By Puja Guha
Ahriman is a geo-political thriller that takes us into the inner workings of the US government married with the culture and politics of the Middle East. The first book in the Ahriman series focuses on Petra: a high level government employee with connections to the CIA and many other secret branches of the system; and Kasem, a man whom, while in search of Lila’s locket, is betrayed and abducted by his employer. When Petra’s agency receives a message that may threaten the security of our nation, her job is to decode it and find any possible connections to terrorism. In the process, Petra uncovers so much more. Witness the ultimate con as this story takes you into the lives of the agents that protect us, a crowned prince and his obligation to the Emir of Kuwait, and the assassin known as Ahriman: Spirit of Destruction.
Puja has woven an intricate tale, full of espionage and culture which rivals that of any Tom Clancy novel. Ahriman gracefully switches perspectives smoothly, humanizing each of its characters, even those perceived to be villains. The story always kept me guessing as to what Petra would uncover next.
All of this book’s cultural and historical facts are accurate, and Puja’s detailed vision of the future fits right in as if it already happened. I was astounded by the amount of research that went into Ahriman. This is how a down-to-earth thriller should be written.
I had a major problem with the pacing here. The story dragged through large portions of the book and this seriously took away from the story’s entertainment value. At the end of the day, this book isn't a documentary, so I expected more of a hook to go with the massive amount of scrutiny put into every page.
Petra was an interesting, main character. It was really cool to see how she balanced her work, love and family lives. I liked how she was woven into the major plot twists throughout the book. What I didn't care for as much, was her interactions towards the beginning and middle. I found her personality to be a bit trite and indistinct. She lacked a lot of the qualities needed to fall in love with a main character.
The Kasem arc in Ahriman was engaging and actually pulled me through the tale from the beginning. I found myself reading through a few of the plot points that I didn’t care for just to see what happened to him next. I won’t spoil it, but who he turns out to be in the end and his involvement in the major, culminating plot twist made the entire book for me, great job on that Puja. Needless to say, my favorite chapter was the ultimate con.
The engagement between the Emir and the crowned prince, Abdul Aziz, offered a welcome breather from the main story lines. Their discussions of foreign policy and family responsibility were both educational and entertaining. Believe me, I checked into a lot of the facts in this book and they were dead on. This story arc ran seamlessly, adjacent to the others, creating a necessary buildup of anticipation to the big finish.
I need to take a moment to talk about the names and terminology in Puja’s tale. The character names and aliases could have easily been generic, Middle Eastern and American names, yet none of them were. All of the titles and character names felt completely original. I was impressed with the terminology as well. I even learned the difference between Rehla, a kind of journey; and jihad, or holy war.
I feel this review deserves a small excerpt to showcase the elegant writing within Ahriman.
“Even the most gifted analyst or fortune-teller would not have been able to predict how fragmented and divided the Kuwaiti National Assembly would become. Factions of Islamists and liberals, among others, seemed incapable of even agreeing to increase the number of traffic lights on a particular main road.”
Although this book lacked in certain areas, for me, it made up for it in accuracy and beautiful writing. If you are a Tom Clancy or John Grisham fan, you should give Ahriman: Spirit of Destruction a read. This is a good book from a talented author. Puja Guha will be releasing a second book in the series, so we hope to read that very soon. Thank you for a wonderful story.