The Historian and the Hunter by Zeenat Mahal is the latest book by the author. I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy from her. When I read the name of the story, I felt that the male lead would be the hunter and the female lead, the historian. But what I did not know that both would be girls and twin sisters.
Laila and Shirin are ordinary girls living in the old city of Lahore just like millions of others…except they live in the red-light district area, and they’re identical twins. Also they hunt monsters no-one knows exist…okay so, maybe not quite like millions of other girls…
They have telepathy, or the twin thing.
They are opposites. But, they are identical twins, born into a family that kills monsters.
Laila and Shirin lost their parents when they were young and all they have as family is Emir pehalwan, Madam Ara and the Begum. Their parents were the first Hunters to have been killed in centuries, 15 years ago and their great aunt, the Begum says that the monsters have been showing up since then. Emir is their foster father in everyway except a formal declaration. They had been practically raised by Madam Ara, who was their solace and escape from Council duties. Begum, the Supreme Seat of the Secret Council of Lahore, which had thirteen members, men and women of different ages and backgrounds to maintain a balance.
Shirin Mirza never took Laila’s work seriously nor did she respect the work of the historian. Laila knows Shirin loves her and fears losing her. Shirin had her Saiban and Laila had her books.
Shirin is outdoorsy and physical and Laila, a scholar and a recluse. One is a historian, a bookworm, reads diaries and spends most of her time in a library. Shirin is Saiyyad, the Hunter of the Secret Council- an organization sworn to protect the vulnerable, hunts for Nau-Guzzahs, churails, jinns, demons and monsters. She is the hunter. She calls Emir, her Saiban.
Laila isn’t brave, she prefers books and solitude. She is afraid of people and that is the reason she stayed with books in underground rooms. She reads about werewolves, shamanism and alchemy. She loves stories, books are her world and that is how she learned about the Words of Power. Her curiosity and devotion had led to much discovery. By the time she was 10, Laila knew all the secret passageways of the city. She has been dreaming of the wolf for the past three years.
Nothing trumps the Historian, her twin sister is the Hunter. Her foster father is her Saiban and her foster mother is the madam who manages the eyes and ears of the Council.
A new Council member, an archeologist, Shahmeer Sikander is surprised that he has been selected though he lacks the ancestry and pedigree the Council usually look for.
Sardar Rustam Ali Khan, nephew of an old friend of Emir, is the leader of his clan. He is introduced by the Begum as one of the secret weapons of The Council.
I have usually associated Zeenat Mahal with romantic stories but this one is different. The story is interesting, and begins with Saiyyad hunting for a Nau-Guzzah. And then there are council meetings and secret passage ways. There are doors and keys. There are some diaries hidden by Lockwood from the Council. And then there is also the story of Ranjeet Singh.
There is a story within the story, which moves in parallel to the main story and both the stories are linked. But neither story overshadows the other.
The language is simple, it would have been more meaningful if the author had given the meanings of terms like saiban, Nau-guzzah and other terms which are not so commonly used.
Though the story moves slowly in the beginning, it gains momentum as it progresses and then the book becomes unputdownable.
The characters of Laila and Shirin have been developed very well. But I found myself wanting to know more about Shahmeer and Rustam.
Enjoyed reading the story.
DISCLAIMER: I received the book as a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. I have not received any monetary compensation for the same.