Free Press Journal

The Tiger’s Prey: Review


Book:  The Tiger’s Prey

Author: Wilbur Smith with Tom Harper

Publisher: HarperCollins

Pages: 426

Price: Rs 399

When I came of age, I inherited my grandfather’s library — one that was presented to me by my father. And just like that, it came to be one of my most prized possessions. Abundant in many authors, one that was highly recommended to me was — Wilbur Smith. Whether it was Taita’s wisdom in The Seventh Scroll or Zouga Ballantyne’s hunger for riches, every book, every chapter, every word kept me hooked. Until I got my hands on the latest in the fabled Courtney series. Tom Harper had decided to take the legacy forward under the direction of Smith. One look at the novel, and somewhere, a cord tugged on my heartstrings. And I boarded the ship to yet another adventure, this time under the captaincy of Tom Courtney, son of Sir Hal Courtney.

The story begins under a sapphire sky as the author paints a vivid picture of the Indian Ocean. Right from the first page, you find yourself in the thick of things. The ship is under attack and the pirates are plotting the plan for their loot. The fate of the ship turns out to be a deadly one, drawing you into the book from the word go. On the other hand, a scion from the Courtney clan, the son of Guy Courtney sets sail from Bombay to make something of himself while another Courtney whelp — Francis, son of William Courtney, escapes from their ancestral home in High Weald to make his mark in the world. But little do they know that all their fates are intertwined.

Through a series of highs and lows, their paths collide with each other and their uncle, Tom Courtney, master seafarer and “djinn” according to his Indian enemies. While Francis sets out to take revenge from his uncle and turns around to become his man Friday, Christopher Courtney becomes his most-feared enemy. The action occurs in India under the tentacles of the East India Company. And through the book, you learn much and more about the conniving monopoly that had engulfed the subcontinent. Set in a historic time, you also get a glimpse of the Marathas through the character of Shahuji, the grandson of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Through civil wars and greedy pirates, Tom Courtney fights his way to do what he does best — he survives against all odds. And it turns out to be nothing less than a nail-biting run for his life.

The themes of family and love thrive through the novel. And almost like a paradox, you see that the destiny of a man depends on what he wants to make of it. Christopher goes through the high tides and loses his morale compass entirely. And at the other end, born to a villainous father, Francis keeps the noble side of him intact.

Tom plays the lead role in the narrative but gets away through every situation without a single scar. And that’s what makes the story a tad bit unbelievable. A lot of coincidences appear in the plot, making it convenient to take the story ahead. For instance, as Francis lands in Cape Town, he almost immediately sets eyes upon Tom, without having to search for him. Christopher’s journey from Bombay to Tricola leads him to combat Tom twice. The collision of the characters and their paths is important, but it all happens very easily, making the storyline somewhat predictable. As opposed to Smith’s former work, this book doesn’t give you a pure sense of its settings.

All in all, The Tiger’s Prey is a fast-paced read that pays homage to its literary legacy. It’s an amalgamation of strong characters with their head on their shoulders and their eyes on the prize. So much so that you step into their shoes and yearn for their victory. They inspire a sense of loyalty and bravado that make legends. Which is why, they fit so perfectly in a Wilbur Smith novel.

And with this, I add to the legacy my grandfather left behind. My library is one book richer, while my heart soars through pages of nostalgia.