, Rashed begins his cat and mouse game with the cops, all the while being pursued by a group of Satan worshipers who also seem to want the book at any cost.
While all of this action is happening in and around Dacca, Rashed’s grandfather, Abdul Majid starts behaving mysteriously, which has not gone unnoticed by his son and others in the village. What secret does he hide, is there more to him than meets the eye, or is there a Djinn plaguing the little village and killing people at random? These are a few questions that the rural countryside is more worried about.
In parallel, archaeologist Nikolas Carson is on the trail of a rumored immortal, the Count of Saint Germain, who, if legends are to be believed has travelled almost the entire world. The old ‘digger’ ensures that he picks up the trail of the elusive Count by selecting archaeological digs based on his legendary travels and the places his story travels to. He therefore finds himself in Dacca when he first hears of the mysterious book and is called upon to decipher it.
The narrative also tracks the story of the immortal Count of Saint Germain and his journey over the course of ages and how he happens to come across a secret map to a legendary city which is supposed to be ‘immortal’ in nature.
The author manages to keep all these four plots smartly moving forward and inter-weaves them all together into a nice quick breezy read. Despite being translated into English from the original Bengali text, the novel manages to retain most of its rustic originality and the translator and adaptor seems to have done a good job to ensure that nothing is ‘lost in translation’.
However, that being said, the portions about the archaeologist and the immortal appealed to me more than Rashed’s portions. The author seems more comfortable in the ‘period’ setting rather than the urban melee. But this doesn’t take away anything from what is truly a competent book.
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Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book by the publishers for an unbiased review of the same.