Book Review: Dark Diamond by Shazia Omar

We all are well aware of the Mughals of Delhi, but Dark Diamond by Shazia Omar throws light on the Mughal rule of Bengal. And the man responsible for managing the operations in the state is Shayista Khan, whose approach and skill, combined with his ghosts from the past makes Dark Diamond a good read this autumn.

Dark Diamond speaks of the glorious days of Bengal, a cosmopolitan hub of culture and prosperous produce every year. But the ground is crumbling beneath the Mughal empire. Appointed saviors of the public are turning out to be the real devil, looting the kingdom from inside, slowly and steadily. Corruption, cheeky government officials, and enemies from across the border have now their eyes on the golden egg of the Mughal Empire.

The preface opens with the history of a diamond, Kalinoor, found by a former Tantric and mine worker Hira Lal. During one his assignments, Hira Lal comes across a rare diamond, black in color and so magnificent that he decides that this diamond will change his life. Being honest, he shares the diamond with his boss, but in the end gets hacked to death along with his family because of owner’s greed, leaving the diamond cursed.

Turn a few pages, and then you get to meet the man himself. Shayista Khan, Subedar of Bengal. The man who is responsible for changing the face of Bengal for Mughals, and a man with troubled past and also in possession of Kalinoor. During his meeting with his aide Van Diemen, Shayista is attacked by trained killers to retrieve Kalinoor diamond from him, a well-guarded secret of Shayista, trickling down in wrong nooks and corners.

During this confrontation, Shayista meets Champa, a dancer who is also a witch and is an assistant to her grandfather, the famous pir. Champa is a woman who can see Shayista’s tortured soul. When she looks at Shayista, all she can see is a responsibility which he didn’t choose for himself, a wife he doesn’t love, a woman who was killed because of him, and daughters he lost because of his negligence. Champa tries to help him in relieving his pain, asking him to give away his most prized possession, and that’s how the curse of the Dark Diamond starts prevailing on the once prosperous Bengal.

At the other end of the story, Shayista needs to keep an eye out for foreign intruders who want the diamond for their selfish motives. Madeline, along with a pirates party is also looking for the Dark diamond, which can reinstate her and her father’s status back to normal. But will she be successful in her quest?? Will Champa be able to retrieve the Dark Diamond for her grandfather, the pir, whose only motive is the end of Bengal??

Launch of Dark Diamond with William Dalrymple

Dark Diamond is a story that is close to Shazia Omar’s heart. I attended the book launch of Dark Diamond in September, where Shazia shared the contrast of modern day Bengal and the ancient Mughal Bengal, something which made up for the base of this book. And when you read it, you realize that she has left no stone unturned to get the facts straight. Dark Diamond is pretty well researched, and something that might interest a lot of historical fiction readers.

The story of Dark Diamond is something that will keep you engaged till the end. It’s like a smooth flowing fairy tale, with a Subedar protecting his province, a Bengali dancer helping him out and negative elements that like to flutter things from time to time. However, the climax could have been definitely better. The build up in the story was exhilarating for me, but when the end came, I was disappointed. I was expecting a lot more. The introduction of foreign intruder Madeline, who is also searching the Dark Diamond didn’t help much.

All in all, Dark Diamond makes up for a good read, something which could have been pretty great. Nonetheless, anybody who is planning to read some historical fiction, don’t hesitate to pick up Dark Diamond.

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