This book drips with the mix of cultural pressures that were evident in the fading years of the British Empire in India. After weaving through a rich tapestry of historical fact, spiritual influences, and diverse and often conflicting cultures, not to mention an interesting ongoing plot, the reader ends up in the evocative hills of North Wales. Or will we? Taylor draws use steadily into the mists of Rama's mystical spirituality as we navigate the lives of his diverse cast of interesting characters. In the end time soaked magicians and savage gods win a timeless struggle against our modern world, or do they? I struggled for a while to identify a central theme, especially as this clever plot leaves room for most to follow their own path between orthodox belief and mystery. In the end I decided that the above all else this is a book about destiny.
The big picture follows the destiny of India as the seeds of a new beginning where planted and started to spout, we see the heavy burdens that blood and birth right are in our individual lives, we see the circles of intertwining belief tangle and chafe. We watch varied lives mix and part and mix again in new time changing ways.
Jason the white colonial child born to relative privilege, and Rama an "untouchable", and a child of a strange liaison between an epileptic young women known for her visions and a holy man, lived connected lives that run together as a the main thread of the story. We are allowed to understand Jason well enough, but do we ever know Rama? Of that you must be your own judge. I am sure of one powerful detail in this wonderful book, that being that Alan Taylor knows Jason very well.
This is a book for the thoughtful reader, for those who like writers that paint pictures layered with detail that yet still able to leave plenty of room for our minds to fill for themselves. There are many shades of subtle colour divided by vivid strokes in this rich book. The recipe is one of contrasting spices, which leaves a long lingering tingle in the mind. Death is never many pages away, as it is never from us. Behind all is the mantra "It is better to live one day as a Tiger than a hundred years as a sheep".