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Atreya Sarma: ‘Mystic Warrior’







Book Review

Balram Cheruparambil
Mystic Warrior
A Poetic Novel
New Delhi: Authors Press. 2013
ISBN 978-81-7273-810-5
Pages 90 | Rs 195 | $ 8

A thrilling epic fantasy

If you are a lover of epic fantasy, pronto tuck into the mysterious fare offered by Mystic Warrior by Balram Cheruparambil, a dynamic writer. When it is an epic, there is always an epic fight, and a fight sparks off over a bone of contention. And here the contention is about a portal to hell... to guard it or to grab and open it.

We have an array of magnificent characters - angelic and demonic -strutting about with immense powers of muscle, mind, mysticism and magic, cutting across time and space. The forces are drawn not only from the hell and the limbo but also from the survivors of extinct pre-human races and extra-terrestrial planets besides, of course, the terrestrials. The locale is our own planet, though one doesn't know where exactly the pivotal point - Thornton's Hill - is located, though the Internet takes us to one at Church Road, Thornton-in Craven, Skipton, North Yorkshire, UK.

Mathiast, the vampire, haunting a mansion atop the forbidden Thornton's Hill; Nanda from an extinct extra-planetary race Gwarth Elden; the ghost of Thebos, the Greek - the most powerful sorcerer ever and supremely powerful who all of a sudden disappeared where no one knew, and whose soul is to be infused into a human lad on the earth whom we shall call Orphan; Nafrees, the princess of the elves, with "magic and archery skills unsurpassed"; Slaveurs, the huge hairy forms who were the beastly attendants of Satan; flying monsters with crocodile heads, called Draeken, from the depths of hell; and "demonic creatures standing 10 feet tall" who were "hell's inner guards" constitute the principal players. See this stanza about Nafrees-

Nafrees was the princess of an ancient race,
The elves were extant from earth's earliest days...
They now lived in the depths of the Amazon,
Within forests that were still to man unknown...
(63)

When this reviewer queried the writer about the nomenclature of his characters etc, he has replied: "The words - Mathiast, Slaveur, Gwarth Elden, Gwarthings, Thebos, Nafrees, Eldhel garb, Draeken are mostly my creation. Eldhel garb means the clothing of elves and is used in fantasy fiction, so that word is not my creation. I actually revelled in the freedom to create races and names and creatures without being bound by reality."

Orphan, a human youth from our modern day society, stumbles upon some of these forces and joins them in what is a fight between the forces of good and evil. When we have a modern human like him, we have the accompanying cars, grocers', barbers' and grand hotels and their luxurious suites. So we have an agreeable mix of epic and current informal diction.A few examples of current informal diction are-

"Its size would have fit me to a T" (p 14); "Chock-full of adventure and spice" (34); "Changed into my new threads" (36); and "tucked right in with good appetite" (39).

When a warrior materialises as out of no-where, it is set in a proper atmosphere with appropriate imagery:

Then seemingly out of thin air,
Appeared a man, tall and fair,
He looked aged and young at once,
His eyes blazed like twin green suns.

He wore on his shoulders a satin cloak,
He held a tall staff of solid oak,
In a shimmering robe of silver blue,
He was a spectacular sight to view.(39)

Now witness the vivid movements in the titanic battle-

Mathiast was fighting a battle in the air,
Against a horseman who also fought with rare flair,
I saw acrobatic lunges, reverse strikes and spins,
Pirouettes, snap kicks and Shaolin raptor's wings.
(82)

They moved so quick it was soon hard to see,
As they switched from defence into an attacking spree,
Sparks flew as their swords clashed,
And magic fire on their blades flashed.
(83)

And when it comes to esoteric subjects, we have ancient books "covered in runes" (44).

When someone dearest and mighty is defeated and slain in the battle, the maelstrom that rages in one's mind and heart is well imaged-

I was fully an orphan once again,
The grief threatened to drive me insane,
Slowly my tears cooled as my heart turned to ice,
But an inferno of anger towered in my eyes.
(85)

True to its theme, the narration criss-crosses places as far removed as "tundra of ice and snow", Singapore, Paris, Egypt and Amazon.Some of the present characters are those who had debated with Socrates and Plato. We also hear about the encounters between the powerful sorcerers of Egyptian Pharaohs and the vampires.

When Orphan is perplexed that "Outside my little town the world looks insane," Mathiast suggests a broad philosophy of life-

...Never worry about what you cannot control,
Do your duty and with life's punches roll,
Everything happens for the good,
Although it sometimes is not understood.

God moves mostly in mysterious ways,
But remember, He always around us stays,
The cause and effect of good and bad,
Are beyond our limited minds, my lad.
(22)

When a person is surcharged with mighty and untold powers, he would be raring to use them (or even abuse them depending upon one's attitude), and test them forthwith or cross his limits in chimerical explorations instead of being rooted to the terra firma. It is here that restraint, wisdom and circumspection matter most. Otherwise one will be doomed.

How man in every generation brags of his superiority vis-a-vis the previous ones, we can see in Mathiast's words-

Arrogance has always been man's downfall,
But he doesn't seem to learn at all,
Each generation thinks that it is new,
But those different are always very few.
(33)

The pages are not all about gory fights for you have scintillating interludes of love and romance in Nafrees and Orphan who lope out to fly "Sky high on Cupid's wings."

When we read a fantasy work like this, a few situations here and there are apt to make us recall flashes of similarities elsewhere however faint they may be, given the large oeuvre of fantasy available. Accordingly, memories of fantasies like Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, Paradise Lost by Milton, The Time Machine by HG Wells, Star Wars by George Lucas, The Tenth Unknown by Jvalant Nalin Sampat, and Collision of Dimensions by MV Ravi Shanker linger across this reviewer's mind.Asked whether any fantasy literature inspired his Mystic Warrior, the writer, Balram, has elucidated to this reviewer that no particular book has inspired his conception, maybe excepting subconsciously, though he has read much fantasy literature like that of David Gemmell and Raymond E Feist.

The present volume of Mystic Warrior is the first of the trilogy, and its uniqueness lies in its medium - poetry, rhymed quatrains. The quatrains are lucid and direct with their simple language and natural flow.One can say this is a mini-epic poem. The reason for Balram's choice of the poetic medium is his effortless poetic talent. After all, he is a gifted poet who has published two anthologies - Reflectionsand Satire, Free Thoughts & Other Felonies. His aim is to "use his poetic talents to take poetry back to those whom it really belongs... the common man. This is an attempt in that direction," says the blurb, and one can vouchsafe that this attempt is then a success.

Interesting in theme, gripping in narration, racy in progress, smooth in flow, and with concinnity in craftsmanship, Mystic Warrior offers a healthy and delightful read to adults and children alike.

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