Bibliophile’s Corner. Trade Winds to Meluhha by Vasant Davé

In ancient Mesopotamia Samasin the stable boy is falsely convicted of murder. When a double eclipse saves his life he flees his homeland in search of a man whose name the dying victim whispered to him. With murderers eager to protect their crime network on his heels Samasin faces an adventure of his life.

I grew up on adventure stories that spanned continents, with Jules Vernes’ In Search of the Castaways and the Mysterious Island being my favourite, and Trade Winds to Meluhha certainly reminded me of the hours I spent imagining distant lands with danger at every step. Mr Davé did a great job crafting an elaborate story that was not at all straight-forward and although towards the middle all the culprits were perfectly clear the many obstacles in the way of bringing them to justice kept things interesting. There were several sub-plots and adventurous asides that in the end played a role in the main story and I commend Mr Davé for crafting a novel with this many levels and still managing to keep the pace up without a sluggish moment to create a satisfying resolution that felt natural and logical.

With this many plot lines to keep track of the abundance of characters was taxing at times. Two I had trouble distinguishing altogether, some I wasn’t sure were all that necessary, but the main characters were interesting and developed nicely, so I mostly paid attention to them. I liked how they often had secrets that kept me guessing for a while and I enjoyed seeing their transformations as the novel progressed. I think Velli was probably the most changed character by the end of the book and it was fun to see her gradual evolution from a naughty daughter of a wealthy man to a kind and caring lady.

My main issue with this book was the language. It wasn’t awkward or inappropriate at any time, but it felt foreign, like a translation that is done without allowing for stylistic differences between two languages. It wasn’t a deal-breaker by any means but it did affect my perception. Another factor was that the novel is set in ancient time, two thousand years BC, but a lot of the speech patterns, terminology and idioms used in the book are modern. Combine that with a drug trade and human trafficking and often the novel felt like present day crime drama somehow transported into the time of camels and reed ships. Also, I felt that the whole human trafficking situation was a bit contrived. Had the author stuck with slavery the key developments could have been easily preserved without compromising anything but the story would have felt more time-appropriate and natural.

In the end this is a solid adventure novel with great characters and it made me want to read more in the genre.

My rating: 3+

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