WRITING STYLE: 4/5
ENTERTAINMENT QUOTIENT: 3.5/5
“…life is an optimization problem. It has constraints and conditions. The important thing is to differentiate between the hard constraints and soft constraints. You cannot change who you are and how you were brought up. Those are like hard constraints. But, your fear of failure is just a soft constraint. It may be uncomfortable, but you can definitely control and manipulate it.” ~ Salini Vineeth, Magic Square
Even though I am a regular reader, I sometimes find it too exhausting to pick up voluminous books. I am often intimidated by them and I absolutely cannot read two bulky books back to back.
In such a scenario, short stories often come to my rescue. They provide a kind of refreshment which makes reading feel like a pleasure again.
I recently had the pleasure of reading a short story titled Magic Square and was bowled over by the kind of complexity it managed in just over 60 pages.
Read on to know more about my thoughts on this book by a travel blogger cum fiction writer, Salini Vineeth.
What to expect?
The book is a short story. Just over 60 pages, it can technically be classified as a novella.
Magic Square has elements of various genres in subtle doses. It has a little drama, a mildly exciting mystery, a life-changing journey, a sombre dose of romance and friendship.
If there is one book that underplays all major emotions and genres – it is this one. But that’s what this book is all about. No melodrama, no playing it up – just a simple and entertaining story.
Let’s talk about the storyline
Amudha, who is the second of the three siblings, has always been neglected by her family who dotes on her elder sister and younger brother. She has lived a life where people rarely expected much from her.
As if to make up for this lack of pressure, she always made sure to the top of her class. Amudha is currently pursuing her but she often wonders if that’s what she truly wants.
While helping a friend with an assignment she discovers a piece of enigma. She finds a one-of-a-kind puzzle inside an old mathematics book.
Anybody else in her position might have just ignored it, but Amudha decides to pursue this mystery and get to the end of it.
In this quest, which takes her from her research lab to an old Chennai to the serene Pondicherry, she finds many answers to life and its various mysteries.
How good are the characters?
There are two main characters in the book – Amudha and Dheeraj.
While Amudha is relatable and charming, I somehow could not relate to Dheeraj. He was a confusing character at best.
Amudha on the other hand, with her quirkiness, her many dilemmas and her impatience, is a character that I found very convincing. She isn’t usually stubborn but when she puts her mind to doing something, she usually gets it done.
What about the author’s writing style?
The most appealing part of Salini’s writing style is her ability to pen such a multi-layered story with a rarely seen complexity in such few words.
It is sometimes hard to believe that the story is just over 60 pages. I also particularly like the author’s simple approach to storytelling.
Was the climax good enough?
Magic Square has a climax that somewhat undermines the mystery but I love how simple the climax is.
While I was looking for a complex answer, I just realized that sometimes the most intriguing of puzzles have the simplest of answers. This is what I loved about Magic Square.
A story doesn’t need a scandalous, or a jaw-dropping or a racy climax to prove its worth. Sometimes the best stories that are told are often with the most humble climaxes.
It all boils down to the entertainment quotient
Magic Square is entertaining.
It doesn’t have a lot of action or a racy plot. But what it does have is a complex plot and a good story. There is a kind of freshness to the story.
The plot twist in the second half of the book takes the story to an altogether new level; from the insipid atmosphere of a research lab suddenly the book opens up to new possibilities and there is a new sense of excitement.
Overall, the book is definitely worth a read. It is short, crisp and neatly written.
Pick up the book if
- If you enjoy short stories.
- If you want to read a different kind of mystery.
- If you are looking for a mild thriller.
- If you like discovering new Indian authors.
Skip the book if
- If you are looking for a racy read.
- If you don’t like short stories or novellas.
Can’t wait to read it? Buy your copy of Magic Square using the link below.