Once, Anand had everything he thought his heart could desire. He went to school; his family was happy living in Kolkata, India. Then his father lost his job and headed to Dubai to get work. Eventually, the money stopped coming, and Anand and his mother were forced to take on work. His sister slowly retreated into herself, until all three were just barely scraping by.
Then one day, Anand, in a fit of desperation, silently pleaded for someone — anyone! — to help him, and an old man showed up. Being the kind-hearted person he is, Anand helped the old man, and in return the old man — who is a Master in the mysterious Brotherhood — offered Anand the opportunity of a lifetime: to aid him in carrying the sacred conch shell back to the Silver Valley. There would, of course, be dangers along the way — a corrupt Healer named Surabhanu is after the shell’s power — and, of course, Anand would be tried and tested in ways he could never imagine.
There’s fantasy, and then there’s epic fantasy: the journey against incredible odds that our hero has to take, succumbing to temptations and betrayals, passing tests and trials, learning and growing until he becomes something greater than himself. Sure, there’s magic (not the least of which is a “talking” conch shell) — though of a more mystical sort, and danger — natural and supernatural, and battles — which are to be expected, but mostly it’s about Anand and his growth and learning process.
All this gave the novel a formulaic feel, but perhaps because it was India, it managed to rise above the fantasy clichés and be an intriguing read.
Rated: Mild, for two instances of mild swearing