13 August 2016

Review #504: Here Be Dragons by Mohit Uppal

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”

----Helen Keller

Mohit Uppal, an Indian author, pens his debut part-contemporary-part-mystery book, Here Be Dragons that unfolds the journey of three imperfect, once-upon-a-time, best friends through the dark, narrow alleys in Venice to the mesmerizing city of Rome with its grand architecture only to look for a Korean woman and also to find oneself through mistakes and isolation, so that all can go back to living their normal life after experiencing themselves in an evolved way.


‘HIC SVNT DRACONES’: The original Latin text for ‘Here be Dragons’ appears on medieval maps to mark unchartered territories that harbor great danger and nameless evil- all the makings for one hell of a party!

At twenty four, the overeducated Ayaan has quit the monotony of his job and absconded to Rome to sort his muddled mind and get some peacetime… only to run into two old friends - Kwan, a Korean trying to escape a murky past and Aiden- a rich, cavalier American with little more than whiskey and women on his mind. The three misfits then embark on the adventure of a lifetime through drug-addled frenzies, bar brawls, masquerades and fleeting romances. But, little do they realize that something sinister stalks their every move, pulling the strings of their journey – leading them to a shocking revelation about one of their own.

Ayaan, a young 24 years old man, quits his job of two years and takes a break with his girlfriend of 6 years to escape to the city of Rome, where apparently all roads lead to. And on his way to this beautiful city, he meets with his college best friends, Aiden, a rich American and Kwan, a Korean with lots of baggage and dark secrets. But then one thing leads to another and soon Ayaan, Aiden and Kwan are pulled into an edgy adventure of their lifetime as they embark on a dangerous path to find a stripper from Rome to Venice with some evil and unpredictable dragons waiting to throw them away from their destination. Will they succeed?

Commercial as well as contemporary Indian stories are really not my thing, but the moment I read the blurb of the book, it held my attention and could not pass up the opportunity to read and review this book. The story is one hell of an addictive read, although at times, the plot sounded illogical and cliched, I was pretty much glued to the book till the very last page. And hats off to this debut author who has penned it with such grace, humor and intrigue, balanced and laced properly into the story line.

The author's writing is quite polished and is laced with emotions, humor and suspense that will grip the readers right from the very start. The narrative is engaging, authentic and free flowing that will let the readers comprehend with the dialogues and conversations among the characters. The pacing is moderate, as the author unwraps the story through layers and twists thereby making it immensely riveting till the very last page.

The backdrop has been so strikingly projected by the author into the story line. The author has vividly painted the portrait of both Venice and Rome with its architectural grandeur, plush artistic heritage, symbolic monuments, to its tiny little details like the streets, the people, the language, the weather, the flora, that will bring alive these two remarkable cities through the author's eloquent words. And the readers are in for a treat as the author has smartly arrested the romantic and magical city of Venice through its positive and negative aspects, rather making it look forbidden yet enchanting. The flair of the masquerade carnival is really well captured by the author.

The characters may not be the best characteristic of this book, yet they will keep the readers interested pretty much all of the time. All the three characters are thoroughly flawed, yet they lacked depth of their real souls. Their evolving demeanor is really enlightening to read about as they grow through the life's difficult challenges. The bond and the real essence of friendship is very well depicted by the author, giving them meaning, strength and honesty. There are not much supporting characters to look out for, yet in short, all the characters from this book are well developed.

In a nutshell, this is a captivating and enthralling read that screams adventure in big, bold letters and also while reading, the readers are bound to feel that adrenaline rush through their body as the characters are sucked from one dragon's lair to another's.

Verdict: An honest take on friendship, self-discovery and meaningful adventures of life.

Courtesy: Thanks to the publishers from Harper Collins India for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.


Author Info:
Mohit Uppal is a management consultant at A.T. Kearney who moonlights as a writer. His great-grandfather was a stern English teacher during the British colonial regime. His grandfather can shoot Shakespeare and Wodehouse from the hip. He, of course, holds no such literary prowess. What he has are a child’s imagination and an adult’s woe of making rent in Mumbai. Some of his favorite books are fantasy novels and he is a big fan of Jonathan Stroud. He is also an IITian. But don’t hold that against him.

Here Be Dragons is his debut novel.
Visit him here

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