Published on : 2016
Publisher : Bloomsbury India
Pages : 252
Source : Review copy received from Bloomsbury
Format : Paperback
Rating : 3.5 / 5
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Synopsis : The Mughal Viceroy of Bengal in 1685, Lord Shayista Khan, was an indomitable warrior who knew no fear. Under his governance Bengal has become the center of commerce and culture, a veritable treasure chest for greedy enemies: Maratha warriors, Arakan rajas, Hindu zamindars and even the East India Company. Among all this opulence, there is only one possession Shayista holds dear: a dark diamond known as Kalinoor.
Kalinoor is cursed however and Shayista is fated to suffer the torments it brings- including, perhaps, the ruin of Bengal. With a French beauty, a Portuguese pirate, and a Bengali dancer as his allies, Shayista must find a way to save his enlightened Empire from his enemies- and to keep the dark diamond out of the hands of a diabolical Pir who wants nothing more than to bring Bengal into darkness once again.
My view : I was extremely excited about reading this book, partly because I was reading after a long dry spell and mostly because it was a Historical fiction. Books set in ancient India have a certain charm to them, because they reveal the glory and magnificence of our country and our heritage. The Mughal era is one of those times when India was at its peak in terms of trade, commerce and culture. And Bengal was the most lucrative spot for foreign traders and travellers alike. The elegance and power of Bengal has been emphatically described in Shazia Omar’s Dark Diamond.
The book, as the title suggests, is based on how the dark diamond, Kalinoor with its cursed power effects the fate of Bengal and the Mughal Viceroy, Shayista Khan. We are initially introduced to the lore of Kalinoor and how the curse came into being. Anyone who possesses this precious stone is cursed forever. The Kalinoor, then, comes into the hands of Subedar Shayista Khan and from that very moment his life suffers fatal blows with the loss of his sister Arjumand, our beloved Mumtaz, whom he had gifted the diamond to. Political upheavals of major consequences take place soon after this. The tension between Dara, the eldest son of Shah Jahan and Arjumand, and Aurangzeb grows and Dara is killed by Aurangzeb and Shayista has to support his ambitious nephew to avoid any more revolts.
Soon after that the Shayista loses all those people whom he loved, yet he does not part with the Kalinoor. The tales of this diamond have propagated throughout the world and everyone who has heard of it desires to possess it. The Maratha warrior rebels, the East India Company, the French, the zamindars of Bengal, a Pir who delves in dark magic are all trying to conquer Kalinoor and with that the glory of Bengal. Shayista Khan, single handedly with a few close supporters, fights them all and desperately tries to protect Bengal. Is he successful?
Shazia Omar has given the readers strong female characters to look up to. They are perfect embodiment of right ideals and they do not lose their ground. It does not come as a surprise that women empowerment was as much as a war cry for women back then as it is now. Champa, the young woman who manages a madrasa for little girls, does not back down when the ulemas, including her father, try every possible way to obstruct the education of women. She holds her ground and fights to the last teeth. Madeline, the belle from France takes her fate into her own hands and embarks on an adventure to achieve her goals. Ellora, chooses a life without any recognized title over living with a coward, spineless husband. The characters of this book are worth admiring and idolising and at the same time very, very relatable. Shayista’s character has been painted in a remarkable way and we can’t help but commend him.
What I didn’t like about the book was the ending. The ending seemed hurried and lacked the life that the rest of the book had. I was left yearning for more and felt terrible that the book did not satisfy me completely. The book could have been more sorted as I felt it was hopping from one subplot to another rapidly.
Nevertheless, Dark Diamond was a great historical thriller and anyone who is a fan of historical fic, as much as I am, needs to try this. The book will transport you to the glorious Bengal of a different era and you will love every minute of the ride.
*Waiting to know what you think about the growing prosperity of India under the Mughals and which other historical fiction would you suggest others to read*
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