Book Review: Reinventing the ‘Boys Have Their Own Adventure’ tale for the new century

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BC writer Mahtab Narsimhan’s story for young readers is full of magic, shape-shifting characters, idols, sacrifices, life-and-death pursuits through the jungle

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rat valley

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Mahtab Narsimhan | DCB – An imprint of the Cormorant Books

$13.95 | 232pp


British Columbia author Mahtab Narsimhan’s latest book is a novel about a boy and his father whose trek through the mountains of Ladakh in northern India takes a chilling turn when they get lost in the jungle and stumble upon a mysterious unmapped village.

Targeting readers aged 9 to 12, Valley of the Rats features a young protagonist, Krish, a fearful, bookish kid who is much more at home on the streets of Delhi than in the jungle, and his driving, ambitious nature photographer Father Kabir.

Krish pushed for the family trek in hopes of gaining his father’s attention and respect, and Kabir agreed without telling his son that he had accepted a commission to generate a photo essay during the trip.

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Kabir’s commission is a secret, and not the only one driving the propelling plot of this thrilling tale. Krish has his own guilty secret, and the village he and his father discover is full of terrible secrets. Spoiler alert: any reader who is afraid of rats will find some of this story deeply uncomfortable.

Valley of the Rats is something of an upgraded version of the classic “boys’ adventure” story in which a boy faces dangers in the wilderness and emerges wiser and more mature. Think Kipling without its nasty hints of misogyny and colonialism.

Narsimhan structures the book as a series of revelations, in which the secrets travelers bring to the village are gradually clarified, along with the secrets of the village and its people. The book is also structured around parent-child tensions, Krish and Kabir’s troubled relationship mirrored by mother-daughter tensions between Imma, the village shaman, and her rebellious daughter Tashi.

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All of the story’s family dynamic elements are emotionally plausible and compelling, but this is an adventure story for young readers, so it’s also well-stocked with magic, shape-shifting characters, idols , in sacrifices and in quests of life and death through the jungle. .

The author deftly blends psychological realism with thrilling action sequences to produce a book that is sure to delight young readers while giving them a subtle experience of the complex character development and structural symmetries that testify to the literary ambitions of the author. This is a book of great interest that will be read with pleasure by readers of all ages.

Tom Sandborn lives and writes in Vancouver. He himself loves rats and well-crafted fiction. He welcomes your comments and story tips at [email protected]

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