The Adversaries

Written by David Hair
Review by Nancy Henshaw

In the latter half of the 12th century, Ravindra, the Great Enemy, is gathering strength. Soon he will appear in all his hideous might and unequalled powers of sorcery. In a vast sub-continent of warring kings, he will make use of battle-trained young noblemen until it is drowning in blood, but his main intent is protracted torment and eventual obliteration of those who kept him helpless for centuries. His revenge will be terrible, beyond imagining. How can a few young people dare to resist this monstrous nightmare creature whose pastime is fiendish cruelty? Are they aware of their own previous lives of doomed love?

The story moves to October and November 2010, where modern-day life is presented in a revival of the ancient Swamavaya, and men compete for the hand in marriage of the most beautiful woman. In this life, she is Sunita, the dazzling pride of Bollywood.

Burial alive in a coffin with a cobra (also alive) is only one small incident in this sumptuous novel of India’s past and present, but that one does linger in the mind. Riches and poverty are powerfully contrasted, and the smells are everywhere, from the heavenly to the horrible.