Book: Kingdom Come
Author: Aarti V Raman
Price: Rs 299
Anyone who has read a sufficient number of books in the romance genre can attest to the fact that there is an astronomical amount of bad writing or worse, to use the politest terms possible, as compared to the good. Be it plot, language or grammar, such books are one of the many reasons the entire genre is tarred with the same black brush.
However, despite not being a scintillating piece of writing, Aarti V Raman's Kingdom Come is nevertheless a pleasant surprise, particularly since it is a debut novel.
Set mainly in the breathtakingly beautiful Kashmir Valley, but also travelling to England, Central America (Mexico), Ladakh and Tibet, Kingdom Come is the story of Krivi Iyer and Ziya Maarten as they work towards defeating a dreaded terrorist, responsible for some of the most horrific killings across the globe – The Woodpecker.
The protagonists' journey, however, is far from simple. Iyer, a former spy and bomb disposal expert, is haunted by the death of his lover and her family at the hands of The Woodpecker, and has turned into a bitter, bleak person with only revenge on his mind. After months of fruitless searching, he finally gets another chance to go after the object of his vengeance when MI5, the British intelligence agency he previously worked for, discovers Ziya Maarten. For Ziya is supposed to be none other than The Woodpecker's biological sister. And she's unaware of it.
An orphan and raised as a foster child, Ziya believes she has finally found peace and stability when she moves to Kashmir to work for Goonj Business Enterprises, the company owned by the family of her best friend, Noor Saiyed. But Krivi's arrival throws her restful life out of gear.
Kingdom Come could have been a typical story in many ways. Terrorism and Kashmir, or a man and a woman falling in love while fighting for survival against a dangerous adversary aren't exactly new plot lines. It could easily have been the usual angst-filled love story were it not for the characters, the research behind the plot, and the plot twists.
Raman's protagonists are characters we would have encountered before. In the typical tradition of romance novel heroes, Krivi is of the sullen and brooding variety, a dark personality with a darker soul, but in essence the good guy. Ziya's circumstances and her childhood have made her fiercely independent, a must-have trait for most heroines in the romance world. However, it is the supporting characters that come across as more real and add depth to the story.
Bold, outspoken Noor is the complete opposite of quiet Ziya, and the perfect foil for her love interest, Major Sameth Qureshi, a serious and determined career military man. Sameth's dangerous life as an army officer underscores the hazards of Krivi's even more perilous profession. Noor's grandfather, Dada Akhtar, with his "beady eyes large behind gigantic glasses" who loves to potter around his garden looking after his rose bushes, is aptly described as the grandfather Ziya never had.
Then there is Harold Wozniacki, the deceptively mild-mannered MI5 agent, who according to Ziya, "did not look like anyone's idea of a spymaster". And if one is disturbed by the occasional glimpses into The Woodpecker's thoughts, his mentor, Tom Jones, is another kettle of fish altogether.
Overall, the book is well paced, and the plot doesn't have any obviously gaping holes in it. Raman has researched the elements of her story well, providing realistic descriptions of places and situations, especially the ins and outs of the military operations she has written about. For instance, scenes like the one where Krivi leads a team of men into a dangerous rescue operation or the one where he dismantles a bomb read realistic.
Some of the scenes where Ziya and Krivi try to sort out their feelings for each other are unnecessarily prolonged, and cause a certain loss of empathy with the characters. One wants to tell the author to just get on with the story. It is times like these, when the plot threatens to drag, that it is saved by a clever, entirely unexpected turn of events that pulls the reader back into the story again.
There are things about the book that do jar. The ending seems rushed, enough to make it a bit confusing. I had to reread to make sure I'd understood everything that was happening.
However, what really made reading this book difficult for me was the bad editing and lack of proofreading. There are several spelling mistakes, and misplaced commas abound. Not something the author can be held responsible for, perhaps, but they are impossible to ignore.
In conclusion, Kingdom Come is a commendable effort, although there is much scope for improvement.
However, the author's talent and potential are obvious. There's no doubt a masterpiece by Aarti V Raman is not far away in the future.