Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Review: The City of Light by Steve Griffin

Book: The City of Lights- The Secret of the Tirthas

Author: Steve Griffin

Pages: 266

I Read it On: My iPad

I Read it in: 3 hours

Disclosure: Steve reached out to us and asked if we would like to review his debut novel. The premise seemed interesting and so, we said yes. Steve kindly sent us an ARC (advanced reader's copy) of the book, which is what we read. The thoughts and review below are entirely our own.

Plot Summary: Bored, bored, bored... 13-year-old Lizzie Jones expects a lifetime of tedium when she moves to her great-uncle's cottage deep in the English countryside. But then she discovers a magical portal to the ancient Indian city of Kashi hidden in the cottage's mysterious 'garden of rooms'.

Lizzie soon becomes caught up in the search for the Pisaca of Kashi - a demonic killer preying on street children in the sacred 'City of Light'.

Can she stop the murderer using the portal to evade capture - and put an end to the killings?

What I Liked: Loads of things to like about this book:

1. I was chuffed to read a well-written mystery book, which could be enjoyed not only by 10-15 year olds but also by older readers. It reminded me of being ten and reading the Famous Five, Secret Seven and other such stories about intrepid children having adventures and solving crimes. 

2. The writing is very good. It is clear, the story moves along smoothly and really fast and there is nothing superfluous in the book. The story holds your attention and you get pulled into the fantastical world where multiple cultures are connected to one exotic garden in Herefordshire. 

3. Lizzie- our protagonist- is gutsy and smart but never smug or annoying. She is very real- she is often afraid and worried- but eventually driven by doing the right thing, she overcomes her fears and undertakes a daunting journey to stop killings half way across the world. She is a lovely, smart voice and I was so happy to read about a character like her. 

4. The build up of fantastical tirthas- supposed mystical spots on the earth where multiple realms meet- was also nicely done. I don't want to spoil the book by furnishing more details here, but the build up to explaining what the tirthas are and how they are connected was nicely done. 

5. The other characters, in the UK and in Kashi, were also well-crafted and fun. 

6. Kashi's essence was well captured. The author states upfront that he has taken some liberties with the layout of the city- but I felt that he was pretty spot on when it came to describing parts of the old city/ riverfront areas of Kashi/Varanasi. 

What I Didn't Like: The actual 'Pisaca' (loosely translated to 'demon/she-demon') was pretty easy to guess. Now, that is not really a real negative, given the book is meant for a younger reader and I am a pretty avid crime/mystery/thriller reader :). 

Also, the gratuitous elephant (though he did have a bigger purpose) in the story played to the India-land-of-snakes-and-elephants stereotype, which was amusing but not really necessary. 

Rating: 4/5 

Would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for something fun and well-written, especially for kids but not necessarily limited to them.

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