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Punctured Story Telling : Review of Fractured Legend

In a crowd of books pedaling porn - of one sort or the other - and parading itself as the truth of relationships of our times, when I came across the following description 
“We are like the moths that follow invisible spiral loops to go round and round a flickering flame before jumping into the center leaving in their wake, a glowing red sore in the eye of the flame,” says the narrator, a temple slave. Priyambada makes up her mind to leave the temple where she melt into flesh at night and froze into statue by the morning. She renounces her immortal chalices, the temple facades, for a mortal life, for a life in flesh… But the tangles of life in flesh – marriage and bearing children – thrust her into a world of tribulations that cast her off into the past, sealed past, frozen past.
Nandhini, a professional assassin, is plagued by an assignment to retrieve a mysterious manuscript that is smeared with a rope of blood across its pages. She finds herself in the midst of a complex game of deceit and rivalry between two factions.
Pravalli is drafting a very long letter to her mother. She is grieving, glowering, repenting, atoning."

I was tempted to opt in to review the book. Fractured Legend promises so much with that plot description. When I received the book and opened it to find a short message from the author, it certainly added a glow of warmth to the start of the reading experience. But the whole experience fizzled out within the first couple of pages. Before going there, let me give the outline of the novel.

The book is divided into three parts, called Books, of three chapters each. 

The first Book is the narration of the temple slave who moves out of the temple and a life of rock to a human life and an existence in flesh. With the help of a magical ring, she becomes the young daughter of a family. When she grows old, she gets married and eventually becomes mother of a girl child, whom they name Pravalli. We leave her in her story in a happy state of being a mother of a 16 year old girl. 

In the next Book, we meet Nandhini, first as a doting mother of a 10 year old boy before we get to know that she is a professional assassin. She is sent by her boss to retrieve a manuscript which was last seen next to a murdered man. She finds the manuscript but is forced by circumstances to kill her boss, go on a run, and then start working for a rival boss. The manuscript crops up again in business, leading to a murder and also a revelation that Aardya, who happens to be another temple slave and a companion of the slave who ran away, is behind the murders; her motive being to hide the truth about the temple slaves. We leave Nandhini in a mall, thinking over her past.

The third Book - which also happens to be the most closely linked to the first Book - is a long letter, broken into three chapters, that Pravalli, the human daughter of that runaway temple slave is writing to her mother. We get to know that after learning the truth of her mother, she had run away and got married to one of her neighbours. She is so scarred by this whole truth that she never becomes a mother. Only when she goes to the temple where Aardya, her mother's companion, resides that she gets to know the whole truth about what happened to her mother and how Aardya destroyed her mother's magic and thus her human life. Both Nandhini the assassin and Pravalli is killed by the temple slaves to protect their secret. 

This is the story. In first glance, it seems a sort of story that grows into something magnificent, with the elements of magic realism deeply rooted in the basic premise, certain Gothic surprises offered by the old, ruins of temples and certainly entwined into a feminist tale of choices and consequences. Indeed, the author Kranthi Askani is mentioned on the back page of the book as having a fictional style that integrates magical realism with Gothic elements. Apart from the small part about the temple slave moving from rock to flesh, which is more like a shock element rather than magic realism, there is nothing that can even remotely be termed as magic realism. Magic realism is a style where the fantastical and the real exists side by side and the fantastical is accepted as a routine part of life. This is something sorely missing in the novel. And as for Gothic, Gothic pertains to the evoking of a particular atmosphere and a certain mood - that inter meshes horror and romance - most commonly through the description of a house or area; the mood and the emotions are evoked by the effect of the surroundings. This is certainly not the case in Fractured Legend. Though the descriptions of the dilapidated temple is given, the emotional effect is missing.

Coming to the language, the tiniest mercy is that the book does not employ indiscriminate use of Hinglish. But it is a limited consolation, as the book is a nightmare of spelling and grammatical errors. For example, vipers instead of wipers, reigns instead of reins (though reins are for horses, and for dogs, we use leash). The author has a habit of using difficult words, which I was too lazy to pick a dictionary to check up the meaning with.

Stylistically, the author uses first person voice for the three books. In employing this, the first book offers the richest possibilities. What will be a more richer narrative than the sense of awe felt by a rock being coming to a human society? But sadly, the author misses out on this. One of the most irritating device employed by the writer is the repetition of a prior mentioned fact as a question. For example in the first book, the narrator is in a library and finds that the newspapers and magazines are tied to certain table tops; that means the newspaper and magazine stand will be empty. But the author finds it necessary to repeat it.
"The magazine stand was empty, so was the newspaper stand. Why, they were all skewered to the wooden planks, weren't they."
This whole repetition through rhetorical questions is a high irritation that is used in all three books.

Also in places there are long drawn out metaphors which may make the reader lose sight of the original point. I did. 

The only positive thing about the writing is that here and there we get a nice bit such as these:
"Not a healthy thought, to be watched. When you are a woman, you are always watched. And this was like I had acquired a double or triple of myself. How do you expect one person to guard three of themselves?"

Or this surprising bit when the assassin Nandhini is quartered by a rival assassin because she carelessly left her bag with her gun on some sort of a sofa. Her first thoughts are a scold for herself and then this surprising twist:
"How idiotic of me to leave the handbag on the sofa. Ah! What do you call it? Sofa, water bed, chaise lounge...?

But these are very very few and far between. And these random lines do not save the book.

The binding, printing and overall presentation of the book is good. But at the same time, the book was deprived of the service of a good editor and a copy editor. 

Book Details:
Book: Fractured Legend
Author: Kranthi Askani
Publisher: APK Publishers
Price: Rs. 195
Pages: 190

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