Fantasy, Romance, & Action?: Book Review of 'Taken'

Estimated Reading Time:
Rated: 3.5 out of 5

There is a strange satisfaction that stems from reading a book that weaves a rich and vibrant fantasy out of a historical fact that would otherwise be gathering dust in the back of your head.

'Taken' by Laxmi Hariharan attempts to do just that to anybody who is even remotely acquainted with Bombay. And succeeds.

'Taken' is the paranormal romance story of Jai Iyeroy and Ariana West in the new world of Bombay, the capital of Indostan. Written for the year 2039 in a post-disaster world when a tsunami that had swept through the great nations of the world left behind humans and created wolf hybrids.

Now, if you are thinking "Oh no, another Twilight story". Let me stop you right there and inform you that this book falls squarely in the genre of 'fantasy'. So, come on - loosen up a little and get 'taken' (#pun-dit) into an imaginary Indostan.

I read and often thrive on fantasy fiction. So, you would think that it should be easy for me to cannonball into someone's imagined world without questioning it. Just like it's easier to hypnotize you if you've been successfully in a trance before. (Err...say what now?)

On the contrary, however, I probably question it even more. I look for cracks and logic failures everywhere, waiting for the author to slip up and reveal a flaw in their fantastical world. After all, even Star Wars, Matrix, and the other greats also had their "wait, what" moments.

In 'Taken' however, Laxmi Hariharan manages to thoroughly impress with how steadfastly she immerses the reader into her re-imagination of a current day urban city, complete with a post-apocalyptic society where law and order reigns supreme, there is no pollution, and people are expected to fall in line with having their lives tied to the system.

The world created by Laxmi pulls you in and can actually make you feel that you are truly living in a reimagined land of Indostan's Bombay rather than the real world version which is quite similar to Taken's imagery of the Jungle. There are references to Bombay's (present day Mumbai's) rich history that can sometimes be shrouded in folklore including the story of Catherine de Braganza's version of the 'A ilha da boa vida'. Of course, Laxmi also prominently features the modern-day iconic symbol of the Sea Link bridge and doesn't forget to glory in the ancient beauty of the Elephanta island.

Laxmi Hariharan's narrative style has a good mix of pulp fiction writing, a tinge of the solemn tone of a historian, and the rhythm of a poet forced to write in prose. An aspect of Laxmi Hariharan's writing style that will leave a mark on you is how well set up each scene is. The lead up and the background work for every single fictional stage is impeccable and shows her incredible sense of spatial arrangement using Bombay as the backdrop.

Though it claims to be a romance story, 'Taken' should really be boasting about the action scenes that are plentiful to be had. It attests to Laxmi's screenplay-esque writing that can form vivid images of the layout and the movements of the characters involved. Some of the intense fighting scenes are akin to Mortal Kombat style X-ray manoeuvres - and injuries even! #VideoGameNerdAlert

'Taken' is one of the books in the Many Lives series that revolves around several generations of Iyeroys. Though I have read the other books in the series (Thanks to Juggernaut for gifting us this one!), 'Taken' does not expect you to have read its prequel, 'Feral', or leave the story unresolved for its sequel, 'Untamed'. But it does make you desperate to read the first in the series, 'Awakened' - although I would recommend you read that last.

Laxmi Hariharan is unafraid to add in more characters into the storyline which is often an easy mistake writers make in an arrogant attempt to have the reader follow-along without a reminder. In contrast, 'Taken' boldly adds in secondary, tertiary, and quaternary characters that satisfies the reader's wanderlust for more stories and of course, promotes the Many Lives series too.

Something that really bothered me about 'Taken' was character development. Ariana's side of the story is written in first-person while Jai's is written in third person. Though both writing methods flow in smoothly with each other as you traverse from chapter to chapter, only a few characters seem to grow as the story progresses.

Jai's character has been allowed to grow from a 'soldier-poet' into someone who can change his mind and personality as time goes by. And so, our imaginations form an almost crystal-clear picture of what Jai looks like in the writer's mind's eyes. On the other hand, Ariana seems to have some exclusive moments but remains unchanged even after pivotal events have occurred.

Though 'Taken' has all the elements of an amazing fantasy story that could capture our collective hearts, it felt like Laxmi Hariharan was holding herself back from writing the story she wanted to. As though she was censoring herself, or even censuring herself, from letting us know the true depths of the characters' feelings.

Laxmi seems to want to elaborate more on the emotional aspect of the scene in an almost poetical turn of words but often abruptly stops herself from immersing us in it -- whether it's to be mysterious or dramatic, it leaves us wondering why.

I would like to tell Laxmi Hariharan that she should flood us with her tsunami of impassioned scenes and see that she'll still find us standing...waiting for her next book.
Ray out, Peace!

P.S. If you've read the book, you'll get the reference in the last line. :)

Catch Laxmi Hariharan's Taken on the Juggernaut App!

Image credit: Juggernaut and Laxmi Hariharan