7 December 2017

Review #688: The Tree Bears Witness (Birbal, #2) by Sharath Komarraju

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure.”

----J.K. Rowling

Sharath Komarraju, an Indian author, has spun a riveting thriller set in one of the greatest Mughal Emperor Akbar's court in Agra in his new book, The Tree Bears Witness which is the second book in the series Birbal that revolves around Akbar's new Rajput queen's dear brother's highly suspicious death in the gardens of the court and to solve the mystery behind the death of a young and powerful Rajput prince, Akbar assigns his favorite and most intelligent courtier/minister, Birbal in order to give appropriate punishment to the culprit(s).


Barely a month has passed since the royal wedding of Emperor Akbar to the legendary Jodha, when the new queen’s brother, Sujjamal, is found murdered in the palace gardens.

With his honour and reputation at stake, Akbar asks his trusted advisor Birbal to solve the mystery. The murder has taken place in a garden, at a spot between two mango trees, and the two guards who are eyewitnesses have conflicting versions of what could have happened. Was it suicide? Was it Akbar himself who ordered the killing or was it the Rajputs who accompanied Sujjamal, his uncles and cousin, who are guilty?

Set in a period that has been described as the golden age of the Mughals, the novel draws us into the royal court of Agra, abuzz with political intrigue, personal enmities and hidden rivalries, where everyone is a suspect until proven otherwise.

Mughal King, Akbar, has just married and brought off his newly wedded wife and princess of Rajput empire to his palace in Agra, along side his in-laws, including the new queen's uncle, her cousin brothers and her own brother, Sujjamal. Sadly Sujjamal is found dead in a mysterious way in the gardens of the Mughal court. To save his name as well as his reputation, Akbar asks his most intelligent and trustworthy confidant-cum-adviser, Birbal. So within a span of just 2 days, the famous and the most wittiest of his era, Birbal, a.k.a, Mahesh Das needs to solve the mystery behind the death of the queen's brother. So can he save the Mughal name by bringing justice in a court filled with lying, two-faced and jealous kings, brothers, queens, palatial guards and courtiers?

This is a very simple story, not many layers, or nerve-wrecking unpredictable twists, but an easy plot which is, no doubt, tightly woven, but has lot of challenging narratives to keep the readers on their edges. This isn't the first time that I'm reading any book by this author, whose his previous mythological series kept me entertained, his tryst into the crime fiction world too kept me gripped pretty much the entire length of the novel. And not to mention, the author brought alive some of the infamous characters from the Mughal history alive vividly with bright hues of their unmatched personality.

The author's writing style is really good, articulate enough and laced with subtle edgy suspense to keep the readers hooked onto the story line. The narrative style of the author is quite lucid and flows freely through out the story line. The pacing is really fast, as the plot is packed heavily with complex drama related to the Rajput as well as Mughal throne, and the readers can easily contemplate with the emotions of the people living inside that Mughal court.

The back drop of the palatial and grand Mughal court is not at well well described. I wished there was some vividness in the descriptions about this court that plays a huge role in the story. The mystery has subtle hints of twists and turns but sadly those are highly foreseeable for any seasoned crime fiction reader, otherwise, there is lot of juicy and exciting drama and tension that will keep the readers turning the pages of this book.

The characters are well portrayed with realism and honesty in their demeanor, even though, the author has not are not delved deeper into their outer persona to make them look thoroughly real in the eyes of the readers. The main character, Birbal is depicted as a sharp man who is outspoken and never fears or shies away from speaking the truth to anyone, and this insight and intellect is bound to make the readers fall for this charming and calm man of highest level of intelligence.

In a nutshell, this is a captivating as well as engrossing crime fiction set in the Mughal era in the courts of a Mughal king.

Verdict: An intriguing Akbar and Birbal story!

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

Author Info:
Sharath Komarraju is an author of fiction and nonfiction based in Bangalore, India. Once a software engineer, now he writes for a living, and on lazy days he watches cricket and talks to his wife (often at the same time).
His most popular work to date is the Hastinapur series, in which he speaks into the silences of the Mahabharata story through the epic's many women characters.
Visit him here

Book Purchase Links:

Amazon India


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