Age of Azmoq: The Valantian Imperium by Rajamayyoor Sharma is a fantasy utopian novel based in a fictional world. Off late, I’ve started getting books that deal with a utopian/dystopian world, and am glad to have a change from the cliched romance novels which just doesn’t seem to end its run! Anyway, continue reading to know what this book holds.
Azmoq, the most precious metal on the planet is under the control of the country’s governing body, the Valantian Imperium. With numerous known and unknown properties, Azmoq can literally make or break someone or anybody/country who holds it/has access to it. Though almost all the ores have been identified already, and the Imperium has already taken them all under their jurisdiction, there is one place, a small village Villasboro, cut off from the rest of the world, which is sitting on a vast reserve of the metal. Unknown to anybody, even its inhabitants, life is going peacefully until the arrival of an old man into the village, his settling down there and his subsequent assassination by rogues, that a young man named Dev is shaken to his very core to avenge the murder. Here, Dev’s drive is led by the fact that he had become close to the old man, whom he had named Olmot over a period of time and also that he couldn’t save his own parents when a tree accidentally fell over them in the forest surrounding their village, injuring them and ultimately taking their lives.
With the help of his rather mysterious master Grim, who happens to know more than he lets on, Dev leaves his village for the first time ever in his life, pledging to kill those who killed Olmot and his soul the rest he had come looking for in the village in the first place. Armed with an exceptional sword named Dhronari and gloves, Dev sets out on his mission only to encounter trouble as soon as he is out on the plains. Here, he meets Karn, a notorious most wanted of the Vanlantian military, and soon they bond with Karn deciding to help the kid reach his destination.
As they both journey together, they come across hurdles and yes, add another member to their group after saving his life, a man named Elbir, infamous as Eric of the five hammers, who though joins them but has his own motives. As they share their stories with each other, it is revealed that the assassins Dev is looking for are from the same tribe as Elbir. But what he tells them further leaves Dev and his mission in a lurch. Although the door has closed, a window is still open and the three decide to pass through it.
This unusual trio, while traveling towards their now common goal, inadvertently leave their mark wherever they go, which puts the military on their heels. It is only through their wit and sheer luck that they manage to escape each time. Will Dev be able to avenge Olmot? Will Karn be able to escape the military he abandoned in the future too? Will Elbir finally fulfill his motives? Will any of them be able to know the danger and awe they are walking towards? Will any of them realize that the wheels of change have been set into motion and they are the drivers?
So when I first started reading the book, I was not at all impressed. Despite good use of language and no errors whatsoever, the story seemed to be moving too slow to pique my interest and I had a really difficult time progressing. In fact, I left the book after a couple of chapters and started reading some other book. But then, leaving a book mid-way is not my style, until and unless I find it really hopeless or impossible to continue. Having picked this fantasy again a week later, I decided to put my heart into it and re-started. And it was then that I realized that whoever said that a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover, was absolutely right. After the initial hiccups, the more I delved, the more I got interested in the story and appreciated the imagination with which it was written. It felt like mind gone wild, adding more and more layers to everything. And this creativity has led this book to become an amalgamation of sorts. From the names of the characters to their living style, the lines are blurred. I couldn’t comprehend it to start with, names like Grim, Dev, Parshtel, Karn, Eric, Aswatthama, Draconair, Vikraan were thrown together making me think about it in terms of today’s time, caste, creed, religion. Then, I got over it and saw the bigger picture, it was like a small portion of people from all over the world living together in a single country. These characters, however, were well built, especially the leads, given that the book is 400 pages strong, I couldn’t have expected anything less.
There were a few bumps along the way, like too many chapters, too much of back and forth between timelines, some unnecessary concepts (maybe they will be useful in the sequels), multiple protagonists and changing narration, that is, with the changing chapters, the “I” changed, which kept leading to confusion. There doesn’t seem to be any main character, instead, there is a group of people who are equally important and can be seen as shared protagonists. All their paths lead to the central plotline from where they embark together. But this convergence is off, their backstories are not told simultaneously, rather it is brought out in the middle of something else when you least expect it. And then, it is left hanging only to be picked up later, again in the middle of something else. This hotchpotch caused by the seemingly unplanned story route makes the book a little less gripping than what could have been with a smoother flow.
The story ends with open notes, theories and facts need explanations and each character has something or the other to look forward to in the sequel and me, looking out for the book itself. Go on, pick it up for a couple of days of whimsical fantasy in our otherwise monotonous lives.