The Historian And The Hunter is the fourth novel by Zeenat Mahal who has dabbled into the genre of urban fantasy for the first time. But being a staunch romantic that she is, she has included a romance angle even in the fantasy novel about secret devils and monsters.
To be honest, when I first read the title, I had thought that the it was about the leads where the man was the hunter and his lady-love was the historian. Although, it certainly is about the leads, but not in the way one’d expect it to be.
The story is about identical twins, Shirin and Laila, who are totally opposite to each other in nature. The former is out-going, outspoken, more of a doer than a thinker whereas the latter has made books her world and doesn’t like going out much. But both are level-headed, stubbornly dedicated and can hold their own when required. Shirin was the stronger of the two, or so she thought, and always wanted to protect Laila. But Laila was strong enough to take care of herself and knew that under the guise of being strong, Shirin was fragile and sometimes needed to be taken care of.
A tragedy had made them orphans and they were raised by Madam Ara and Emir who meant the world to both the girls. They were part of a secret council which was headed by Emir’s mother and was known as The Begum. While the whole world was oblivious to the monsters, the secret council was formed to take care of them and stop the jinns, churails and monsters from doing any harm to the innocent.
One day, a hunch leads Laila to a hidden diary written by John Lockwood Kipling in 1875 hidden away in secret passages and tunnels long forgotten and scarcely visited. In it she discovers an unfinished story about a curse and realizes that there is more to a fairy tale that she had grown up listening to as a child. Shirin, The Begum and the council dismiss the tale as a myth.
But being stubbornly level-headed that she is, Laila is determined to find out the truth. What she doesn’t realize is, “stories are hidden truths and truth is the most powerful.” Little does she know that her quest for truth would not only put her life in danger but also the ones she holds near and dear.
The Historian And The Hunter is a very well written novel based in present day Lahore and has many things to offer – urban fantasy, action, history, science fiction, romance and humor.
Just like Zeenat’s previous novels, the women in this novel are strong, independent, level-headed, determined with an awesome sense of humor and scathing sarcasm. In spite of these, they are so full of love and caring of their near ones.
The writing is so wonderful that you can vividly imagine being present in the ongoings and the fictional characters (especially the sisters) stay with you long after you are finished reading.
It does take some time in the beginning, but later on catches up with the pace and makes for a very interesting read.