Book Review: Dark Diamond by Shazia Omar
Book Name: Dark Diamond
Author: Shazia Omar
Number of Pages: 229
Story in a nutshell: ‘All that they cherish shall perish’. Kalinoor, the dark variant of the Kohinoor, is a cursed diamond. The protagonist of the story Subedar Shayista Khan, the Mughal Viceroy of Bengal, was the most powerful man in Hindustan during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb. Under his governance, commerce and culture flourished in Bengal. He gets possession of the Kalinoor through his dying sister’s last wish but soon realizes that the death of his loved ones is caused by the Kalinoor’s curse. He must save Bengal from destruction unleashed by Maratha warriors, Arakan rajas, Hindu zamindars, and the East India Company.
Champa, a Bengali dancer, wants to save her madrasa from destruction by mullahs and the ulema. Champa’s grandfather is a Pir who practices dark magic and seeks the ultimate destruction of humanity. Meanwhile, Madeline is a French beauty who is in search of the Kollur diamond mines with the help of Captain Costa, a Portuguese pirate, to save her father from the wrath of King Louis. How their destinies are interweaved together forms the climax of the story.
Review: A historical fiction set during Aurangzeb’s rule in Mughal India, the book describes the splendour of Bengal, its people, and its rare diamonds. The story begins with the legend of the dark diamond and its curse. The book contains stories of lives of three main characters: Subedar Shayista Khan, Champa, and Madeline. The book delineates political upheavals in Indian history such as the unjust killing of Dara, the legitimate successor of Shah Jahan, and the accession of Aurangzeg to the throne. The stories in the book illustrate the cyclical character of human history in the conquest over greed for power. Shayista’s life is haunted by death: Arjumand, Ellora, Abul, and later Pari. Shayista witnesses the death of Ellora’s father Shivaji and Champa’s father Alim Al-Ali the cleric commander of the ulema. Ellora and Champa had rebelled against their fathers but neither wished for their deaths.
Shazia Omar has created empowered female characters in this book. Champa runs a madrasa which empowers women through dance, philosophy, mathamatics, and science. She argues against the narrow-minded mullahs and the ulema who propagate authoritarian and oppressive interpretations of the Quran. Adventurous Madeline escapes from France and travels to Bengal with a Portuguese pirate. She manipulates people around her to find out the whereabouts of the Kollur mines. Ellora refuses to go back to her fearful husband who abandons her in the forest and her father who forces her into an arranged marriage. The female characters in the story become Shayista’s source of hope and strength in his battle against the Pir’s djinn.
The book is interesting, fast-paced, and offers a fascinating insight into a neglected corner of Indian history and the story of Subedar Shayista Khan. The language employed in description, narration, and dialogue is straightforward and simple. Narrations of tales from Indian history embedded in the book contribute to its appeal. Howver, the length of the chapters in the book strike me as insufficient. The shifting from the stories of Shayista, Champa, and Madeline feels rather abrupt after reading just a few pages. I didn’t get a chance to connect with the characters because the constant shifting between the different stories interrupted my engagement with the characters. The climax is too condensed to have any lasting impact on the reader.
Dark Diamond by Shazia Omar is a dramatic depiction of Indian history filled with adventure stories.
This review was written by Sai Prasanna. She is a bibliophile still waiting to receive her Hogwarts letter, discover Narnia, wander around Wonderland, and go on an adventure with Gandalf. Cambridge graduate with a specialization in Children’s Literature. Children’s story writer and poet. Presently working as Content Associate writing stories to empower children at Going to School in Delhi.