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Sharikrida by Krishna Trilok is an Indian dystopian thriller that has strong female characters that break the stereotypes!
Sharikrida is author Krishna Trilok’s debut novel. The story is set in a future world and drew me in right away.
This is a future which has no technology. There are no robots or people wearing fitted lycra clothes with implanted headsets. But there is wizardry which shows more mastery over minds, enough to create giant images, and use mantras to achieve different outcomes. This world he has created is intriguing all the more because he doesn’t spell out much. I love a book that invites me in to use my imagination to paint parts of the bigger picture.
The basic premise of the story is a chess match played with real people as the pieces to decide which of a loose conglomeration of five kingdoms will rule this post-modern land which once was India. This device of using humans as pawns reminded me immediately of the Hunger Games series but the story quickly dispels that notion since it isn’t about the actual chess game but about the larger political games being played out in the quest for power.
The book has some great action scenes, chases and fights that immediately put you in the moment. Each description, be it of the mega chess matches, the royal palaces or even the clothes is very vivid and vibrant.
But what enthralled me the most is the role the women characters play in the story. Krishna has given them more than an equal share of the action and put them at par with the men.
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The chess masters or ‘shvagnin’ of two of the kingdoms are women. This is a pivotal role in a world where the fate of an empire is decided by a chess tournament. The heroine of the story is the aptly named Jhansi, a young girl of 20 who is catapulted to the top post after her Guru is assassinated. She takes on her duty without fear and shows a level head and bravery in the events that follow. She is trained not only in chess but in physical combat as well which she uses to great effect in some nail-biting scenes. She is the kind of heroine I would wish to see more of in Indian books and movies.
The author of Sharikrida also gives us other strong female characters such as Queen Asmira who plays a crucial role in the story. At times of crises these women do not crumble or run to the men for protection but stand tall and fight for their beliefs. All of these make for positive role models for our times.
The story’s approach to relationships is modern. In this world, pre-marital sex is not frowned upon but viewed as a natural extension of a relationship between two people. A very progressive view indeed that doesn’t lay any emphasis on virginity or any hackneyed notions of ‘virtuous women’ that we are so used to hearing.
The latter part of the novel falters a little given the high voltage action that went on in the first half. Yet, when you turn the last page you get a sense of satisfaction at having read a good story. I recommend this book for those who like their stories to be filled with a lot of action, intrigue and powerful characters.
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