Book Review

Peer-review on the fictional work of Pema Yangsel Dorji’s

The work of fiction by a budding young author from Bhutan, the mystical Himalayan kingdom popularly known as ‘the Last Shangri-La’, fits the bill of children’s writing and of young-adult fiction. Pema Yangsel Dorji has written it at the age of 12 last year. With ease, the talented writer dispels the prevalent notion about children’s literature; despite the fact that the target readers are children, the stories for children are largely penned by adults. Thus the possessive indicators in children indicate the ‘for-ness’, in the sense, that though the stories are meant for children they are predominantly written by adult writers assuming that adults could better comprehend the psyche of children than the child writers themselves. This common misconception has been shattered by the remarkable fictional work penned by Pema Yangsel Dorji, a school-going girl herself. Her fiery imagination enhanced by the proportionate mixture of fantasy, magical, and science-fiction elements clothed in fine expressions and refined language would serve as a sumptuous treat for readers, irrespective of the age group.

The structure of the manuscript consists of a prologue followed by twenty-three chapters in total with suitable chapter titles such as ‘Two Gods in One Day’, ‘The Floating Paradise’,  ‘The Hidden Village’, ‘Ancient Scriptures’, ‘The Land of Bliss’. ‘A Raging Battle’, The Dungeon Quest’ and others. The prologue introduces the key elements of the novel and the chapters are logically sequenced so that in the ending of one chapter lies the beginning of the next. The plot events consist of adventurous encounters, quests, and battles between humans, half-human and half-vamp, demi-gods, legendary animals like ‘Tyrant Dragon’, ogres, and demons. Amid challenges, the 13-year-old protagonist ventures to find out about the Floating Paradise ‘created by the legendary King of all existence’. The presence of scriptures, maps, and parchment gives the impression of an adventurous fantasy tale and they are introduced as well as handled by the author with deftness. The portrayal of characters like Dremith, Aaron, May, David, Jimmy, and Rose are life-like and they add to the vitality of the plot’s action; while Leonard, Lawrence, and many more are less real, introduced in the mid-way and their performance adds meaning only during the quest for the Floating Paradise that begins from the Land of Bliss. The influence of cartoon network channels and stories such as The Chronicles of Narnia series, Harry Potter series, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series seem to be vivid in the creation of events and in the usage of language. For instance, the description of the match, the battlefield, the cloaked man, ice war, elimination of players, shape-shifting minions, infinity gloves, and so on. Its expression nonetheless is creative and novel with unique effects. The ease with which the elements of the old world such as scriptures, artefacts, banquets, and sword fights are fused with the modern digital era’s touch screens to locate the islands, hybridity, and time-zone is marvelous. The imaginative dexterity of the author in describing the nuances of the formation of ‘Khazar’, the characteristics of the ‘Three Ghouls’, and the power struggles are effective in content and style with aesthetic expression. However, the details can be compressed to make the plot tight and cohesive. 

Striking lines and techniques are:

Pun: Hey Dremith, did you notice that if you buy a bigger bed, you have more BED ROOM but less BEDROOM? Rose’s rose etc.

Inclusion of technical and technological words such as ‘teleported’, ‘child experimental facilities’, World’s Master Heroes (WMH), ‘Valtos drew a circle in the sky with his finger and a portal appeared.’

Overall, it’s a good piece of work carrying sophisticated ideas to deal with magical quests and adventures. Well-written with suspense and thrill that would entice the young readers and also in a sophisticated language. Fantastic novel in every way with scope for much more books to come from the author.

Contributed by 

Dr S Chitra

Assistant Professor and Programme Leader for MA in English at Yonphula Centenary College, Royal University of Bhutan