Adventure in exotic land

2011-01-19 00:00

GIVEN their enduring appeal it is perhaps hardly surprising that a contemporary novelist should be tempted to write a pastiche of the sort of tales of derring-do that were so popular during the days of Britain’s far-flung empire, and author Bruno Hare has done just that in The Lost Kings.

From the outset he sets out his intentions clearly: to pay homage to the golden age of adventure and “lost world” fiction and to those he regards as its most brilliant practitioners — Rudyard Kipling (the book’s title­ comes directly from the 1975 film version of his novel The Man Who Would be King), Henry Rider Haggard, Authur Conan­ Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson.

The setting is entirely in character. In the first chapter we meet its hero Cyril King, an unassuming­ London watchmaker who secretly yearns to swop his humdrum existence for a life of high adventure.

His dream becomes a reality when a mysterious timepiece inadvertently falls into his hands and he finds himself­ setting off for one of the most remote and exotic corners of the world — the  India-Afghanistan border — in search of a fabulous treasure.

Arriving there he falls into the company of the supposedly famous explorer Sir Paul Lindley-Small, a colourful character with a somewhat questionable past and who is not exactly all he claims to be.

Together the two find themselves facing all sorts of dangers and perils, from snow avalanches to having to fight off brigands and being pursued by disgruntled members of the British­ army.

While never taking his subject matter too seriously, author Hare certainly succeeds in his attempts to evoke another era, skilfully weaving together his rollicking tale with interludes in which Small describes his subsequent journey to track down a near- mythical beast.

He has obviously taken trouble with his research while the conventions of the age are observed.

If there are one or two incongruities they do not detract from the general entertainment.

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