Adventures to Sada, co – written by Madhulika Liddle and Kannan Iyer, has lofty
ambitions as it strives mightily to create an epic fantasy of Tolkienesque
grandeur. The land of Mandala where this saga unfolds is a troubled one, with
the empire having been split in two and the people being forced to weather the
gale winds of hate, intolerance, and greed. In the midst of the tumult where everyone
is suspicious about the activities of everyone else and people languish in
prisons for no discernible reason, Jaadum, an aged prisoner and former magician
who is also a chronic do – Gooder makes known his dying wish and sets in
motion, the rickety plot.
magician’s son, Afhash, his childhood buddy and Inosa, whose personal history
is closely related to Jaadum’s secret activities for the greater good, find
themselves facing down the forces of evil, led by the warlord, Umur Naash. This
material calls for swashbuckling characters, rollicking pace and rip – roaring
adventure. But all these requisite elements are sorely missing.
The characters are
unbearably bland. Raibhu is noble, angst – ridden and supposedly talented but
mostly he is commendably kind while also coming across as clueless and lacking
in smarts. Some of his actions put the innocent in grave danger which makes it
hard to root for him or his companions. Afhash is supposed to be the funny
sidekick with a tortuous past, but this bromance is never convincing. Inosa is
one of those jaw – droppingly gorgeous, tough yet tender women, favored by most
novelists whose spectacular looks can be used to spark tantalizing romance as
well as treachery. Umur Naash as the soulless, merciless ‘evil incarnate’, mass
- murderer villain is straight out of a particularly bad Bollywood movie.
Naturally, he has an eye for beauty and commits fully to destroying any
semblance of it.
The plot plods
along as the authors expend a lot of effort and words on world building. Some
of the descriptive passages are not entirely lacking in charm. The co – authors
explore the theme of religious intolerance and the people of Mandala
occasionally find themselves at loggerheads over their right to worship either
the land, sky, or water spirits, and one wonders why they don’t get their
period underwear in a twist over the other two elements of nature as well.
There are some ideas here that are intriguing, but the premise does not hold up
thanks to the lackadaisical pace, clunky writing, and stilted dialogue. For
people who have a monstrous war lord and his minions breathing down their
necks, the protagonists follow a lumbering path through the wildlands, stopping
once too often to eat, rest and tend to the superficial wounds inflicted on
each of them at various points, when they can ill afford to.
There is a
contrived twist in the epilogue which appears to have been hastily tacked on to
whet the reader’s appetite for the inevitable sequel. This flight of fantasy is
headed for a crash landing.