Review by Shwetha H S
It is enough to have the Mughals to lure you to read The Crows of Agra by Sharath Komarraju. On top of this, it is a murder mystery that involves Birbal, back when he was still Mahesh Das. Of course there are other less heard of characters like Ruqaiya Begum, Shamsuddin Khan a.k.a Atgah Khan, Gulbadan Begum and Salima Sultan Begum, along with the characters made famous by the movie Jodha-Akbar like Jalaluddin Akbar himself, Bairam Khan, Adham Khan and Maham Anga, sans Jodha. This is a refreshing take on Akbar-Birbal duo. The author succeeds in staying away from the depictions that have been present in the minds of Indians since the times of Mughal-e-Azam and Jodha-Akbar movies, and also paints different ideas about how they actually were. Kudos to the author for this feat. Of course, there is that disclaimer from the author that the descriptions in the book may not be anywhere near the actual situations. So, it would be better if you keep aside your history knowledge to enjoy this fine narration of a murder, no, two murders in the imperial palace of the Mughals. To help you imagine the scenes, the author also provides you with a map. Go on, read it and have fun. This story keeps you at the edge of your seat. Remember, refrain from combining this story with historical facts.
Review by Vijaya Raghava
Barking madness is quintessentially a young adult story that has romance, lust, jealousy, vengeance, werewolves, murder, thrill and its share of flaws.
The story is told from the point of view of its two main characters – Rose and Mike. Rose moves to a small town and is among the “hottest” girls in her school. Everyone in the school fantasizes about her. Mike also has a crush on her but is too shy to speak to girls. Within no time Rose meets a handsome hunk and falls in love with him. They go out partying and on one night they are attacked by a Werewolf. The hunk is killed while Rose, though bitten by the wolf, escapes death as Mike saves her just in time. Over the next few months a string of people close to Rose are killed. Further, the dead start speaking to Rose and haunt her. She is further haunted by a masked man whom she has never met. With each death, Rose slips deeper into a depression. Mike gets a few chances to get close to Rose and tries to help her with her issues even while dealing with his own problems. Do these deaths have anything to do with Rose and the Werewolf? Or are they just a figment of her imagination. Or is there something more to all this madness?
Most of the characters in the story are teenagers and you can relate to them. That said, you can’t help but think that a bit more effort could have been put into developing the lead characters as most of the story revolves around them. You find Rose sobbing through most part of the story and after a while you start wondering if she deserves to be the lead character. Most things fall in place for her because she is “hot”. There are not many dimensions to Mike’s character as well. The support characters seem convincing and they come and go as and when the plot requires.
The plot gathers pace slowly and explodes with gore with the first few murders and keeps the reader intrigued for a while. However, the middle chapters seem like a bit of a drag with too many repetitive events and offer very little in terms of freshness to the plot. The tempo picks up towards the climax and there is a new twist to the plot. The author tries to mix up things a bit towards the end but the end result seems a bit underwhelming and leaves many questions unanswered even if you factor in the revelations at the end.
I definitely feel that the book is a bit lenghty and can be condensed a bit. I wouldn’t mind recommending the book in its condensed form.