It was the cover with the ‘wayang kulit’ characters and the ancient Beruas kingdom on its title that caught my eye. I read the blurb on the back cover and was intrigued by the quest for the hidden treasures of Malik Al-Mansur (the ruler of Beruas) by three rival groups - unscrupulous colonial officers, ruthless secret society members (Indera Sakti) and the noble custodians (Darul Kubra) of the royal possessions.
I flipped the back cover to read the author’s brief bio – Iskandar Al-Bakri, a lawyer, with his own practice in Ipoh and a law graduate from ANU (Canberra). I scanned the chapters and noted that they commenced with pivotal timelines and familiar places which pushed the narrative forward – Balik Pulau, 1823; Penang, 20 August 1824; Klian Pauh; Bota Kanan; Telok Mak Intan ...
I decided that it’s worth to fork out RM24 (readers get a 20 percent discount if they purchase directly from Silverfish) and started to read the first few chapters as soon as I secured a seat at a nearby cafe . It’s rather easy reading since the writer clearly established the initial scenes, the rising conflicts (Ya’acob’s single-minded decision to avenge his nephew’s death; Fullerton’s, Lowe’s and Duncan’s obsessive hunt for the royal treasures; and the intense competition among the contending parties for Indera Sakti’s coveted leadership), the climax and denouement. Iskandar was very meticulous in his selection of backdrops, events and character that drove the tale to its end, which could lead to a sequel, possibly titled the Mystery of Kellie’s Castle.
Readers, even those who pride themselves for having basic knowledge of ancient Malay kingdoms and British colonial intrusions, would appreciate the writer’s thorough description of Malay kampongs, beliefs and practices such as the various schools of ‘silat’ (Silat Gayung, Silat Cekak, i.e. Malay martial arts), benevolent and malevolent beings who live in different dimensions (Bunians and Mambangs) and the social network which bound the East India Co officers.
As a debut attempt, it’s very commendable. I certainly look forward for more historical thrillers written by local writers. However, as voiced by another reviewer (http://roslan828.blogspot.com/2011/12/reviewthe-beruas-prophecy.html), it would be beneficial to readers if the publisher were to provide a short interview with Iskandar so as to differentiate the factual and fictional parts