Cult of Chaos Review @Dehradun Post

Don’t know where to put this one in, so just adding it in the ‘review’ category. Dehradun Post did an article on Cult of Chaos recently. I found it just by chance by name-browsing on Google Search. (There, confessed!) And was quite happy with it. What do you think?

Here’s the article.

In December last year, a weird news appeared in Newspapers and TV Channels in North India. A man cut off the genitals of a four year old boy, and ate them. When later arrested, he told the police that a Tantrik (a sorcerer or shaman or wizard or witch. Someone who claims or is believed to have magic powers) suggested it to him as a cure of his impotency. Most people who read the news not only felt sad for the little boy; they also felt a deep rage against the tantrik. And for obvious reasons. The incident proved a thing: Sorcery does exist in Indian society and there are people who believe in its potency, to the degree that they put their own brain to disuse; and start following anything some crook recommends.

Coming back to the sorcerer or tantra thing, a new book delving into the terrible, scary and horrific side of society, has tantra as its main thread. The book which is being billed as the country’s first tantra detective novel, is set in Delhi; or more aptly Delhi’s underbelly. The novel is titled Cult of Chaos and is by author-graphic novelist Shweta Taneja.

Continue reading “Cult of Chaos Review @Dehradun Post”

Letters of love

It’s a trickle really, but with three books out in the market, I have slowly started to get letters from readers who’ve enjoyed my work. I wanted to share them as a blog today because, well these letters (emails really) make my heart sing. Write to me, dear readers and lovers of books! I quite enjoy chattering 🙂

Murgank Modia, Bangalore on The Skull Rosary
“Just happened to pick up The Skull Rosary for weekend reading and I must say it is one of the most impressive piece of work that has come out of Indian comic book/Graphic novel industry. Very well researched stories, artwork and overall design. Made me search about the people involved in creation of such a masterpiece and the next thing I found myself was writing this mail to you!
Being a comicbook reader since my childhood, I had been waiting for indigenous work that can strike a chord with mature audiences. Though there has been a surge of various publication houses starting with virgin comics (followed by holycow, level10, vimanika, campfire etc..) in this space, works like yours are few and far between. A lot of them have focused on Indian mythology genre (which I am a big fan of) but a few have managed to capture the imagination of audiences like me because they present the rehashed versions of stories already known to us since childhood. Work like your’s is, to use the cliche, a breath of fresh air in this space.”
Simaran, Delhi, 11 years old on The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong
“I am Simaran and I have read your book namely The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong and it was a pleasure reading it. I would like to read more books like this. Hope u are working on such books.”
Manoj Sreekumar, Bangalore, on Krishna Defender of Dharma  
I thought i must share this little note with you. Some time back, i was invited to a birthday party of a kid of one of my wife’s friends. Not knowing what to gift the child, i bought a copy of Campfire Graphic Novel’s ‘Krishna’ . I didn’t know the kid & had never met him before but i knew that you can never go wrong in gifting a comic. At the party, i saw that the child had received many gifts..mostly toys, games, action figures. I guess we were the only couple who gifted him a comic. Some time later, birthday boy walks up to me and says..”Uncle, thank you so much for your gift. This is the very 1st time that i’m actually seeing a story book that has the story depicted through illustrations. I love the art work and it’s about Krishna!”. His joy knew no bounds! I was shocked to know that he had never read a comic yet and that my gift was to be his very 1st one! He’s so busy with his play stations & watching cartoons on T.V that he just doesn’t have time to read- i was told by his dad! Since then, i ONLY gift comics to kids on their birthdays…and its mostly ‘Krishna’ written by you. I personally love the book for its writing & artwork and i do believe that it makes an excellent gift. Thanks!
Hello Mam … You’re books are extremely nice and artwork is also nice . As an art enthusiast myself I appreciate the quality of art in the book Krishna Defender of Dharma. At the first sight itself the cover artwork captivated me and it was amazing. Wishing you best of luck and further talks with you.
Thank you all of you for creating hungry stars in my eyes! Keep writing back 🙂


The Skull Rosary nominated for two awards!

There are times when you write for the heck of it. And then there are times when you are forced to write just so that you can somehow, somewhere collect, announce, record, and remember all the awesome things that have been happening to you. This one is a latter kind of a post. A lot many good things have been happening to me and I am overwhelmed. So this is not to all you readers. This blog is meant for the future Shweta Taneja. Food for her days which will be bleak and black and without hope. For her to remember that good things and then bad things happen in a continuous cycle. And what’s low will go up high soon enough.

The Skull Rosary has just been nominated for The Best Writer and The Best Cover in the Comic Con India awards. The latter was kind of obvious all thanks to the amazingness made by Lalit Sharma and colourist Yogesh Padgaonkar (hello, have you see the cover?). But the first one comes as a delightful, extra scoop of chocolate! Am basking in the surprised glory.



And there’s more! Krishna, Defender of Dharma was named as a must read in CBSE School Reading List for 2013. The credit goes to the awesome artist Rajesh N, who quietly works in shadows on a desk in Campfire Comics.

Meanwhile, The Ghost Hunters of Kurseong, my darling novel which was never to have been written, has been written, has been published by the awesome Hachette India and is slowly cuddling up to little ones and warming up to people in the media. Read reviews spread across the web: Citizen Matters, Niticentral, The Hindu and elsewhere. I am also doing a detective workshop for it next weekend. Come over!

And even that’s not ALL. I have managed to sign a three-book contract with a really, really good publisher for the fantasy book series which I have already dreamed to write and have written part 1 of. That will will be announced soon and separately. Meanwhile, I will go back to writing Part 2 Smile

But really, wow. Too much. Overwhelming.

Diwali and book reviews

Ahh that time of the year again when one feels that she has just been churned out in a mixie and then put into a washing machine without washing powder. The only thing that was keeping me sane was that I was in the mountains. When I got down into the plains, these lovely reviews awaited me. The grins are on! Happy Diwali dear readers!

“Packed with equal amounts of humour and adventure, Shweta Taneja’s debut children’s novel makes for an entertaining read.” – Time Out Bengaluru 

“While the adults in this story play crucial roles, it’s the kids who carry the plot forward and that should appeal to the young readers.” –

“It was an entertaining and well paced book, keeping the reader engaged as the plot thickens and the mystery slowly unravels.” – 



Review: Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel

I come across Mantel only after she won her second Man Booker prize (the first being Wolf Hall, the first book of the same series). Usually an award doesn’t push me to read a book, since I believe each one of us reacts to a book differently, reading them with our past experiences. Will I like what you like? Perhaps not. Plus there was the fact that all media mentioned the award but none told me what the book was about!


When I read the back cover at Crosswords in Bangalore, I knew would read the series if only because it was set in Tudor times and had Cromwell in it. After all, as I realized during studying English literature in grad and post-grad, the most fascinating times of English history are the Tudors. That was the era when England was churning and building into a powerful empire from ‘that cold, icy island in north’ (Though you will find me cribbing most about the Victorians and their tiring nitpicking rules). The rulers, be it Henry VIII who remarried eight times, or his daughters Mary who killed off all newly turned protestants in the country or Queen Elizabeth—all of them are colourful, cruel and innovative characters. So I picked up both The Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies (you have to start from the beginning) and licked them up in a couple of weeks.

The Wolf Hall in the three book series (what is it with the number three anyway?) charts the rise of Thomas Cromwell as a minister in Henry VIII’s rule. The Machiavellian character who is not of royal blood comes into court mostly because the Catholic king wants a new wife and only Cromwell the astute lawyer can change the rules of the game. Bring up the Bodies is about Cromwell rewriting laws again to get rid of the king’s second wife (as per his wish) as well as running the kingdom. That’s the story in short and if you are the kind who craves constant twist and turns to turn pages, you might not find that here.


The books are meant more for the ones who want to delve into those times of English history when England was waking up from medieval times and an overbearing corrupt Church and tentatively inching into a world created by laws and rules of commerce. The latter is represented very well in Cromwell’s character. In the masterful author’s hand, Cromwell is built inch by inch, dialogue by dialogue into a mammoth refreshing parallel to the royal citizenry of Henry’s court. It’s flavourful and delightful like a piece of sandesh (love the Bengali mithai!).


As her protagonist, her language delights too. Mantel uses present tense which makes her sentences shorter and sharper, adding a sense of immediacy in a plot that ambles along like the chuggish Thames. It’s a difficult feat (I tried it in a short story and failed epically with a wrathful email from my editor) but Mantel seems to be at ease with both her language and world. There are many ‘ahh’ sentences and well as ‘aha’ moments, even though you might know hilary-mantel-wolf-hallthe story more or less.

For me, The Wolf Hall was mostly ‘aha’ because of Cromwell’s character and the way it rebuilds the modern world around him and his estate, dealing with all challenges in a practical manner. By the time of Bring Up the Bodies however, I was feeling a bit tired of the style. Cromwell was older and wiser (and boring!) and it seemed to be the same book again. But I still finished the second book for two reasons – Mantel’s marvellous hold on language and I wanted to see how they do away with the second wife which was kind of anti-climatic. I will gladly pick up the third one too and read it, for no other reason than to see how the series ends, but that’s me.

Mantel’s books are not easy for its readers, especially those who don’t know much about English history. She doesn’t handhold you through the history or the character’s past but rather arrogantly roughly pushes you straight into the alleys of early 16th century England, a world which comes with its own hangovers, allegiances and rules, much like any other fantasy world. There are a plethora of historical people who you have to know more, tree charts you have to consult, and incidents which you need to read up on Wikipedia to enjoy her books completely.

It’s much like homework given by the more intelligent teachers of your school where you just cannot copy-paste and be done with it. It’s hard work that needs patience and desire both. If you don’t have that, you might enjoy the language for a little while but then get impatient and give up, shelving the book with its bookmark intact. I guess Mantel does warn us by implying that she’s consciously trying to write ‘serious fiction’ instead of genre fiction which has whips, chains and boy wizards (Refering to the works of other top female authors in the UK, JK Rowling and EL James). She’s an intelligent, arrogant writer and demands an equally hardworking, patient and intelligent reader. That’s a lot to demand, even to someone like me who knows the world a bit. No wonder it appealed to the junta in the Booker committee. But if it will appeal to you as a reader, I am not too sure. And Mantel doesn’t seem to care really. She was recently in news because she compared England’s new Princess Kate Middleton to Anne in a speech and got egg on her face for the effort. Read more about that here, here and here. And lots of other places.

Why non-gamers should rejoice

Get off the couch, jump, shout and wave your hands about. Playing games is fun and easy says Shweta Taneja

Preview | Kinect for XBOX 360

Every time I try to play a video game, I give up in 5 minutes flat. I thought most video games required gruelling Six Sigma skills, a deeper understanding about matters such as which blue button to press from 21 and lightning-fast reflexes. Long story short, I’m not a gamer—but Microsoft’s futuristic new Kinect or the Xbox 360 briefly made me one.

I attended a trial preview of the Kinect, a hands-free technology for Microsoft’s gaming console, the Xbox 360. I was asked to stand before a small, shiny, sleek, black device placed under a 40-inch LCD television. An invisible sensor scanned me and then the Kinect evangelist smiled and asked me to play.

My mind flashed familiar warning signals.

For those who don’t know it yet, Kinect is an exploration of what a hands-free technology can do to gaming. For one, it has no buttons. All it has at the front are three eyes. These are the three cameras: an X-ray sensor which scans you skeletally, an RGB (red, green and blue) camera, and a depth sensor to track your movement. Then there’s a microphone that allows you to control the Xbox 360 with your voice (2001: A Space Odyssey style). Between them, the idea is to make your gaming avatar on the screen copy your body movements exactly on to the game. The cameras also enable easy logging into your account through your face (yes, it recognizes you) or your voice.

The game I played was River Rush, part of a package of games called Kinect Adventures. It’s a simple game requiring jumping over rocks and bushes as you are going downstream on a raft. The great part was that I didn’t need to learn whether the yellow or red button will make me jump. I simply jumped or crouched in unison with the stranger next to me, who like me had been invited to try out the Kinect. For a no-gamer like me, adapting to its motion and tracking was quite easy. In 10 minutes of game play, I had done four things—made friends with a complete stranger, had a blast playing a new game, got myself some cardio, and a cheer from the audience. As a bonus point, I got to see myself in action on the screen as the Kinect had been clicking pictures of me playing, jumping, diving and crouching all the while.

Like Nintendo’s Wii before it, Kinect is aimed at “casual gamers”—people who have sedentary, busy jobs and want to connect with their children or find a fun way to get fit. It’s meant for friends who want to hang out, jump, dance and do it all with a glass of beer in one hand (not to be used while playing) and then post their goofy pictures on their social networks.

This is the reason why most of the games it offers are like going on a joyride or visiting an amusement park. Kinectimals is a cutesy game which lets you choose a pet animal and well, pet it so that it coos to you. Though it’s obviously targeted at kids, its graphics and sounds bring a smile on even the most hardened of cynics (do check out the tiger cub, if you don’t believe me). Dance Central teaches you dance moves of different dancing styles. It’s especially made for people who have three left feet. The Biggest Loser: Ultimate Workout is a fitness game for people who want to exercise using the guidance of a game. Imagine an onscreen tutor who guides and corrects you when you do a wrong yoga pose.

The box is capable of tracking up to six people (height, weight can vary) and be active for two. In fact, when I tried it, it was more fun to play it with someone—even a stranger—and a group to cheer you on.

One of the major drawbacks is the space it needs for you to play—anything between 6-8ft from your device and empty space around it is essential. If you have couches, tables, books or other people in this space, the device tends to become confused. Another issue is a half a second lag in the response of your onscreen avatar. The lag becomes more, the faster you move. The reason is that your movements trigger pre-animated actions for your avatar.

In spite of these teething problems, this controller-free gaming experience makes gaming easy, fun and adaptable.

The product is expected to be in India in December and will be priced approximately at Rs9,990 for the Kinect, and Rs22,990 for a new 4 GB Xbox 360 with Kinect.

Check out the complete story here