Thank you Pan Macmillan India for sending me a copy of this book for review.
Summary – Three female protagonists with different superpowers form the premise of Ashok K. Banker’s Awaken, the first book in the Shakti trilogy. Kiara, a resident of Delhi, is bewildered by the sudden growth of golden fur and heightening of her senses. Not far off, in Ahmedabad, Saumya is delighted by her newfound ability to teleport anywhere just by visualizing the place. And Sia, hailing from Nagaland, hasn’t fully come to terms with how powerful her singing is. Connected by a common thread of an ancient race, these women find themselves tasked with the responsibility of protecting all of mankind from the Haters, a species hell bent on destroying Earth. This dystopian fiction that mirrors the reality of a nation is simply a prequel to the major showdown inevitable next in the series.
Review – Having been really eager to read this book, my expectations were a lot higher than what the book delivered. In fact, there was so much underutilized potential in terms of characters and plot that I really hope the next book picks up. The author’s writing style is a bit discursive and fluid. He makes use of Hindi language phrases occasionally to emphasis a character’s frustration. The chapters shuffle between the three protagonists’ perspectives. Despite that, it wasn’t difficult to follow the story lines of three characters simultaneously at all. I felt that Sia’s story was a lot more gripping because we are exposed to a culture that doesn’t usually fall under mainstream. Moreover, she is a transgender character and there’s a lot of clarity in how her story plays out. I was quite confused by Kiara’s superpower. For the longest time I figured she was a werewolf, but the cover displays something else. Perhaps because it is such a short book, I felt that the characters weren’t very impactful.
There were a few things that I couldn’t get past. First of all, the introduction of the characters goes on till half of the book. The plot only progresses towards the end. Secondly, some aspects of the story weren’t as realistically portrayed. I was surprised by the strong negative representation of Indian society and culture. Not to say it isn’t true. But this novel dives right into our backward thinking, extremist outlooks and polarizes it with the protagonists’ modernist views. Ashok Banker has outstandingly conveyed where exactly we are going wrong as a country of diverse groups. And I’d like to commend him for the same. I appreciate the fact that the author places great importance on women in this novel. Moreover, he has mastered the art of cliffhangers. At the end of every chapter I was keen to read the next immediately. On the whole, the book was unputdownable because of the idea underlying it, except for a few glitches. It is short and can be read in one sitting. If the story appeals to you, you should give it a try!
What do you get out of it? A captivating fiction that highlights the need for social reforms by positing modern women as the harbingers of peace, equality and justice.
Ratings – 3 out of 5 stars