Thursday, September 20, 2012

Book Review: The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghi

After a lull of 2 months, suddenly I get 2 books from BlogAdda for review in the same month within a span of 2 weeks. It's been some time since I received a book from BlogAdda for review and then "The Krishna Key" came up and that too they were giving away 200 copies for review. I have the 2 other novels by Ashwin but they were lined up for next year along with The Krishna Key. The blogAdda review just brought this one up in the schedule.
Dan Brown attempted to bring together mythological stories into a modern world treasure hunt along with mysteries and secrets that can rock the world. A whole bunch of other authors have attempted the same over the years and 100's of novels have come up with plots connecting ancient secrets and round-the-globe hunts today.
I had always wondered that India has a rich magnificent mythology and the geographical diversity of our country is a perfect setting for such novels. Why doesn't any Indian author attempt the same? The answer came in the form of Ashwin's novel... The Krishna Key (TKK).
The Krishna Key has quite a few parallels with Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code … the stories begins with a murder and then a pair (our protagonist who is a professor and a lady companion) gets involved closely with the murder. The hunt and the chase begins as the duo move from one historic place to another closely followed or preceded by another person/agency who is carrying out a series of murders resulting in a trail of blood and murder. Like the Angels and Demons story where ambigram seals were braided on the dead; The Krishna Key has mere rubber stamp symbols left on the foreheads of dead. Way too many parallels for my comfort
The typical chase and hunt goes through deductions and clues. In The Krishna Key, I felt the clues were vague and not convincing or sharp enough to lead the protagonist to the next destination. In fact, one of the key deductions made at the beginning of the story (which has an important task of setting the context of the story and its key character) was pretty unconvincing.

Our protagonist discovers the name of the probable killer and he scrabbles his name (playing anagram with it) to arrive at an alternative name which leads to several deductions and an interesting explanation as well as drawing a sort of character sketch of the villain. The whole thing was convincing except for what prompted the protagonist to play anagram with the name in the first place. The justification offered was at best flimsy. It seems to be totally out of the blue, forced and unconvincing – which essentially steals the thunder out of the element of surprise and awe it is supposed to create. Similar is the case with various other deductions and lines of thought expressed across the novel. Wish Ashwin had put some more thought to it.  
The story also had some glaring inconsistencies and some unbelievable coincidences … the most significant being the name of another villain in the story whose name has a anagram/scrabbled version which is also a name which is hidden in plain sight in his name bearing locket. The story says that it was coincidental and clearly it wasn't. Ashwin should have made it emphatic and should have avoided the coincidental angle. 
The likes of Da Vinci Code have a mystery and a secret at the heart of the story which awaits discovery & revelation and each step in the story is supposed to lead to that ultimate revelation. The Krishna Key hints at a couple of possibilities which are pretty interesting.
I am sure Ashwin has done a lot of research as is evident from the reference list at that end of book but there was need to hold things tighter and in more logically defined manner.
The Krishna Key begins with a bang … the author grabs your attention and holds it for long with a continuous series of events in the story.  The novel was good in itself but the too many parallels with Da Vinci Code did dampen the joy of reading this thriller. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading a Da Vinci Code in indian settings.
I liked the fact that not only was the 'villain' preceding or chasing the protagonist and his companion, but for part of the journey, he was in fact 'with them' without their knowledge of his true identity. There is a major twist in the plot almost mid-way in the story which comes as a surprise and makes for interesting reading. It suddenly up's your interest in the story.
I would have preferred a little more character development of the key characters and their relationships. There is a romantic angle in the story but it was kind of never allowed to develop properly. Adventurous situations tend to bring people close and it has its own reading pleasure.
I liked the reference to Math and numbers and the magic around the number 9 … taking me back to the days when I taught Vedic Mathematics and called 10 as God and 9 as demi-God so that I could make Maths enjoyable for kids and youth alike.
The climax of this novel reminded me of 'The Lost Symbol' by Dan Brown. The novel builds the excitement and reaches a climax where it disappoints simply by being anti-climactic. In TKK, it almost seems that the whole novel comes to a dead end and the whole pursuit was a waste of time (although I assure you that reading the novel isn't). What surprises me is that the 'Krishna Key' does not really open any lock; literally as well as figuratively. It has an inscription on it which lends itself to speculation and treasure hunting.
One more peculiar or interesting thing is that throughout the novel, there is a parallel track of Krishna’s Story (including his role in Kurukshetra). When I started reading the novel, I felt that the two parallel tracks would lend to each other as the story progresses (done beautifully in Mathew Reilly’s ‘Temple’); but I was disappointed once again. There was no ‘connection’ between the two parallel tracks and if one were to ignore the Krishna storyline (almost 20% of the book); one would not miss anything. Don’t really know why it was even included ... To fill up pages perhaps?

The novel was good and I would readily recommend it to readers. It made an interesting read in spite of the many flaws in writing. (You might be wondering why the ‘good’ rating in spite of the flaws … maybe it is the effect of reading this after the frustrating Fractured Legend. Anything will seem ‘good’ after that.) But those readers who have read Da Vinci Code and many other novels along similar plot should take this novel with a pinch of salt. Don’t have your expectations pinned up high; you will read quite a few interesting things about Indian history and mythology but won’t be able to resist drawing parallels between the plot of DVC / Others and TKK.

The contrast between the 2 books I received from for review struck me. I am pretty impressed by this one while I was frustrated and disappointed by the earlier one.

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at  ... Participate now to get free books!


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  2. I read the book when it was released, but was very disappointed - especially after chanakya chant - my expectations were very high ...

    may be as indian, we know some background stories and we do try to relate - which i agree with you are loosely captured in the book. if I consider ignoring the history/ mythology also - i found it not as gripping ...