‘The Many Lives of Ruby Iyer’ by Laxmi Hariharan - There were three things that intrigued me about this book and its titular character.
- One - Though far from being an avid reader of the YA genre, I haven’t come across many books featuring an Indian female protagonist.
- Two - To me, the ‘many lives’ phrase, indicated that much like the cat, the titular character too has a ‘track-record’ of frequently cheating death. This further piqued my curiosity.
- Third - And this might just be me. As I’m now a part-Iyer by marriage (yes, I know it doesn’t work that way, but wouldn’t it be cool if it did?), I found the name rather cool.
Despite not reading Laxmi’s debut novel, ‘The Destiny of Shaitan’, I've come to enjoy her writing style courtesy of her various Facebook updates and her blog. And the snippets and the blurb further cemented my decision to read the book when it came out. So when Laxmi pinged me and asked me if I’d be interested in reading Ruby’s story in exchange for an honest review, I jumped at the chance. Despite my long-standing statement that I’m not really much of a book reviewer. As this strange book critiquing might explain.
Here is the Goodreads blurb :
A YA thriller, with strong dystopian undertones and a kickass protagonist, taking you on a white knuckle ride through a disintegrating Bombay City.A girl desperate to rescue her best friend.A cop willing to do anything to save the city he serves.A delusional doctor bent on annihilation.When Ruby Iyer's best friend is kidnapped by the despotic Dr Kamini Braganza, she will do anything to rescue him. Anything, including taking the help of the reticent Vikram Roy, a mysterious cop-turned-rogue on a mission to save Bombay. The city needs all the help it can get, and these two are the only thing standing between its total destruction by Dr Braganza's teen army. As Bombay falls apart around them, will Ruby be able to save her friend and the city? Will she finally discover her place in a city where she has never managed to fit in? And what about her growing feelings for Vikram?
In the interest of being honest, I must say this - as a lot of readers tend to do, I too had initially assumed Ruby’s life to be largely based on Laxmi’s life and her experiences. And despite having spoken to Laxmi about this and having had my assumptions set straight, I still had a lingering thought. To say I was wrong, would probably be an understatement.
Ruby is as unique as people get. She may appear to have all the rebellious streaks of a teenager - a problem with authority, a myriad of thoughts running through her head constantly and wanting to do it all. However she’s also uniquely different. From the ‘lightning tree’ scar that pulsates with energy to the way she throws herself into every situation, she has a spirit of her own. After reading then book, while I still cannot say if Ruby Iyer has traces of Laxmi Hariharan in her, I can confidently say this - Ruby seems to have written the book through Laxmi. No, I’m not taking away any credit from Laxmi herself. Detaching yourself from your characters is something that even extremely experienced authors with numerous books behind them, have struggled with. However Laxmi, as an author with whom I’ve had a fair few interactions and Ruby, who led me through her story at breakneck pace (a bit too rapid at times, for this old soul of mine), are as different as chalk and cheese.
I won’t go into too many details about the story, the plot and the rest. I suspect that’s been done a fair few times. As a character, Ruby Iyer is uniquely different, a tad eccentric and sometimes unrealistically stubborn. So much so that there are times when I felt the need to slap the very book over Ruby’s head. But truth be told, THAT is also the success of then book. While the story did fall apart for me at places (probably because of a mishmash of the thought process and too rapid mono/dialogues), the fact that Ruby sort of stays with you after you finish then took is a testament to both Ruby and Laxmi.
My only discontent with the book is something rather personal. The ‘YA’ genre is not really my cup of tea, and hence probably why there may be parts that I sort of wanted to skip. However it is also imperative that I say this - on the whole, the book is cohesive and well-written. Having never been a fan of the magical city of Mumbai myself, there were plenty of times that I felt that along with Ruby, I too was whizzing around through a dark and sometimes racy version of the ‘City of Dreams’. The attention to detail is almost perfect (if a tad too much) and if you’re really looking for something fast-paced and a kind of ‘Fantasy meets YA’ genre, with a good amount of thrills and plot twists, this is a decent read.
The book is now available via Amazon.Note : This review has not been 'sponsored or commissioned' by the author, the book's publishers or anyone else. All the thoughts are mine and the book and cover image copyright remains with the author and the publishers.
About the author
A near life incident told Laxmi Hariharan to write. She never stopped. Laxmi has been a journalist with The Independent and a global marketer with MTV and NBCUniversal. She is the author of the kindle bestselling, epic fantasy The Destiny of Shaitan (Bombay Chronicles, 1) and blogs for the Huffington Post among others. London is where she creates. Bombay is what fires her imagination.