The Deadly Royal Recipe by Ranjit Lal attracts a casual observer with its attractive cover – where a “recipe” is presented as a comic strip.
When the book came in, my 11-year old picked it up (before I could) and finished it in a single sitting. I could see the change of expressions, smiles and various other emotions playing on her face as she read through it. I even caught her biting her nails, which prompted me to ask if it was interesting. She was gushing as she started telling me how fantabulous it is, and how the mystery is maintained till the end, and how blah.. blah.. blah, at which point I had to shut my ears to keep out the spoilers.
Zafira, a feisty, lonely princess, homeschooled all along, joins school with a lot of apprehension about being accepted. The Babblers gang consisting of Yogita, Ragini and the ever-hungry Lana take to her easily, not only because of the tasty lunches she brings, but also because she has no airs about herself.
The Babblers and Yogesh (aka Barfi), Yogita’s kid brother are invited to the palace for a weekend. The Maharaja of Kamargarh, Zafira’s father is a passionate cook and he ensures that the children are fed the best of food. Despite witnessing a small altercation between the Chhote Maharaj, brother of the Maharaja, and some ruffian acquaintance of his, the children have a grand time there. Barfi, for his part is thrilled on seeing the hundreds of cars that the Maharaja possesses.
The visit to the palace is followed by an invite for a long-weekend at a camping site at Kamargarh National Park. The children lap it up, blissfully unaware of what awaits them.
The children, along with Zafira, the Chhote Maharaj and their convoy head to the park and on to the camping site on the designated day. At night, when they are asleep, they are kidnapped. The Chhote Maharaj is released to fetch the ransom. The royal couple and the other parents are worried. Though the Maharaja is ready to give the ransom, which is something much more valuable than money, he senses that the children may not be released in exchange.
Who is the villainous raja who kidnaps the children? Why? How do they escape? What is the Recipe Masterbook? Why is it important?
Read this fast-paced adventure complete with car-chases, elephant rides, a lunatic raja and his semi-lunatic son, not to mention the hunger-inducing and drool-triggering descriptions of food to find out.
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- The plot is the Maharaja of the book. Fantabulous plot. The idea of having an adventure story centered around food is very original.
- The characterization of Zafira is awesome – her ability to cook and do various other things is striking.
- I have heard that certain food in combination with certain other food can be poisonous. Using this detail in the plot is the hallmark of genius.
- The cover in the form of a recipe, placed as a comic strip, is appealing and attractive. Full marks to Saurabh Deb.
- Again, Ranjit Lal proves that he deserves to be called the Enid Blyton of India, for the awesome adventure stories that he writes. The last time, I said that it was for the Secret of Falcon Heights. This one is a tad better because the plot is very unlike a Blytonesque setting.
- The final solution proposed by Yogita to prevent such a happening in the future, is a subtle message that has been put across. For a lover of technology like me, it translates to “Open Source”.
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- This is a point that struck me as odd, but I brushed it aside when I read Ranjit Lal’s “The Secret of Falcon Heights”. The story involves two elder brothers and a kid sister, Chubs about ten years younger to the eldest brother Sandeep. Sandeep and Manish dote on her and practically bring her up because their mother expired young and the father is a busy scientist. This appeared to be a detail not much needed for the plot. Here again, Yogita’s mother is no more, and Yogita takes care of her brother Barfi, who is five years younger to her. Wondering if this a recurring feature in Ranjit’s books!
Slurp! Burp! Burp!
A copy of this book was given me by the publishers, Duckbill in return for an honest review. Thanks Duckbill.