Puppeteers of Palem - Review and Giveaway



A good story must have a good concept, a well-knit plot, memorable characters and a strong narrative. Usually readers are partial to one of the three elements. I generally tilt towards concept, more so because I am hard core science fiction and fantasy buff. At times, I even forgive a plot full of holes, a dry narrative and cardboard characters if but I find some novelty in the concept. That way Sharath Komarraju’s ‘Puppeteers of Palem’ stuck the right chord with me at the very outset due to the interesting concept. The aptly chosen title and beautifully drawn cover image aptly reinforce the theme of the story and kind of intrigue the reader, making him or her involuntarily pick up the book for reading.

The story is structured in a jigsaw puzzle style with different timelines running in parallel. The ending is already known in the beginning. A mood of suspense is created right from the beginning and is maintained till the very end. At the start of the book, we come to know what happens to the protagonists in the end. The main hook that holds the reader till the end is the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of it. The story starts with the mysterious murder of six people. We also come to know the last one to be murdered and the how he is murdered. The story then cuts back and forth between the investigations following the murder, the events just before the murder and the events many years before the murder. Then there is this air of supernatural evil lurking behind the scenes promises to be something more sinister than a typical ghost. So the story creates a strong curiosity to find out more about the origin of this evil. While we know the evil being is somehow related to the death of a woman who had died many years ago, the author drops some hints of it being something more akin to an alien monster out to destroy the entire planet rather than a mere dissatisfied soul seeking personal vengeance.
One of the things the author does very well is descriptions. He vividly describes various things seen in the village, evoking all of the five senses. The metaphors he uses are all dark setting a depressing mood that goes with the overall dark tone of the story. In the very first chapter we are presented with the imagery of an old man killing a moth with his hands. Later we are presented with the disturbing imagery of a murder of crows attacking, killing and eating one of their dissident members. We have more imagery like this that invokes horror in the mind of the reader. Another thing he has done well is to give the place a realistic feel by drawing upon his personal memories of rural Andhra Pradesh. The authentic Indian settings are something which Indians can really relate to. It is something I am sure many of us would welcome after reading most of our stories set somewhere in Britain or America.

Of course there were some areas which I would have liked to have been better. While the idea was novel, somehow the final explanation did not entirely meet my expectation. I felt things could have been tied up more neatly. I found the narration at times too forced and formal. But I guess that is a matter of personal preference – I usually prefer to read a more friendly, informal style that I can relate to. The characters were all interesting and unique. But there were too many of them and we did not get to know any of them deeply enough and I definitely could not relate to even one of the characters. The characters were also I guess by design unpleasant people who the reader would not want to root for and the focus was more on the atmosphere and mystery.

Overall I would say this book is a decent read for a casual reader looking for some chills and thrills.
And now the interesting part: if you felt you liked my review and want to read this book, you don't have to shell out you hard earned dough. Just leave a comment on this post to give yourself a chance to get a free signed copy of the book from the author himself.
Book Blurb:
The village of Rudrakshapalem awakens, and tells her tale.

Five friends return to the village of their childhood to find that nothing seems to have changed, and at the same time everything has. Whose voice is it that called them back, and whose hand is it that now hunts them down, one by one?

Palem’s grand old man, a Brahmin landlord, their childhood storyteller, makes one last ditch attempt to save his village from ruin at her hands. Will he succeed or will his past catch up with him and demand fair price?

Two boys, one blind and the other lame, skirt the village borders at the old Shivalayam, listening, staring. On their faces they wear smiles of contentment. They sleep well. They see happy dreams.

A TV reporter arrives to study the village, only to sink deeper into the mystery with each passing day.

And hovering above all of these is the shadow of Lachi, who is believed to haunt the old Shivalayam on full moon nights. Some say she’s consumed by lust, others call it madness, but all catch the red glint in her eye and the icy calm in her voice as she croons a sad, lonely song. The one thing she hungers for, that will satisfy her soul, is the fire that will burn Palem down to ashes.

The village of Rudrakshapalem awakens, and tells her tale. Listen closely. It will chill you to the bone.
The book can be purchased at Flipkart or Amazon. Also check out the book on Goodreads.

And here is something more - a sample from the book to decide whether you want it - the first 3 chapter.

For whom the bell tolls

A book of faces