Review by Leonard Dabydeen

Merciless Dark 

Atreya Sarma (English Translation)
Harisshva D. V. (Original in Telugu) 
Pages: 292, Paperback
Publisher: White Falcon Publishing 
Language: English
ISBN: 978-93-89085-50-1
CDN$15.92     ₹ 449.00

Selfishness and arrogance – twin conspirators in the survival of all living things.

There is an uncanny and phenomenal approbation of co-existence in the life of all living things. Animals among animals. Humans among humans. And between them both, animals and humans, there is a carte blanche of plots and counterplots that beset their consciousness to survive in each other’s domain. Their co-existence belies frontiers of expository, ebullient imaginings of superiority over each clan or group, canvassed in fantasies of mysterious brushstrokes. Out of a cosmos primeval generative power, imbued with evolutionary awakening, glorifying comfort on Earth for all creatures great and small, humans and animals turned against each other to fathom who must be the ruler on Earth. And both led a fantasy trail.

This book, The Mystery of the Eclipse Island by author Harisshva D.V., written in Telugu and translated in English by acclaimed Indian Master Wordsmith, U. Atreya Sarma, brings this apocalyptic, primeval human- animal conflict fantasy theme as the first part of the multi-volume saga, titled: Merciless Dark. In 292 pages, and a confluence of 10 mind-boggling chapters, Atreya has painted an enriched fantasy canvass, in the eyes of the author, that would keep any fantasy fiction reader tuned away from works by Tripathi, Majoundar, Chokshi, et al. Simply fantastic and a phenomenal epic. Author Harisshva developed a seminal idea of this fictional odyssey through wisdom enthused by Lord Venkateswara and Lord Shiva.

On the back cover blurb, it reads:

The story with its vast canvas weaves through deliberations and decisions, plots and counterplots, espionage and magic, an incredibly mysterious island, skills in various fields of knowledge, war tactics & strategies…(back cover: Merciless Dark, The Mystery of the Eclipse Island.)

The Prologue says that in this first volume:

…the story unfolds in the background of a great war that had taken place twenty years before, between the animal and human races. In that war, the humans destroyed every animal, but an order of them called Morantuses managed to escape and survive.

The escapee Morantuses holed up in a secretive place called Death Hollow. Here they continued their greed and strife to exterminate the human clan. On the other hand, the human clan did not attempt to seek vengeance, become vindictive or reciprocate for the loss of human lives as a result of the war. Their attempt was to engage in mutual relationship with the animals and the rest of creatures on Earth. However, the animals blatantly disagreed. And the humans made their best deliberations on an expedition to exterminate the animals, engaging on nuances of The Mystery of the Eclipse Island.

Stalwart, as leading warrior and tactician of the human race, set out on an expedition on a ship across raging ocean, with a strong contingent of Firestrom warriors. They headed for Death Hollow where some of the venomous Morantuses believed to be still alive:

What we are going to do against the Death Hollow, is not a revolt or an attack or a war. It is a sacred rite of sacrifice….” (4).

Stalwart was on a mission to eliminate all life in Death Hollow housing the Morantuses. And he brainstormed the Firestrom warriors to gratify his mission plan. Death Hollow itself was a mysterious place, described as “ … an abyss of death waiting for the human lives…” (19). It was also the security warehouse of dead bodies from the war past. Security support for hosting of dead bodies was enhanced by a group of animal beasts, which included a five-hooded serpent of the ophidian race, named Bronx Cheer, and Asura, a jaguar and animal leader. Deliberations with the beasts and Bronx Cheer made the Morantuses at ease. The strategy of the animals was to trick Stalwart and his Firestrom warriors that the dead bodies were alive. In order for the dead bodies to become alive, they had to be taken to the Eclipse Island before the upcoming Blue Moon.

Vicarious truths and half-truths at Crostonfield and Hardwood, where human clans lived, slated the memories of conflict and confrontation with animal groups. They focused on the birth of twins by Wynfleath, wife of Stalwart, adding depth to the body of the story. Then there were decision-making strategies by Roisin and Merrell, including Gerardo. Roisin shared an expose of incredible truths in astrological prophesying to Wynfleath about the birth of twins.

Eventually, and in order to achieve supremacy over the human race, the animals had to discover a way to revive the dead bodies in the Death Hollow hide-out. They were guided by the strategic echelons of the key beast leaders, Asura and ophidian Bronx Cheer. Their only decision was to reach the Eclipse Island:

The souls of the dead were anxiously waiting, in the Eclipse Island, for the time they could re-enter their bodies.

The hostility between the humans and the animals sparked off because of the Eclipse Island. The humans tried many a time to wreck this island, but they couldn’t. Its destruction was as impossible as sighting the wind with one’s eyes. If at all it could be destroyed only time would decide. (174-175)

What was significant about the Eclipse Island was the encapsulated liquid, Vitone. This liquid had the magic potent of resuscitating animals and snakes. With the help of the blue moonbeams, Vitone would also render the souls of the dead, visible to one’s eye. (178)

More importantly:

The souls of the dead hung on the Eclipse Island solely because of Barbarus’ magic. It was enough if the beasts and Bronx Cheer protected Barbarus’ corpse until Wynfleath gave birth to the child. (178)

Virgin Nature’s creation of the Eclipse Island as an uncanny, invisible place, was that …

it did not stand on the surface of the earth, but lay in the womb of the ocean. It nestled under the confluence of the Carcass flowing from the south and the Millon flowing from the north. (176)

And more to the Eclipse Island mystery …

On the day of the solar eclipse, the Eclipse Island would emerge over the surface of the ocean at the confluence of the two seas, with a view to absorbing and tasting the blue moonbeams. (176)

Bronx Cheer and the beasts were successful in reviving dead bodies of the Morantuses before the Eclipse Island receded in the depth of the sea. And they made their return journey to rescue the envenomed Morantuses.

At long last, Stalwart and his power warriors arrived at Death Hollow, before Asura and Bronx Cheer were able to step foot in its mysterious surroundings. In their tactical attack to destroy the Morantuses, they encountered situations of truths about the Death Hollow that were unfathomable. They destroyed the Morantuses. And set sail on their return voyage to Crostonfield.

In a sad finale, Bronx Cheer and Asura arrived at Death Hollow just a little too late.

The resolve of the beasts to annihilate the humans had watered down on seeing the situation. From the wreckage of the Death Hollow, they realized the intensity of vengeance the humans had harboured against the animal race. (282)

It was the plan that went right. What happened next will be reeled in the upcoming Volume Two of Merciless Dark.

This gargantuan, episodic epic The Mystery of the Eclipse Island, comes to the reader with infinite concatenation, emboldened by English translator and Master Literary Craftsman, U Atreya Sarma. The dialogues between Stalwart and his Firestrom warriors are intense. Discussions between Stalwart and Adalwen are superb. Incredible truths espoused by Wynfleath and Roisin about astrological paradigms are truly provocative. The imaging of the Eclipse Island is fantastic. The deliberations and decisions by the humans and animals are evocative, with logical symbiosis for suzerainty on Earth.

Each chapter in the book leaves you with a reticent itch to read the next. And Atreya Sarma brings the pages with quick turn over with language that is simple to reach young adults and fiction-fantasy lovers. The tone and texture of the book underscore the vocabulary and assertive quality that drive the internal coherence of the fiction-fantasy canvas.

U Atreya Sarma

About the Translator

Atreya Sarma is a poet, free-lance editor, critic and reviewer besides being a translator from Telugu into English, and occasionally from English to Telugu. His writing experience spans more than twenty three years . He is Chief Editor of Muse India. 

He holds an MA (English Litt), a PG Dip (Mass Communications & Telugu Translation Techniques), a BA (English Litt, Sanskrit Litt, History) and BSc (Botany, Zoology, Chemistry), and CAIIB (Part I) with mid-level managerial experience in SBI.

Leonard Dabydeen (Ontario, Canada), Guyanese-Canadian poet and member of The Society of Classical Poets 2019 (USA), Life Member & Official Critic of MetVerse Muse (India); member of Muse India Journal; member of Muse-Pie Press (Shot Glass Journal and Fib Review), contributor to Gandhi Way Newsletter (UK), contributor to Pratilipi; member of Commonwealth Writers Group; blog:
Free-lance writer and book reviewer; author of Watching You, A Collection of Tetractys Poems (2012), and Searching For You, A Collection of Tetractys and Fibonacci Poems (2015).

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