Thursday, 14 December 2017

The Tree Bears Witness by Sharath Komarraju: a review

Winters and books come hand in hand. Along with that, childhood memories grasp our thoughts. Talking about childhood memories and books in the same line we cannot forget the beautiful and witty stories that we have all grown up with. One such witty person we all looked up to as children was Birbal. There were reasons why we could relate to him the most. The first being his wit in the court of Akbar. The second was reading about Akbar in our history books. So when I got to know, all these years after, about a novel that features Akbar’s favorite courtier in a royal tale of murder and deception, how could I not read it? Sharath Komarraju presents The Tree Bears Witness: book 2 of A Birbal Mystery. The cover of the book has to be one of my favorite book covers of this year!

According to the book blurb- Barely a month has passed since the royal wedding of Emperor Akbar to the legendary Jodha when the new Queen’s brother, Sujjamal, is found murdered in the palace gardens. With his honour and reputation at stake, Akbar asks his trusted advisor Birbal to solve the mystery. The murder has taken place in a garden, at a spot between two mango trees, and the two guards who are eyewitnesses have conflicting versions of what could have happened. Was it suicide? Was it Akbar himself who ordered the killing or was it the Rajputs who accompanied Sujjamal, his uncles and cousin, who are guilty? Set in a period that has been described as the golden age of the Mughals, the novel draws us into the royal court of Agra, abuzz with political intrigue, personal enmities and hidden rivalries, where everyone is a suspect until proven otherwise.



The book starts with the murder itself. Okay! I agree to the fact that the whole idea of the murder of Sujjamal, the Queen's brother reminded us of so many things but admit it: isn't it interesting to again go back to a Birbal Mystery? With that childhood excitement in mind I started reading the book. We all know the characters: Akbar, Hira Kunwari (Jodha), Sujjamal, Birbal and the likes. The familiarity with the characters had me connected with a special bond. As I turned the pages, I just had to know how it happened and moreover, how Birbal cracked the story.

I can't help but draw a comparison to the stories I've read growing up. For a Birbal story, it was always about the wit and the crispness. This book had the wit. Now, since it is a novel the crispness was at times, to me, missing. The descriptions that are given in the book and the way the story has been woven is beautiful and with everything in their places, you would know for sure that this book is going to be a great read. The chess board is set and clean.

Birbal goes from one person to another, doubting everyone on his way to find out who murdered and why did the murder happen? The biggest mystery in this story is not who and why, though. It is how did the murder happen. My most favorite character in this book would not be Birbal. Who is it? I'll leave it to you as a reader to read the book and let me know your guesses. Coming back, the narrative used by the author sets for a description which is so beautiful that you would be able to picturize every single scene.

Having said all that and keeping the ending of the book in mind, I am somehow left feeling that something was missing. As with all Birbal stories, this book also has a 'mystery cracked’ ending and ends when everything is all right. From a novel’s point of view I felt that it could have been written and developed with more crispness and clarity. The whole process of cracking the mystery could've been more witty. All said and done, this book would surely be a wonderful book for the children of today's time to read and add to their collection and collective love for Akbar’s favorite courtier. To me, this book was 3.5 out of 5 and I am so badly wanting to read more of the author and more Birbal stories...